It was 20 years ago today sang the Beatles on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and it was 20 years ago that the first Babestation broadcast was transmitted. No one thought it would be alive and kicking 20 years later. But what led up to the start of Babestation and what were the producers trying to achieve?

We’ve gone back and spoken to the people involved to find out the background and the events leading up to that first broadcast as well as what happened next.

We’ve kept names out of it to protect our sources.

Yvette and Tiffany prepare for show

What led up to the start of Babestation?

CG – The background of the company had been in premium phone services originally on the international phone number ranges but then in the tears leading up Babestation in the UK premium rate market.

We had been involved in the logo and ringtone business which was massive market in 2000 and 2001 but had become over saturated and dominated by a couple of big players.

Of course there was the Lads mags such as FHM and Loaded but the advertising space in those magazines were tied up with exclusive arrangements so it was hard to get a foothold.

Then a UK company, Telecom1 started there own TV channel called the dating channel. This used the relatively new billing mechanism of premium SMS to allow people to create a profile and have it displayed on the TV and for viewers to send a message to that user via the platform. It seems strange these days in the world of tinder but it was a big success at the time.

We then bumped into an eccentric tech genius from down under who had some broadcast experience and some connections in the TV world.

Geri, Dani and Rio behind the scenes of one Babestation’s first shows

HA – I met these telephone guys and we hit it off and they had some ideas about being able to use some new billing methods to monetise small channels on television. I was working at an uplink centre and new some channels that were struggling to make money with the advertising model. I also had some ideas about how to create what were known as the overlay apps to put graphics on top of a video stream and getting the text messages to screen.

CG – We met the guys from the Game Network channel. They had a dedicated 24 hour channel on Sky TV and some great programming about the video games market as we as some multiplayer online games. This is very early stuff. The channel was struggling to make money from advertising as the barb rating weren’t high enough to generate good revenues,

HA We came up with some ideas for programming involving viewers texting in at £1:50 a time questions about video games which would be answered by what we called our game guru’s. We also came up with some games from Scandinavia , who were leaders in this field, where you could do simple commands to play a game.

CG – This was all early 2001 and the overlays were doing okay but not really setting the world aright. But we had noticed that the busiest time for the text messages was late at night after 11 o’clock. So over some long lunches we started to think that if we could get some pretty girls onscreen then the blokes would be more interested in texting in.

Cameraman shoots Yvette on the bed

Where did the idea for Babestation come from ?

JF – At that time there were some telephone sex channel broadcasting on a satellite called hotbird , but this wasn’t live it was only videos with an overlay. we thought the way to go was with live video and live girls.

HA– There was one problem it was one thing to do graphic overlays but quite another to do live video. everyone we asked said we need to pay for expensive lease lines to BT tower. But I put my thinking cap on and came up with a way of sending video signals over the internet to the uplink centre and onto sky. You gotta remember these days before HD channels before digital.

CG – This was a game changer but it literally took us 6 months to fully develop the technology.

HA – We debated many names for what was going to be the show eventually we settled on Babestation as it was quite like Playstation.

CG -We also had to find a company to do the telephone or IVT services. People really didn’t think it would work and it was difficult to convince them to make it for us , without spending thousands of of pounds. Initially we wanted to try two ideas, one was what so called virtual chat where callers record and send a voice note to the operator and the other was what is called eavesdrop where once caller speaks to the operator/babe and the others listens in.

HA – Eventually we were ready to do a test from our offices just off Soho Square . I cant remember how we found the talent to do it. The first show was really a proof of concept and we had no idea what was going to happen.

It went out and the phone lines lit up, unfortunately the IVR wasn’t working properly and so most of the calls were very short. But we knew we were onto a good thing.

Yvette on the phone

What Happened Next?

DW – I got a call early in the morning with one of the guys from what is now Babestation gabbling on about something they had done the previous evening. It was something to do with girls on TV taking calls to talk about computer games. The problem they had was the phone service didn’t work properly.

They said if I could build it they would do another show the following Sunday I would get the contract. As i had some success with these guys previously I set work to build what they wanted.

CG – From the number of calls we could see that we were onto something. So after trying to sort out the phone service we set to planning the next show.

Well on the next shows the phone service worked and the callers could chat to the girls , actually i think there was only one.

HA – Funny thing was none of the guys wanted to talk about computer games but the calls were actually quite rude (laughs).

BTS as Tiffany takes a call

Moving Office

JF – We had a real shortage of girls but we trying to think of ways to recruit models and also looking at doing some PR to get some publicity for the show.

CG – But then disaster struck. We came to the office one morning just after the test broadcasts when were planning to ramp up the shows to a few nights a week. Only to find out that the people we were subletting the office from hadn’t been paying the rent and we were going to be kicked out.

HA – It was literally the week before Xmas. So we had to take a hiatus from the shows and find alternative premises. Talking to the people that the Game Network channel used for uplink in an office in Charlotte street in Fitzrovia they told us of a space around the corner from their offices above a Korean computer game shop in Scala street.

CG – So we took those premises and started to prepare to start doing regular Babestation broadcasts in January 2003. But there was one last drama.

HA – While the internet broadcast had been good enough for the test broadcast if we wanted to go 7 days week it would be better to connect the studio with the uplink centre. The distance was quite small so I approached the neighbours to see if they would object to us running a cable behind the guardians. No one really minded except one chap Malcom Mclaren from the Sex Pistols fame.

To get around this I went in early on a Sunday morning and using a fishing rod threw the cable from the top of the studio building to the uplink centre. It worked.

The Start of the UK Babeshows Industry

CG – I cant remember the exact dates but we shortly afterwards started regular Babestation programming initially from 11pm to 1am but it kept getting longer.

No one ever thought it would become a household name and create a whole industry at one time they were nearly 20 babe channels on Sky TV.