Viewers prefer The Great British Bake Off since it moved to Channel 4, the chief executive of the broadcaster has said.
David Abraham told the digital, culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday that Channel 4’s acquisition of Bake Off had been a success: “Audience feedback and reaction in the media is that many people prefer the show in its new guise than the version on the BBC,” he said.
“That is obviously subjective, but I think it has been a successful transfer.”
Conservative MP Rebecca Pow argued that the new additions to the line-up alongside original judge Paul Hollywood – Prue Leith, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding – were “all old-hat presenters seen everywhere else”.
“What’s fresh about it apart from the ingredients?” she asked.
Abraham rejected this criticism, saying: “It is a much-loved show, but like all shows needs to be kept fresh. We haven’t meddled with the format but there has been some imagination applied to the casting.”
When challenged that Bake Off’s viewing figures have dropped sharply since the last series on BBC1 – in which the final attracted an overnight audience of 14 million viewers – Abraham said Channel 4’s version has beaten ratings for previous series and is the broadcaster’s biggest hit since Big Brother had its peak. The show’s most recent episode commanded 6.26m overnight viewers.
Abraham, who is standing down at the end of the week after seven years as chief executive, also defended the broadcaster’s £75m purchase of Bake Off, saying that Love Productions (the company that make the show) had wanted to move channels and that it “was not a snatch from the BBC”.
The chief executive also responded to the backlash against this week’s controversial documentary My Week as a Muslim which was criticised for featuring a white woman in “brownface”. He said: “I thought personally it was a thoughtful programme, a responsible programme, all the participants entered into the process voluntarily. Clearly you can’t enter into a project like this and negotiate with multiple parties.”
The final of The Great British Bake Off is on Tuesday 31st October at 8pm on Channel 4.