BBC brands Channel 4’s Bake Off scheduling clash a ‘cynical move’ as feud gains heat

Channel 4's Bake Off returns to screens on 29 August

The BBC has called Channel 4's decision to schedule the return of The Great British Bake Off to clash with its own cooking programme, The Big Family Cooking Showdown, a "cynical move" adding fuel to the ongoing battle between the two competing broadcasters.

Channel 4 announced yesterday (16 August) that the long-awaited return of The Great British Bake Off will hit TV screens on Tuesday 29 August at 8pm. However, this clashes with the slot for The Big Family Cooking Showdown, which started this week on the BBC.

To prevent a ratings war, the BBC decided to move its cookery show, hosted by former Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, to a Thursday slot.

The BBC said in a statement: “Channel 4’s decision to move Bake Off from its long term traditional Wednesday slot will be a surprise to many viewers who may see this as a cynical move.

“We never intended for our new cookery show to clash with theirs. There is room for both and we don’t, in this instance, see any public value in two public service broadcasters going head-to-head in this way. We will therefore move our show to Thursday in the best interest of viewers to avoid such a clash.”

However, Channel 4 denied that it had deliberately put The Great British Bake Off against The Big Family Cooking Showdown. It said the decision had been taken months ago and that the programme would air in the slot it originally had when it launched on BBC Two in 2010.

“We made the decision about where to schedule The Great British Bake Off a few months after acquiring it and we haven’t moved it since then,” Channel 4 said. “It is in the original Tuesday evening slot where the majority of past series have played.”

It's the latest blow in a long-standing clash between the two broadcasters, after Channel 4 controversially stole Bake Off - the most popular show on British television last year - from the BBC a year ago. At the time Love Productions, the makers of the show, said they failed to seal a new deal with the BBC after “more than a year of exhaustive negotiations”, as the public corporation refused to pay £25 million a year for the format.

Channel 4 paid £75m for the show in a three-year deal with Love Productions. But the broadcaster was only able to retain Paul Hollywood as a judge on the baking hit, as Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins subsequently decided not to move with the programme.

Instead, cookery writer and TV presenter Prue Leith, comedian Noel Fielding and QI host Sandi Toksvig will join Hollywood as the new hosts of the show.

The broadcaster kicked off its marketing campaign for the revamped show at the start of the month, with a trailer starring an array of singing ingredients and baked goods.

The Big Family Cooking Showdown debuted on BBC Two on 15 August, hosted and judged by former Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, presenter Zoe Ball, TV cook Rosemary Shrager and chef Giorgio Locatelli.

Despite the BBC moving its slot to prevent a ratings battle, the first episode of Bake Off will still face stiff competition for ratings from ITV, which is broadcasting a documentary about Princess Diana at the same time.

Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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