The Cycle Show, a new eight part magazine-style series on cycling starts tonight at 8pm on ITV4. Mainstream TV programmes on cycling are rare.
(Watch the first edition on ITV Player for a limited time only)
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Sharon Fuller, operations director of Century TV.
“We’ve been working on the idea for two years. Outside of Eurosport, TV commissioning editors only understand cycling at an outline level and don’t understand the audience.”
The new series is a chat show format, featuring celebrities who cycle alongside well-known names in cycling.
“That makes it a commercial proposition,” said Fuller. The series is sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles and is filmed on Sundays at Look Mum No Hands bike shop café in Old Street, London. The Cycle Show will be repeated on Saturdays at 5:30pm and on Sunday mornings on ITV4+1 as well as ITV Player.
The Top Gear-style programme will be presented by Graham Little with support from Rob Hayles and Anna Glowinski.
ITV4 is the broadcaster which has been airing the Tour de France in the UK.
The support from Chain Reaction Cycles of Northern Ireland was critical to get the show off the ground, said Fuller.
“Broadcasters don't have the budget to pay for programmes, and especially not on ITV4. You have to find a backer who will take a chance on a format and to put their name to their format to give you the money to be able to get the show on air. That process has taken us two years. We only got the final OK from ITV4 six weeks ago.
“It’s been a race against the clock to get the show on the air and to book all the guests.”
Chain Reaction Cycles is paying 90 percent of the production costs of the series. Ofcom guidelines say the sponsor can’t influence the editorial of the programme. Fuller said Chain Reaction Cycles is very happy with that.
“They want an editorially independent programme that’s good, they don’t want it to be a shop front for them. It’s been very refreshing to work with a sponsorship partner who’s like that.”
Century TV produces ITV4’s coverage of the Tour of Britain and with this track record approached companies to sponsor The Cycle Show.
“We went to all the big names. Some people said no from the offset. Others offered less money and with certain stipulations but Chain Reaction understand what we’re trying to do,” said Fuller.
The show is for a general audience, and won’t major on any of the ‘tribal’ aspects of cycling although with yesterday’s Tour de France victory for Bradley Wiggins, and the forthcoming Olympics, road cycling will form a major part of the first show of the series.
Fuller said the show won’t be able to please everybody all of the time but that shouldn’t stop cyclists from supporting the show:
“Viewers need to get behind this show or it will be ten years before any broadcaster takes a chance on a show like this.
“This first series of eight half hour shows is like a pilot series. If viewers get behind this series there will be more chance of being able to make a second series, and perhaps a series with one hour per show.”
ITV4’s viewer number predictions were 250,000 viewers per show but, because of the Tour de France success, Fuller is hoping for closer to 500,000 viewers per show.
On tonight’s show hour-fixated Graeme Obree has a Rollapaluza roller race with one of the founding fathers of mountain biking Gary Fisher. The Roller Sprint Challenge will feature in every show, with a leader board tracking the results. Next week Eddy Merckx will be on the show (pedalling? You’ll have to tune in to find out).
“This is a unique opportunity to keep people interested in cycling,” said Fuller. “The show will get bigger as it goes along. Over the last few years there has been a marked boom in cycling but there hasn’t been the infrastructure to support it. We want to push for that. We won’t get overtly political but we’ll back certain causes that we believe in and which will help cycling in the future.”
The journalists who run the cyclesafe campaign for The Times will be on show four.
“We believe in cycling as a cause,” said Fuller. “It’s not just a business idea.”