By Saskia Whelan
It’s the news story that has undeniably rocked the nation. No, not David Cameron stepping down as MP, I’m talking about The Great British Bake Off, the BBC cooking show that has stolen the hearts of man, woman and child alike. Bake Off, it has been announced, is moving to a new home at Channel 4. As a Broadcast PR consultant I can’t help but wonder what this means for the programme that has changed the TV habits of a nation.
When it was first broadcast in 2010, who could have predicted that a show about competitive cooking would be so compulsive? Arguably, it’s the chemistry between hosts Mel and Sue, and judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, that keeps fans tuning in six years later.
Mel and Sue confirmed almost immediately that they would not be following the show to its new home on channel 4. Gone are the cream innuendos and cracking biscuit puns. Meanwhile, we await news from Berry and Hollywood with baited breath. Paul’s twinkly blue eyes and harsh critique must be credited with some of the show’s success, but it’s Mary Berry that we all adore.
Female hosts on mainstream TV programmes are rarely over the age of 38, but at 81, Mary Berry is a cookery powerhouse, with dozens of cookbooks to her name. She’s also a style icon, and regularly delivers pithy comments that becomes catch phrases. Even casual viewers will have examined a cake and joked about it having a ‘soggy bottom’! By helming one of the most successful shows on the BBC, Mary Berry has shown that age is nothing but a number. Will Channel 4 stick with its pioneering reputation and aim to keep Berry?
As it’s financed by the license-fee-paying public, the BBC does not allow advertising and is very particular about allowing branding within programmes. Could this move bring an opportunity for brands to feature on the show? A guest challenge could perhaps involve a certain piece of equipment that a manufacturer might pay to be used. And will the weekly themes continue to be embargoed for months, to diminish a chance to link PR stories to the showstopper of the week? We have ourselves, at Shout! being waiting for gluten free week for this very reason.
Rumour has it that the 2017 launch on Channel 4 will be a celebrity special for charity Stand Up To Cancer, who will likely be hoping to endorse something other than their cooking abilities, so we may well see spin-off celebrity versions in the future.
As both a GBBO fan and a PR professional, I hope that Channel 4 balances the authenticity of the show with some fresh ideas about storytelling if they do decide to look for brand involvement.
As the Great British Bake Off series seven has only just begun, this news is likely to boost viewing figures, as loyal fans get the last serving of the BBC version. Will Channel 4 change the format? We’ll have to wait and see. As one contestant invariably wails each series, “I said I wasn’t going to watch my oven!”