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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

Channel 4 kicks off Great British Bake Off sponsorship battle, as reports circle that bids could hit £8m

Paul Hollwood has inked a deal with Channel 4, while Mary Berry will remain at the BBC

Advertisers looking to dine out on the popularity of The Great British Bake Off may have to stump up as much as £8m for a sponsorship deal with Channel 4, according to a report in the Guardian.

The paper claims that the broadcaster is looking to recoup the expense of the reported £75m it paid the BBC for the rights to the show, which won't move to Channel 4 until 2018 due to a contractual issue between its maker Love Productions and the BBC.

Channel 4 is not believed to have officially gone to the market to offer headline sponsorship. However, citing a senior executive at a top UK media agency as a source, the Guardian has said that a bidding war over the series has the potential to leapfrog the some £10m a year TalkTalk stumps up to sponsor The X Factor.

"We have a number of clients hugely interested in Bake Off and I can see there being a bun fight for the prime sponsorship," the source is reported to have said, adding: "It could go for as much as, or more than, X Factor, because there is a much wider, and obvious, range of potential big sponsors for a cooking show than for a general entertainment show."

Love Productions' sale to Channel 4 caused a stir in September after longtime judge Mary Berry announced she wouldn't be following the Bake Off to the network, instead choosing to remain at the BBC. Meanwhile, co-judge Paul Hollywood signed a three-series deal with the broadcaster. Hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins also refused to ink a contract with Channel 4, leading some fans and TV executives to point out that all the network has effectively gained in the multimillion pound deal is the Bake Off tent, and Hollywood.

Channel 4's Bake Off deal includes up to 40 hours of shows a year, including celebrity specials and the potential for spin-offs.

A deal of £8m or more would make Bake Off Channel 4's most lucrative brand – at its peak in 2015 the show's final attracted a record audience of 13 million viewers, but some have speculated that Channel 4 will see this number decline when the show moves. Media sources have told the Guardian that the broadcaster is likely to hit four or five million views per-episode.

One senior media industry executive said that Channel 4 could trade on the "halo effect," Bake Off could create on the rest of the schedule to generate more ad revenue. "Obviously the key variable is the audience. Losing all presenters bar Paul Hollywood is a blow. If viewing drops too far then it begins to look a much less attractive deal," they finished.

The BBC is set to hold an inquiry into how it lost the show.

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