ITV has made a serious bid to poach “The Great British Bake Off” from the BBC, as negotiations over a new deal for the biggest show on television continue to make slow progress.
“Bake Off’s” existing three-year contract expires after the 2016 series and the BBC and Love Productions — the company that owns and makes the show — have been locked in talks about its future for months without making any meaningful progress.
Four TV industry sources told Business Insider that ITV, the UK’s largest ad-funded broadcaster, is desperate to poach the show. Knowing that talks are stalling with the BBC, it has made its feelings known to Love.
ITV and Love have not held formal talks about “The Great British Bake Off,” however, and sources with knowledge of the matter are still upbeat that the BBC can secure the future of the show on BBC1.
ITV and the BBC declined to comment. Love Productions founder and creative director Richard McKerrow told Business Insider: “Love are in exclusive, confidential negotiations with BBC.”
ITV director of television Kevin Lygo did not engage when he was asked about “The Great British Bake Off” at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Wednesday. “I prefer ‘EastEnders,'” he joked.
But Lygo did make clear that finding a hit cookery show is among his top priorities. “Bake Off” would be an enormously valuable property for ITV because it is able to pull in huge audiences. Series seven launched with a record audience of 10.5 million on Wednesday.
ITV ready to swoop
ITV is ready to swoop if talks between the BBC and Love breakdown. The two parties have been negotiating since April and discussions are moving at a glacial speed.
Love wants a significantly increased production fee for the format, which is presented by Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. One source said the company wants as much as £700,000 an episode, although this was denied by another person close to the talks.
Either way, Love believes that the show should be made for an entertainment fee, rather than the lower factual budget it is currently on. This is a legacy from “Bake Off’s” unusual provenance, as it was originally commissioned by the BBC’s documentary team in 2010.
Sources have told Business Insider that the show’s presenters, including judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, want it to remain on the BBC. They and others in the industry fear that “Bake Off’s” winning formula would be altered by a move to a commercial broadcaster.
Another potential issue for ITV is that the BBC has a one-year “holdback” written into the programme’s contract, meaning that it could not air on a rival British broadcaster next year.
ITV and Love are no strangers. ITV tried to acquire Love in 2014 (the production company eventually sold to Sky) and “The Great British Bake Off” would almost certainly have come up in discussions at the time.