TV sex lines? Sounds a bit old school now but they pioneered the way long before live sex cams were being broadcast.
Flicking through the channels late at night in the UK and you are bound to happen upon a televised sex line sooner or later. The format was pioneered in 2002 with the launch of a low-budget programme in the post-watershed slot of a gaming channel. Offering erotic chat with some bikini-clad girls, the shows were saucy but not explicit. More importantly, it was a novel way to reinvigorate that time-honoured tradition of the post-pub call to a sex-line. As well as being able to pick up the phone and speak to these girls, you could drop them a dirty text message and watch their response. Okay, so this might be a low rent frontrunner to the camming industry we have available now but there is still a place for televised sex lines.
In this feature, we take a look at the history of Babestation and how it has evolved to keep pace with changing technologies as well as compare its biggest competitors and consider its future.
Babestation: A Rags to Riches Story
Launched on 3rd December 2002, Babestation was originally a two-hour long show aired on the Game Network. An original concept at the time, the format was simple and very low budget; take a couple of scantily clad, but beautiful, women and let them entice viewers to call and text them. Though the calls themselves weren’t aired in public, text messages from the audience would be broadcast alongside the girl’s images and the presenters would respond to these live on air….and sometimes taking their suggestions to do things, literally.
With the exception of SexySat TV (see below) which began broadcasting in the Netherlands in the same year, Babestation was the first European channel to be offering this kind of entertainment. And, if you consider that the US Playboy Channel was the only broadcaster engaging in this kind of televised phone sex format, the idea was pretty revolutionary at the time.
The show was aired post-watershed from 11.00pm until 1.00am but the combination of Babestation’s novelty factor, low-budget production costs and premium rate text messages and calls made it an instantly profitable venture.
As a result, the show increased its time slot from two to four hours and introduced more presenters. Over time, the increased revenue also allowed the producers to invest in better technology which saw improvements to the format, notably upgrading the static, remote-controlled cameras with hand-held ones. The production team were also able to broadcast the text messages overlaid with a full screen shot of the presenters; prior to this, the messages dominated the screens with just a small portion showing the buxom beauties.
In 2006, the Game Network closed down and Babestation moved home to take up residence on Sky’s new ‘Adult’ category of channels. At the same time, the broadcaster also became available as a free-to-air channel.
Owned by the Cellcast Group, Babestation is still the flagship programme for the company; however, the group now has a much larger stable of television channels in its network, including other televised sex lines and chat programmes:
- Get Lucky TV
- Lucky Star
- Sex Station TV
- Babestation 2
- Smile TV2 and Smile TV3
- Psychic Today
Their stable of channels also used to include, the now defunct:
- Live XXX
- Sumo TV
- TV News
- TV Stars
- You TV/TV2/TV2 Extra
As well as monetising content to mobile phones, the company also has operations in both Dubai and India.
From humble beginnings, the company posted group operating revenues of £11.3 million for 2018. Though far from troubling the biggest adult entertainment companies in the world, the UK’s Babestation can be proud of its success but does face some challenging times ahead (see below).
Babestation: What’s the Deal?
So, what exactly is the appeal of Babestation and why has it been a success?
Remember, when Babestation first appeared in 2002, this was a time before live cam sites were widely available and the only alternative to this was telephone chat lines. Chaturbate and similar services wouldn’t come along for another eight or nine years!
The show offered viewers a way to interact with beautiful women who would appear in sexy states of undress (sometimes topless but no more) and do things that were suggested to them. The fact that you had to call (or text) a premium rate number wasn’t new to these late night audiences and Babestation offered something far more rewarding than just another dirty phone chat line.
Though the format has changed over the years and the internet version of the channel broadcasts far more hardcore content, the original channel still offers live and interactive, simulated sex for the price of a premium phone call.
Perhaps the biggest part of Babestation’s success is in the choice of its presenters and, despite the UK’s Charlie Brooker calling them ‘thick’, they have proven themselves to be pretty canny at doing what they do best; engaging a horny audience and converting viewers to become (revenue generating) callers.
Often porn stars and fetish models, these girls are at the heart of why Babestation is still running when so many wannabes (see below) have fallen by the wayside.
The Babestation ‘Empire’
Okay, so ‘empire’ might be pushing it a bit but the Cellcast Group has not rested on its laurels when it comes to keeping up with the times. Over the last decade, the primary way that people are watching broadcast media is fast becoming via the internet rather than on the television; this is particularly true when it comes to adult content where viewers prefer the privacy of watching on mobile devices.
As a result, the group has expanded its offerings from just televised sex lines to incorporate something more akin to the live cam sex sites that we are now used to.
They have had to adapt to a more competitive market in this regard and, as a result, you can now interact with any of the Babestation models directly using online messaging, voice and webcam.
