Well, I tuned in to see the ITV’s Bingo Night Live, and I thought I would do a bit of a review of the whole set up and the programme. The show is the first completely free UK TV Bingo show, viewers can participate by printing off cards or playing online with the chance to win real cash prizes. Showing at midnight on ITV (Tuesdays through to Saturday) it’s presented by Michael Underwood and Melinda Messenger, and features a Bingo statistician called Nichola Dixon. The show was on for the first time last night, and as you would expect for a new live show, there was the odd hiccup or two along the way, but nothing too disastrous.
Before the show even started, if you wanted to play you had to first register at the ITV website. Considering the show only started today technically, the website for registration wasn’t live until midday yesterday. There had been a holding page minus any content or the ability to register. Due to some poor planning at ITV, the main URL of itv.com/bingonightlive actually forwarded to itv.com/bingonightlivecomingsoon (a different URL to the one advertised for the show) for a couple of weeks. As a result the site is hard to find by searching at Google as there’s been nothing there to make Google want to list it and rank it well.
This sort of attention to detail has turned what could have been a golden opportunity into a missed one. I’ve been seeing interested searchers for the programme hitting this site for months, and there’s been a massive surge the last couple of weeks as the show approached its air date. Why ITV couldn’t have got their act together to put a bit of info on the holding page they had, plus allowing people to register in advance is beyond me. Inexplicably, the site is once again forwarding to the holding page rather than the registration page. There were a number of web gremlins during the show as well, which frankly smacks of poor planning and testing.
There was a real rush of people trying to register as the show progressed. The first game had almost 8,000 players, whilst the last game that had shot up to almost 13,000. Had all the sign up stuff been in place a long time before hand, I’m sure those figures would have been much higher. That said, the registration process is pretty easy to do. They do try to get you to sign up for ITV’s own Bingo site along the way, but it is optional. Once you’ve signed up and logged in, you can either activate your tickets online or print them off to play the old fashioned way.
The actual show itself is pretty good, the presenters are young and full of energy, and the graphics and look of the show is fairly gender neutral. ITV also make a point of showing both sexes playing and registering in their inserts on how to play. Good for ITV for not falling into the easy stereotyping that most of the online bingo world insists on. There’s a lot of air time to fill between the three games, and they had a couple of things such as horoscopes by Russell Grant and celebrity news as well as the Minute To Win It side game based on general knowledge.
Alongside the glamorous presenters, there’s some interesting technology being used as well. The Map of the UK with its clusters of players is good fun, and as games progress they swoop in and see who’s in with a chance of winning and where. The winners also show up on the map, at least in the first couple of games but it broke down in the third game. Why the map needs to show their star sign and age I don’t know though, it’s completely irrelevant.
Nicola Dixon keeps the presenters up to date with how the games are progressing, registrations and that sort of stuff. She also did some facts on Bingo where she messed up a bit. She used the word apparently rather a lot, as in Bingo is apparently the most popular leisure activity in the UK and apparently three million play every week. Well, either they do or they don’t – state it rather than hedge your bets. She also messed up on brief introduction to the history of the game claiming a 16th century Italian lady cried Bingo instead of Beano and that’s how the game got its name. Hmmm, obviously just Googled some less than accurate info there I think.
The style of the presenting is good, there’s not too many Bingo clichés in there, and there’s some nice inter-game banter between the presenters. ITV could have turned up the cheese-o-meter with this show, but thankfully it’s very restrained and modern. Fortunately there are no rhyming numbers with the calling and apart from the odd bit of phrase repetition in the time between games, what could have been a nightmare of end-of-pier Bingo cheese is actually pretty entertaining.
For a free game the prizes are generous. £100 for the line, £200 the two lines and £1000 the full house. They play traditional 90 ball Bingo which is good. Michael Underwood does the calling which to be honest gets a bit erratic. The rhythm was going fast and slow, there were weird pauses and a few times he called a number 4 times in a row. Still, first go, live TV and all (maybe he should ask TV caller Brett for some tips.)
They have a £25,000 jackpot prize available for the full house, but to be honest, it’s pretty meaningless as you have to call house in less than 32 numbers to win it. Given the amount of players the National Game gets, it’s not very often the National prize is won on that many calls. I think around the 40 mark would be a bit easier. As for the calling, it would also be good to see how many numbers had been called. There are indications of how many players are waiting for 1 number which is nice, but displaying the number of numbers called is pretty much standard in every Bingo hall or site.
Overall though, despite a few bloopers and technical blunders, the show is pretty good. I really like the interactive elements, and whilst playing I was hoping I might see my name flash up on the interactive map as I waited for one number. To be honest though, I didn’t even get close – and that might be a big turn off for many. With so many playing, games are going to be over quickly and your odds of winning are drastically shortened. Still, it is free, and it takes very little effort to take part, even if you don’t watch the show.
I’m sure as time goes on, the presenters will grow more confident and knowledgeable about what they are doing. Overall, the outlook is pretty good. Given 5,000 signed up during the show, once word of mouth gets around I can see a lot more players registering and joining in the fun. It’s a shame ITV didn’t get registration open a lot sooner. My guess is the rush during the show might have contributed to the technical problems they had.
It’s also my personal opinion that the time slot they are in is too late, I could see this becoming a big evening show (say around the 21:00 slot) and being really popular there once a week with major prizes. As to whether I’d go out of my way to actually stay up and watch the show 5 nights a week, that’s another matter and one that might hamper the show. If all I need to do is log on nightly and activate my cards then to be honest, that’s all I’m going to do. If I win, I get an email so the only thing I’m really missing out on is the Minute To Win It competition.
Though, if your are a late night TV fan, and fancy a quick Bingo fix then Bingo Night Live is a pretty good option, especially if you don’t have access to the satellite TV channels like Gala TV or the Big Box Bingo programmes. Hopefully ITV can quickly get the glitches sorted out, and the show’s popularity will continue to grow. It would be great to see Bingo Night Live as a permanent fixture and part of the UK’s Bingo landscape for a long time to come.