Ever since the news that The Great British Bake Off would be moving from BBC One to Channel Four, there’s been one question raised – could the BBC make their own, very similar, replacement? The question has only been strengthened with the news that Sue Perkins, Mel Geidroyc, and Mary Berry won’t be returning to the show; why not bring the three of them together once more, for The Great British Cake Off, perhaps?
It’s worth taking a look at what the current contract dictates. At the minute, the BBC will continue to air the rest of seventh series of Bake Off, with two more Christmas specials following in December. After that, though, the show is Channel 4’s – but they may have to wait, because their contract allows for the BBC to delay the showing of the program until 2018. Industry experts have suggested this is unlikely, however, because the “cooling off” clause that would allow this delay is included to give the BBC time to strike a new deal with Love Productions, something that they aren’t expected to do. In that case, then, it seems that the first new Bake Off we’ll see on Channel 4 will be a celebrity special, in aid of the charity Stand up to Cancer.
What Channel 4 bought was the rights to the concept – essentially, they paid £75 million to be allowed to show people baking in a tent. It’s not exactly the most innovative and unique concept, though; television is proliferated with talent shows and competitions, linked to a variety of different idiosyncratic skills, with a lot of crossover between them. Masterchef, The Great British Menu, and so on and so forth have all been able to meaningfully co-exist, so presumably another baking show could be thrown into the mix.
Historically, however, Love Productions – who own the Bake Off concept, and facilitated the move to Channel 4 – have been very productive of their format. Several years ago, a legal battle began between the BBC and Love Productions, on the grounds that the BBC Three program Hair, a hairdressing competition, ripped off the Bake Off format. Ultimately the BBC settled out of court, and the details of the legal battle aren’t known; however, it set a precedent which would be repeated once more. The following year, Love made the same accusations regarding The Big Painting Challenge, and again, it had to be settled out of court.
It wouldn’t be a surprise, then, if Love Productions did sue the BBC for making a new cooking program, fronted by Mel, Sue, and Mary – certainly, they’d have a far stronger case there than they would have with Hair or The Big Painting Challenge. Interestingly, however, the case is complicated by the fact that the BBC retains the overseas licencing rights to the Bake Off format until 2028.
Whatever happens, it’s clear that Bake Off is going to be dogged with controversy for a long time to come, with Channel 4 going to come under a government review later this year in light of their acquisition of the show; it may come to pass that, ultimately, Love Productions overplayed their hand here, and we’re starting to see the beginning of the end for Bake Off, with nothing to fill that spot on the table.
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