Television Business International

Channel 4 snatches Bake Off from BBC

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UK terrestrial Channel 4 has poached the UK’s highest rating show, The Great British Bake Off, snatching the rights from the BBC.

The commercial pubcaster has pulled off the coup after drawn-out negotiations between producer Love Productions and the BBC broke down over renewal pricing.

The Channel 4 agreement will last three years, with the broadcaster claiming its first Bake Off season will air as a Stand Up to Cancer charity special next year. Channel 4 is bound to produce 40 hours of Bake Off programming each year.

The BBC is understood to have a hold-back clause in its existing contract, meaning it can block Channel 4 from airing its new version of the show. However, Channel 4 believes public pressure will see its pubcaster rival reverse that decision.

Internationally, the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, sells the show. It has been building out sales slowly, with the most recent deal for a fourth season on the format and a first deal for spin-off An Extra Slice in the Netherlands with pubcaster NPO. There have been 21 remakes overall.

The Channel 4 deal does not affect BBCWW, and a spokesman told TBI: “BBC Worldwide continues to hold international format rights [excluding North America] for Bake Off for the next 12 years. BBC Worldwide additionally has an exclusive first negotiation position with Love Productions for the international distribution of future series of The Great British Bake Off.”

It is believed Love demanded the BBC pay £25 million (US$33.3 million) a year for the show, way above the current rate. The BBC is thought to have offered £12 million, which is around double the current annual fee.

This would have been a significant sum for the BBC, which is facing government demands to reel in spending. However, with the most recent season culminating with ratings of 15 million for its finale episode, such an agreement would have been argued by BBC management as justified.

Channel 4 has paid the £25 million fee, however. Various reports claim Love turned down larger offers from SVOD service Netflix and ITV, which was considered the frontrunner to buy the show when it emerged there were issues with the BBC.

GBBO presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (pictured), and star judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are not thought to be included in that contract, meaning there would need to be separate negotiations to bring them with the format. All four have expressed desire for the show to remain with the BBC.

Social media backlash against Love Productions was fierce, with numerous tweets blaming the Sky-owned prodco for greed, while the BBC claimed the company had rejected a “very strong offer”.

“Working with Love Productions, we have grown and nurtured the programme over seven series [seasons] and created the huge hit it is today,” a BBC statement issued before Channel 4’s announcement read.

“We made a very strong offer to keep the show, but we are a considerable distance apart on the money. The BBC’s resources are not infinite.

GBBO is a quintessentially BBC programme,” it added. We hope Love Productions change their mind so the Bake Off can stay ad-free on BBC One.”

“We believe we’ve found the perfect new home for Bake Off,” said Love founder and creative director Richard McKerrow. “It’s a public service, free-to-air broadcaster for whom Love Productions have produced high quality and highly successful programmes for more than a decade.

“It’s tremendously exciting to have found a broadcaster who we know will protect and nurture The Great British Bake Off for many years to come.”

McKerrow is a former Channel 4 commissioner, and Love is behind one of the broadcaster’s biggest – and most controversial – factual series of recent years, Benefits Street.

“Channel 4 is very proud to be the new home for The Great British Bake Off,” said Channel 4’s chief creative officer, Jay Hunt. “I’m delighted we have been able to partner with the hugely talented team at Love Productions to keep this much loved show on free-to-air television.”

For the BBC, the loss of the Bake Off comes after commercial broadcaster ITV poached its solid talent series The Voice last year.