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22 September 2016

Mary Berry is leaving the Bake Off – so what did Channel 4 buy?

Is it possible the network didn’t realise that presenting and judging talent was not attached to the Bake Off format when they spent the big bucks?

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Another day, another supporting wall of the Great British Bake Off gingerbread house crumbles into dust. This morning, Mary Berry announced that she, like Mel and Sue before her, will not be following the Bake Off to Channel 4, after Love Productions sold the format to the network for £25m.

In a statement, Bezza said:

My decision to stay with the BBC is out of loyalty to them, as they have nurtured me, and the show, that was a unique and brilliant format from day one. What a privilege and honour it has been to be part of seven years of magic in a tent. I am just sad for the audience who may not be ready for change, I hope they understand my decision. The Bake Off family – Paul, Mel and Sue have given me so much joy and laughter. I wish the programme, crew and future bakers every possible success and I am so very sad not to be a part of it.

In a heart-breaking sign off, she added, “Farewell to soggy bottoms.”

What makes the Bake Off great? A pie chart:

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If my calculations are correct Mary, Mel and Sue count for roughly 65% of the show’s success. So with only Paul Hollywood remaining as a familiar face moving over to Channel 4, one question becomes more and more unavoidable – what did Channel 4 actually buy? Is it possible they didn’t realise that presenting and judging talent was not attached to the Bake Off format when they spent the big bucks?

Moving formats to new channels have always been tricky business. When Big Brother moved from Channel 4 to Channel 5 in 2011, its ratings plummeted to 1.6 million average viewers (half of the 3 million viewers on Channel 4’s last series). Robot Wars suffered a similar fate when it moved from BBC Two to Channel 5 all the way back in 2003, as did Neighbours when it switched from BBC One to Channel 5. (Perhaps all this says more about Channel 5 than switching stations, it’s true, but nevertheless the precedents set are not optimistic.)

Whether the Bake Off fails or succeeds in its new home, only time will tell. But with so many key ingredients removed from this tried and tested recipe, this is a notoriously difficult challenge.

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