A specially designed web app, Babecall offers regular fans of Babestation an easier way to maintain control over their spending. You can use the app on your phone or via your desktop and charges come directly out of pre-purchased bundles. Free to register, users get exclusive web shows, free daily pictures and alternative camera angles.
They’ve also just launched ‘Babestation Fans’, a platform where viewers can get more up close and personal with their favourite glamour models. Offering even more exclusive access to their private lives, you can direct message the presenters off air and stay connected….a little like how OnlyFans works.
If you have some cash to burn then the Babestation VIP club also offers its members:
- £20 of credit
- Unlimited and exclusive access to the members area with 100,000+ photos and 1,000+ videos
- Free access to the Pay-Per-View Babestation Extreme TV channel
This last offering is not to be sniffed at and costs around £150 per year if you aren’t a premium member. This hardcore channel showcases the freshest and biggest British porn stars around and is well worth a visit if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the UK’s upcoming talents in the adult entertainment industry.
Fundamentally though, the basic Babestation website is not dissimilar to sites like Chaturbate and MyFreeCams except for the fact that their models are ‘TV stars’! So, if you have watched a model or presenter on the telly and want to get up close and personal then you can check her channel out online.
However, when it comes to TV offerings, as well as the original format, Babestation has developed several other channels over the years, including:
- Babecast (now closed down), also known as BabeCast XXX, this channel launched in 2003 but has since merged with Babestation.
- Babestation 2 (also known as Get Lucky TV and, more recently, Babestation Blue), this channel originally launched as a hybrid gambling/quiz.
- Lads Lounge (now Babestation Daytime and Daytime Xtra), the format of this show is such that it can air between pre-watershed and is a diluted version of the main channel.
- Babestation Xtreme (also known as BSX or Babestation X) is a subscription-only internet and TV channel that airs hardcore British pornography.
- Babestation Unleashed (also known as Sexstation) is an online-only broadcast that is more raunchy than the TV version.
Since those pioneering broadcasts that showed how profitable the format could be, Babestation has had plenty of pretenders waiting in the wings to try and replicate their success. Some have not done too badly and still represent competition for the Cellcast Group whilst others have fallen foul of regulatory stipulations.
In all honesty, the format has been respun in so many different ways that its hard to imagine a life before televised sex lines in the UK. From gay televised chat to fetish channels, the idea was big business…for a while. Now, with the advent of online live cam sites, these broadcasts are diminished in number.
Here’s just a few of the channels that Babestation has had to compete with over the years.
Launched in 2006, Babeworld replaced L!VE TV, a channel run by the Mirror Group that had begun to offer more adult content. By 2008, Babeworld was also operating an additional channel, House of Fun. In essence, the offerings of both channels were similar to Babestation. However, Babeworld was found guilty on several occasions of breaching its Ofcom license and was eventually closed in 2011, just a few days before the regulator revoked its license.
Launched in 2006 on Sky, Sex Station enjoyed a run of seven years before it ceased broadcasting in 2013. It took over from the Live XXX TV channel . Sex Station, now owned by Babestation, continues to operate as an online channel where it now broadcasts more hardcore web shows.
The broadcast originally followed much the same format as Babestation with sexy presenters encouraging viewers to dial a premium rate telephone number to enjoy interactive chat. Now, however, the online channel operates a virtually identical format to the Babestation.tv website.
A softcore TV sex line that originates from the Netherlands, SexySat TV actually launched before Babestation. First airing on European stations in early 2002, the programme’s format is broadly the same; a sexy female presenter entices viewers to call in and speak to her.
The studio was moved in 2004 from the Netherlands to Slovakia and the presenters are now mainly Eastern European, often coming from Czech Republic or other neighbouring countries.
As with Babestation, SexySat TV has also launched additional platforms to accommodate changes in viewing preferences and has website streaming services as well as a hardcore content channel (online only); XXX SexySat.
Operating a 24/7 service on Freeview, Xpanded TV reports itself to be the UK’s best loved phone sex and adult cam service. They offer much the same service as Babestation and have diversified their online access to include web cam chat and other features including private diaries, audio teasers, video galleries and free pictures.
Just like Babestation, you can access a premium version of the site which allows members exclusive content and discounted services.
The Future of Babestation?
With so much competition coming from live cam sites and many of these offering a much cheaper alternative, the future of these ‘Babe Channels’ is looking bleak. In the 2019 investor report issued by Cellcast, the Chairman of the group himself reported that their core broadcast business is in decline. He further indicated that the group is seriously considering the long-term economic viability of the business model.
It would therefore come as no surprise that Babestation, and other similar broadcast channels of this format find their days are numbered. Let’s face it, the way we watch television has changed enormously over the last few years with streaming and on-demand now overtaking traditional pay-TV services.
So, catch it whilst you can, our prediction is that televised sex lines will gradually disappear from our traditional TV screens. But, before you get all teary-eyed, we expect that you’ll still be able to hook up online for a daily dose of your favourite Babestation babes.
Featured image via Babestation.tv