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BBC Loses Rights to U.K.’s Most Popular Show ‘The Great British Bake Off’

LONDON — The BBC has lost the rights to broadcast “The Great British Bake Off,” which was the most-watched show on U.K. television last year. Channel 4 will now air the series instead, after signing a three-year deal with Love Productions, the baking competition show’s creators.

Channel 4’s first “Bake Off” episode will be a celebrity version of the show to air next year. The network is reported to have outbid the BBC. Both free-to-air broadcasters are owned by the British government, but the BBC is funded by a mandatory license fee, while Channel 4 is funded by advertising.

Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s chief creative officer, said in a statement: “Channel 4 is very proud to be the new home for ‘The Great British Bake Off.’ I’m delighted we have been able to partner with the hugely talented team at Love Productions to keep this much-loved show on free-to-air television.”

Love Productions stated: “After an extraordinary six-year journey with the BBC, Love Productions announces with regret that it has been unable to reach agreement on terms to renew the commission of ‘The Great British Bake Off.'”

The BBC show, in which amateurs bake cakes, pies, pastries and the like, was the U.K.’s most-watched show last year, with 15.1 million viewers for the finale. It has proved more popular than the network’s coverage of the Olympics this year, with the curtain-raiser for the latest season, the seventh, pulling almost half of all U.K. viewers. Season 7 kicked off last month with “Cake Week,” which averaged 10.4 million viewers, a whopping 48% of the U.K. total. The show’s ratings peaked at 11.2 million, which is more than the 11.1 million who tuned in for the most popular moment of the Rio Olympics.

CBS produced a U.S. version of the show called “The American Baking Competition” in May 2013, airing in primetime on Wednesdays, with Jeff Foxworthy hosting, and 5 million viewers watching. By July the show was toast: rating had failed to rise, the critics pulled a face, and CBS decided not to ask for a second helping.

Another attempt at producing a U.S. version of the show came last year when ABC aired a four-episode run of “The Great Holiday Baking Show.” The show premiered Nov. 30 at 10 p.m. EST, hosted by “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s” Nia Vardalos and her husband, “Cougar Town” star Ian Gomez, and averaged around 5 million viewers.

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