“Make ‘The Great British Bake Off’ one of the most expensive show on British television.”
That was Love Productions’ simple request to the BBC during fraught, year-long negotiations over the show’s future, according to Business Insider sources.
Its reasoning was equally straightforward: “The Great British Bake Off” has been the highest-rated non-sports programme on TV for the past two years and Love said its value should reflect this fact.
Love crunched the numbers and stuck a flag in the ground at £25 million ($33 million) a year.
Sources told us this is likely to be equal to, or more expensive than other formats, such as BBC1’s “Strictly Come Dancing,” and ITV’s Simon Cowell juggernauts “The X Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent.”
These shows sit pretty at the top of the TV money tree, but are strikingly different to “The Great British Bake Off.” They are enormous undertakings, with giant sets, huge talent costs, and weekly live episodes. “Bake Off” is filmed in a tent in Berkshire.
One source said a generous budget estimate to produce a single episode is £300,000 ($395,000) — and this includes any profit creamed off by Love Productions.
Including “Bake Off” sister shows, such as “The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice,” it is estimated the BBC’s total outlay on the franchise is currently around £6.5 million ($8.6 million) a year.
The broadcaster told Love it would more than double this to £15 million ($19.8 million) under a new deal, but balked at the company’s £25 million demand. Even director general Tony Hall intervened to emphasise this point, according to sources.
After months of stalemate, Love walked away on Monday afternoon. The firm, which is 70% owned by pay-TV giant Sky, knew it wasn’t short of interest elsewhere.
“Bake Off” source: “The prices were astronomical.”
ITV and Netflix were hungry for “Bake Off,” but it was Channel 4 that ultimately swooped. Sources have told Business Insider that Channel 4 matched Love’s £25 million valuation, but it was not the highest bid on the table.
“There were offers for twice what Channel 4 offered — and more. The prices were astronomical,” said one person close to the negotiations.
Channel 4 had been readying its bid, which The Daily Telegraph said includes an annual commitment to up to 40 hours of programming, for months. Chief creative officer Jay Hunt collaborated with the board to agree its position should “The Great British Bake Off” become available.
When talks with the BBC broke down, Hunt swooped. The board signed-off the three-year deal within two hours and Love Productions creative director Richard McKerrow made the short trip across London to finalise the paperwork.
The contract only ran to two pages of A4 paper. Hunt and McKerrow signed on the dotted line, while Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham popped in to pass on his congratulations.
Channel 4 has not commented on the value of the deal, but £25 million is nearly 5.5% of the broadcaster’s original content budget of £455 million ($600 million).
Channel 4 sources said the programming budget will not be impacted by “Bake Off’s” arrival. Most of Channel 4’s total £75 million ($99 million) outlay will come from its withdrawal from horseracing. This will be topped up with cash from Channel 4’s £250 million ($329 million) funding surplus.
So, Love got its way — and with it came accusations of “greed.”
Lord Sugar, the star of the UK version of “The Apprentice,” tweeted: “There’s a fine balance in good business practice. Love Productions have made a fatal error taking GBBO away from @BBCOne for few extra quid.”
“Bake Off” presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins appeared to agree. “We’re not going with the dough,” they proclaimed in a resignation statement on Tuesday.
But with more expensive offers said to be on the table, Love played up the creative partnership it has with Channel 4.
McKerrow said: “We believe we’ve found the perfect new home for ‘Bake Off.’ It’s a public service, free-to-air broadcaster for whom Love Productions have produced high quality and highly successful programmes for more than a decade.”
The value of owning TV content has never been higher — even if it is just a deceptively straightforward bakery show, filmed in the grounds of an English country house.
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