The latest season of Channel 4’s “The Great British Bake-Off” has gone down like a deflated soufflé with U.K. viewers compared to last year’s pandemic-induced numbers.
Season 12 launched on Tuesday night with an average audience of 5.7 million, making it Channel 4’s highest rating commission so far this year.
However it marks a decline from last year, when the show’s season 11 finale set records for Channel 4 with an average audience of 9.2 million viewers, making it the highest-rated Channel 4 show since records began in 2002.
2020’s viewing figures across the industry were thought to be inflated by the pandemic lockdowns, which saw viewers stuck at home for months on end. In 2019, GBBO’s season 11 launched average 5.7 million viewers.
Tuesday’s season 12 launch, meanwhile, boasted a 30.8% share of the audience, making it GBBO’s second biggest launch in terms of audience share. The show also dominated among the coveted younger demographic, grabbing a 61.9% share of viewers aged 16-34 between 8-9.30pm on Tuesday evening.
The latest season of GBBO will air in the U.S. on Netflix on Sept. 24.
Some viewers also encountered technical difficulties when trying to watch the episode on Channel 4’s streaming platform All4.
— Charlotte (@itsacharlotte13) September 21, 2021
Despite a soggier start to the season, reviews of the show, which is now judged by Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith and presented by Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, were generally positive, with The Guardian calling it “joyous TV” and The Independent saying it’s “amazingly not stale.”
The baking show, which is made by Love Productions, first launched on the BBC in 2010, hosted by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins with Hollywood and Mary Berry judging. As it grew in popularity it moved from BBC Two to BBC One, spawning replicas including “The Great British Sewing Bee” and “The Great Pottery Throw Down.”
In 2016, it was controversially announced that Love Productions was taking the hit series to Channel 4, having reportedly been offered £25 million ($34 million) — £10 million ($13.6 million) more than the BBC were proposing. When the show moved, only Hollywood agreed to move with it, with Giedroyc, Perkins and Berry deciding to step down.
The ratings news comes at a rocky time for Channel 4, with the U.K. government believed to be set on a sale of the public service broadcaster.