Proof will be in the ratings for Channel 4’s new Bake Off

The new line-up for The Great British Bake Off which screened on Channel 4 for the first time last night. (PA).
The new line-up for The Great British Bake Off which screened on Channel 4 for the first time last night. (PA).
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The Great British Bake Off made its debut on Channel 4 on Tuesday night following its controversial switch from the BBC and Chris Bond was impressed.

When the story broke that The Great British Bake Off was leaving its spiritual home at the BBC for its rivals at Channel 4, you could almost hear the sound of aprons being hurled at television sets.

Rarely (if ever) can TV producers have had to suffer the slings and arrows of such outraged amateur bakers.

The reason they did was because since the first series was screened in 2010, GBBO has become both an unlikely ratings winner and a British TV institution.

Each week more than 10 million viewers tuned in to see the contestants sweat it out in the now famous Bake Off tent as they tried – and often failed – to produce the perfect Genoese sponge or Baked Alaska and avoid the dreaded soggy bottom.

After all the hoo-ha, Tuesday night saw the much-loved show return to our screens when viewers would pass judgement. Only Paul Hollywood remained of the original line-up. Gone were Mel and Sue and Mary Berry, a national treasure in her own right, and in their place were presenters Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, as well as new judge Prue Leith.

In the end it was all rather good. There was a light-hearted nod to its move after which the three newcomers fitted in seamlessly, testament to their talent and that of their predecessors.

Other than this, and the new bakers we’ll get to know over the coming weeks, nothing had really changed. The tent was the same, the challenges themselves were the same and so, too, was the music.

The only difference was the advert breaks, though given some of the whingeing from people on social media you could have been forgiven for thinking they hadn’t watched a commercial TV channel before.

These days it all boils down to the ratings, such is the way of the world, and Channel 4 bosses will probably be pretty happy after an average of 6.5 million people tuned in to watch Tuesday night’s episode. This gave Channel 4 its highest overnight audience for five years – though it was still almost four million down on the show’s launch on BBC One last year.

Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s outgoing chief creative officer, was buoyed by the figures. “The Great British Bake Off’s audience proves it’s still one of the country’s favourite shows,” she said. “It’s the largest share of young audiences 
we’ve had for a show for over a decade.”

During the Edinburgh International Television Festival last week, Hunt said she would be “absolutely delighted” if the new series of Bake Off was watched by “five, six, seven million” on Channel 4.

Paul Hollywood was the only member of the original team to move with the show to Channel 4. He told BBC Radio 2 he had only “caught the last 20 minutes” of the launch show, but added: “It was great. All the reaction has been very, very positive, which is great news.”

The first episode saw IT programme manager Peter, 52, get sent home, with the quality of some of the beautifully-crafted bakes better than ever.

The episode’s ratings of 6.5 million is nearly double the number recorded for Diana: In Her Own Words, which had been Channel 4’s largest overnight audience so far this year. It is also the highest overnight ratings enjoyed by Channel 4 since the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games in August 2012.

The figure is likely to rise higher when the official consolidated ratings are published next week, which will include people who recorded the show and watched it up to seven days afterwards.

The question now will be whether those who tuned in for the first episode come back for a second helping. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding, or in this instance, the ratings.

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