by Graham Pierrepoint
It’s quickly become quintessential British TV and one of the best-loved shows on the BBC – but this past week has seen considerable change loom on the horizon for The Great British Bake-Off, the award-winning culinary challenge show that scored more viewers than any other in 2015 thanks to a truly show-stopping finale. The show has been running since 2010 and has quickly picked up steam as essential viewing for foodies and amateur bakers alike – but the exact nature of the programme’s future is in doubt after its production company, Love Productions, sold the franchise to rival broadcaster Channel 4 for £25 million ($33 million).
The reception to the buy-out has been fairly tumultuous, and has even led to original hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins announcing that they would not be moving to Channel 4 when the show returns next year. This initial blow was big news for Bake-Off fans who have grown to enjoy the duo’s chemistry and presenting over the past seven years – but rumors state that even more changes could be on the horizon.
The show’s resident experts – home baking legend Mary Berry and bread maestro Paul Hollywood – are rumored to have been approached with considerable pay increases to stay with the show upon its move to its new home. However, discussion behind the scenes and online hint that the bakers may follow Mel and Sue by choosing to bow out of the Bake-Off before the next series airs. Such departures for the show will come at a heavy cost for Channel 4, who have invested considerable money in bringing the midweek juggernaut to their own line-up – which has long been bolstered by cooking challenge show Come Dine With Me.
More details on Channel 4’s adoption of the series and whether or not Berry and Hollywood will move with Bake-Off remain thin on the ground, meaning that fans will likely have to wait with baited breath to see whether or not the show is headed by a completely new team of hosts and judges from 2017 onwards. It is not the first major franchise that the BBC has passed on, and certainly not the only ratings and award winner that will undergo heavy changes in recent months. With Top Gear having changed appearance and format for good, will the Bake-Off follow suit, and will it retain the strong viewership core it continues to enjoy?