Paul Hollywood & Scripps’s Phillip Luff Talk City Bakes

TV Real spoke to Paul Hollywood and Phillip Luff, the managing director of Scripps Networks UK & EMEA at Scripps Networks Interactive, about the series Paul Hollywood City Bakes, which has just been greenlit for a second season.

TV REAL: Following your long history in baking, how did TV intersect as part of your career?
HOLLYWOOD: I never set out to be on TV; TV found me. I had spent my career working as a normal baker, albeit with a pretty strong CV, when the BBC approached me to take part in a new show. And six years later, here we are!

TV REAL: What was the genesis of Paul Hollywood City Bakes?
HOLLYWOOD: I have always wanted to explore some of the fantastic baking on offer around the world, so in each episode, I traveled to a different city and met with local bakers to learn about their specialty bakes—for example, in New York we explored bagels, doughnuts and cheesecakes. One of the key elements that really attracted me to this program was the opportunity to get stuck in with the baking, as I rarely get to do that these days.
LUFF: We’ve always been interested in using the right talent for the right programming at the right time, and we’ve had some brilliant success at this over the past five years. Obviously higher profile talent is attractive to viewers, which is important to business success. This is about Scripps Networks growing our portfolio with the very best content in the genres that we specialize in—food, home and travel—and Paul Hollywood was a natural choice based on his expertise, charisma and established following.

TV REAL: Why was travel such an important element to incorporate into the series?HOLLYWOOD: In each city we learn about the local delicacies from the best bakers in the region, trying out new techniques and ideas—that’s really what the show was all about. And we visited some incredible cities. I think that viewers got a real flavor of each different location (excuse the pun!). That’s certainly what we set out to do.

All of the cities were so different and it was the first time I had visited many of them so they all made a real impact on me. If I had to highlight one in particular, I’d probably choose St. Petersburg. I had a few preconceptions about going to Russia—I’d been watching War & Peace on the telly and grew up through the Cold War so I expected it to be quite a grey place, but it was completely the opposite. I loved it!

TV REAL: In what other ways can viewers connect with you and with the show?
HOLLYWOOD: I recently released a book, The Weekend Baker, to accompany the series. It includes all of the recipes from the series, plus many more, so that people can try them out for themselves.
LUFF: Paul Hollywood resonates with consumers wherever they are—on TV, mobile, online and social. And we make sure we produce content that works beyond and alongside the linear series, creating content such as recipes and social-first video, playing to the strengths of a platform and consumer expectations.

It’s equally important we engage our talent in fans’ conversations across Twitter and Facebook. Paul took our quiz How ‘Paul Hollywood’ Are You? and luckily he scored 10 out of 10, something he went on to Tweet and share on Facebook. Our hashtag #CityBakes saw a total reach of 58 million Twitter impressions during the time the show was on air, making it our most popular ever U.K. hashtag around a TV show.

TV REAL: Why do you think this show is able to strike a chord with international viewers?
LUFF: Food-centric programming is constantly evolving and the demand for entertaining cooking-based content is continual. The combination of the baking element and the travelogue aspect in Paul Hollywood City Bakes enables us to bring the love of cooking to various international territories. In between trying out new recipes, Paul explores the sights of each destination, taking viewers on an enjoyable journey of each city visited. This means the content resonates with both local and international viewers.

This is also the first project we have done with Paul Hollywood and we’ve been thrilled to see how audiences across the board have reacted to the series. The launch night saw 143,800 viewers; 286-percent up on the previous slot average of 37,300, and the series’ premiere run averaged audiences of 102,138; a huge 174-percent increase on slot average. The series also brought in 270,000 new viewers, and pulled an impressive 77,000 lapsed viewers back to the channel.

We are also really pleased to announce that we have just greenlit a second season of Paul Hollywood City Bakes, which will see Paul traveling to ten cities across the world, including Cape Town, Antwerp and Amman.

TV REAL: How does the show fit into the larger strategy for the U.K. and EMEA of bringing forth talent-led projects?
LUFF: Scripps Networks Interactive has a history and heritage of working with some of the most recognizable talent in the world and we are known for our global high-quality programming. Bringing great talent such as Paul Hollywood to the network is testament to our commitment to world-class entertainment for our audiences across the region.

TV REAL: What’s next up for your priorities for Scripps’ business in these territories?
LUFF: Our priorities across the U.K. and EMEA currently include working with established big names, growing new talent and investing in local commissions. Through our commissioning strategy, we are able to combine our expertise at creating leading lifestyle programming with big-name and high-profile talent, as well as granting us the flexibility to tailor content to people’s passions in individual markets. Filming in different locations and celebrating the differences in cultures allows us to connect with territory audiences and create relevant, entertaining and high-quality programming that viewers across the globe have come to expect from us.

As part of our localization strategy, we have produced The Big Eat in-house for Food Network in Russia, the Middle East and South Africa. This is a series of ten 30-minute episodes for each territory (30 episodes in total), featuring local foodies speaking about their favorite foods and styles of cooking, cut with clips from our existing library of Food Network chefs. These will be aired in the relevant territories to bring viewers localized content that resonates with them.