(Paul) Hollywood or Bust?

The Apprentice without Trump or Sugar, X-Factor without Cowell, Deal or No Deal without Edmonds, Crystal Maze without Richard O’Brian- who’s that??!

Can a television format really thrive or survive when so much of it’s DNA lies with the presenting talent? That’s the 75 million pound gamble Channel 4 are about to find out.


A few years has passed now since we were allowed a surreptitious glimpse into the marketing efforts Hollywood, and the effort it endures to ensure its films are a hit. I’m referring to the Sony Wikileaks files. Amongst the CEO’s emails, were the marketing plans for the release of films such as “22 Jump Street”. As a content professional and someone who looks at all the tactics it takes to deliver an audience, I delved in with a curiosity, as to the dark arts of film marketing.

One thing that stuck out was the amount of research, testing, sheer clout and effort that goes into ensuring the leading gentleman and ladies are going to resonate with an audience. Forget an Academy award winning on-screen performance, this was pure business- qualitative and quantitative testing on a grand scale. No ones going to take a $75 million dollar gamble without doing their homework right? This grounding principle of the marketing strategy is used to check everything from layout of talent on posters and billboards, to who would be doing the majority of junkets in each country.

Now this is nothing new. It’s why Hollywood exists and why there is a multi-billion dollar industry of agencies, agents, who carefully manage the net worth of the people they represent. On screen performance aside they really can make or break a films success and the fees they command are a reflection of this. Who knew Jonah Hill doesn’t resonate in Germany?

Stripped back, The Great British Bake Off is just a talent show in a tent - accessible to all who can bake and whittled down by personality pre-recording and then on air by cooking talent, set against the reassuring familiarity of a soundtrack led by four principle commentators and judges. Strip that element out and you are relying on a general public you haven’t met yet and the casting directors finding you the next Tandy, Nadiya or John (again who??!) to entertain the audience. Let’s not forget this is entertainment after all. Risky huh?

So with the news that Channel 4 had only been able to secure the talents of Paul Hollywood, either the brand is strong enough to survive with 75% of its core DNA extracted or it’s taking one almighty gamble without first doing the necessary research; blinded by existing ratings or the wider potential for commercial exploitation. You can expect regional GBBO events coming to a marquee near you soon, A Tefal GBBO cookware range and the ubiquitous Tesco GBBO Range, currently in development and waiting to hit shelves come 2017. Unless the clever Channel 4 lawyers have written this into, a first of its kind, contract with Love Productions, then these commercial exploits will only set to expand Love’s bank balance.

As the lines of content production blur, with everyone from brands to amateur bakers getting in on the act, it’s always worth remembering that on screen talent is often at the heart of what make something watchable. Just look at the car crash that Saturday Kitchen has become since the talent of James Martin was allowed to slip away. The show will never be the same again and should probably be euthanised before any more damage is done.

Only time will tell of whether GBBO can survive both an amputation and a relocation all at once.

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