TV Formats shines a spotlight on The Great Bake Off, a show rooted in old-fashioned baking traditions that has become a format megahit, with dozens of local versions around the world.
The Great Bake Off has been sold by BBC Studios into a slew of markets, and audiences across the globe have been eagerly following as amateur bakers endeavor to impress a panel of judges with their baking skills.
From Love Productions, the series launched as The Great British Bake Off in September 2010 on BBC Two. Airing weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., the show averaged some 2.8 million viewers across its first season. The audience continued to grow on BBC Two across each cycle; the channel’s final run, season four, averaged 7.4 million viewers. The Great British Bake Off then moved over to BBC One, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m., for a further three seasons; again, the audience grew with each one. The seventh season averaged 13.6 million viewers and a 49.5 percent share to eclipse BBC One’s slot and prime-time average shares by 92 percent and 124 percent, respectively.
In 2017, the show moved to Channel 4, which placed it on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and extended the episodes from 60 minutes to 75. The season eight finale on Channel 4 was the network’s highest-rated program in 32 years.
VTM in Belgium was the first channel to adapt the format locally. Since then, it has traveled to 30 territories. Among them are Brazil, Canada, Greece, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, New Zealand, Mexico, Poland, Spain, South Africa, Romania, Thailand, the U.S. and Ukraine. France, Denmark and Sweden are all in their seventh installment, while the Netherlands is in production with its sixth season. Bake Off Argentina, which aired as El Gran Pastelero on Telefe, recently wrapped its first season, with the final achieving a 70.3 percent share.
“While keeping the show’s core format, we have made territory-relevant tweaks,” says Sumi Connock, BBC Studios’ creative director of formats. “In Australia, they have brilliantly adapted the tent so that the exterior resembles an outback shearing shed, which helps localize the setting. In Italy, they introduced audition episodes where 100 wannabe bakers arrived and were given a challenge to complete outside of the tent. The best 16 bakers won a place in the tent to take part in the rest of the series. They are also the only territory to have challenges where they travel to other destinations.
“In Israel, they produced a series featuring couples, and it films on the coast in Tel Aviv,” she continues. “They also introduced four audition episodes last season. In Turkey, it was stripped across the week, playing out five days per week. They made over 200 episodes!”
The show is “distinct from other cooking formats for a number of reasons, most strikingly the unique location being the large white iconic tent,” a spokesperson from Love Productions tells TV Formats. “It arrived on our screens at a time when competitive formats were ‘nasty’ and ‘waspish’ in tone, and immediately set itself apart because of the good humor, warmth and kindness that exists between the bakers, judges and hosts. It is a format that feels completely inclusive. Bakers can be any age from 16-plus, and because of the many and varied challenges, the tent is a place where diversity, experience, youthful enthusiasm and the desire to do something new all flourish. It is produced in a more documentary style than other competitive formats, with the accent on storytelling and getting to know the bakers’ personalities rather than simply who bakes well and who doesn’t. The hosts act as friends to the bakers and also lend a lighthearted comic tone that prevents the competition from taking itself too seriously—that said, winning Bake Off is a life-changing moment for one baker every year. It is a format that allows for flexibility to suit local schedules, and many of the challenges can be adapted to reflect a territory’s particular baking heritage.”
The show has also spawned a number of franchise spin-offs. For example, Bake Off: The Professionals, which originated in the U.K. as Crème de la Crème on BBC Two, is currently in its third season as The Professionals on Channel 4. This has also been made in France, with the third season in production. Celebrity Bake Off versions have been made in Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland and Sweden. Junior Bake Off has been done in Italy (four seasons), Sweden (two seasons), Brazil (two seasons), Poland and Thailand. Extra Slice has been licensed to the Netherlands and Italy. In Italy, Extra Slice will be done as a daily stripped magazine show, locally titled Extra Dolce, with 65 episodes in daytime to support the weekly prime-time show.
Even with the impressive roster of countries that have already signed up for Bake Off, BBC Studios has more markets in sight. “With the success of the Argentine and Brazilian Bake Off, there are definitely other Latin American territories in which Bake Off could really work,” says Connock. “Portugal has yet to join the baking family, which is surprising given its heritage in fantastic cuisine. In Eastern Europe, there are also some territories that we haven’t reached yet, for example, the Balkans, in which it could work really well given the success in other Central Eastern European countries. In Asia, we would love to see it in Japan, Malaysia or India.”
BBC Studios holds a Bake Off Creative Exchange every two years where producers and broadcasters can meet and share their knowledge, experience and innovations of their local versions. “We also have a microsite where all producers can access production videos and master classes along with episodes, format twists, challenge grids, commercial opportunities, and marketing information and strategies from across the globe,” explains Connock. “We are constantly working to grow and protect this format (as well as its spin-off versions), which resonates so well with a global audience.”