Could you have foreseen the success of The Great British Bake Off?
The fifth series will be moving to BBC 1 next year and the format has sold to 13 countries. The distributors were not interested in it originally ‘baking is a British thing’ they said. But it’s sold to countries including Belgium, Poland and in Denmark it has broken viewing records and beat The Voice.
Not only were the distributors dismissive. The idea for the GBBO was turned down by over 25 commissioners. The makers – Love Productions – pitched it 5 times before getting the go ahead. Yes. FIVE TIMES. But they remained determined with the idea never leaving their list of top 10.
The BBC television series Who Do You Think You Are? took 17 years before it got commissioned.
The message: if you believe in it. If it has substance and someone else hasn’t already done it. Keep pitching it.
The idea for the Great British Bake Off came from the Pillsbury Bake-off in America. It’s something that happens already, in the real world. Finally the independent company were commissioned to write a treatment. A lot of effort went into that treatment and it looked beautiful.
A first series was then commissioned. Mary Berry was selected first followed by Paul Hollywood. The production team gathered in a North London venue to film contestants and they noticed something very unusual for a reality TV show. The contestants didn’t look at the camera. They were looking at the oven. The competition was between the baker and the oven rather than the other contestants. And the contestants were doing it for the love of baking – not to be on TV.
It’s a feel good show which drew 2 million viewers in series 1. One genuinely doesn’t want anyone to lose. It’s not a mean spirited reality show. The psychological testing of contestants also proved unusual. It showed record highs for IQ and with low egos. Contestants had good self esteem – there is a lot of therapy in baking.
One of the ingredients of success is that of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. But for me it’s also the sublime casting of duo Mel and Sue rooting for the contestants and helping us get to know them.
Families not only watch it together they also cook together afterwards. This with children who no longer need to watch TV anymore. So not only has it proved an unexpected success, but the programme has brought together generations.
What I love about this story is that Love Productions knew that the 25 commissioners were wrong when they said ‘no thanks.’ They had a gut feeling about a good idea – and they never gave up on it. If you never give up, just look what you can create and, in this case, bring to millions of people to enjoy. Don’t listen to the nay sayers, find a way round them.