Channel 4 has signed up its first sponsors for its own version of the Great British Bake Off after confirming that baking brands Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Dr Oetker will jointly back the full first season to the tune of £4m.
The deal, which includes the Christmas specials and An Extra Slice spin-off, marks the first fruits of a major push by the station to lure in commercial partners for what has become the most successful format on British TV, with 14 million people tuning in to watch the denouement of the last season on the BBC.
Channel 4 wrested control of the format from the BBC last year after offering Love Productions £75m to pick up the rights, in the expectation that it could earn as much as £20m per year from the trophy asset. An advertising downturn has forced it to reign in these ambitions somewhat however, having initially hoped to gain as much as £8m from a single sponsor for the first two seasons.
Instead the network is being asked to first prove itself by continuing to rake in big audiences, despite the loss of show stalwarts Mel and Sue and Mary Berry, who have been replaced by Sandi Toksvig, Prue Leith and Noel Fielding.
Explaining the decision to split sponsorship between two brands Jonathan Lewis, Channel 4’s head of digital and partnership innovation, said: “With big-ticket, highly demanded shows, it makes sense to look at dual sponsorship strategies. From a viewer perspective, it is a natural fit and from a TV perspective, it’s great to encourage brands like Dr Oetker and Lyle’s golden syrup, which haven’t been sponsoring shows or running ads for some time, to bring them back to TV.”
Lewis is confident that the broadcaster will recoup its investment, citing a "step change in sales" over the past week, which has seen advertising slots retailing for as much as £200k per 30 seconds, sell out for the first episode.
ITV struck a £10m sponsorship deal with Just Eat for the X Factor and a £6m deal with AO.com to sponsor Britain’s Got Talent at the beginning of the year, prior to the present downturn.