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The season 11 debut of The Great British Bake Off hit an overnight audience 7.9m, the highest it has ever achieved on Channel 4.

The production‘s been harder than ever with the lockdown adding extra logistical and development loops to jump through. Meanwhile, Channel 4 needs the show to hit harder than ever after a tough few months. 

The Drum looks at what its record means. 

The numbers

  • On Tuesday 22 September, GBBO attracted an average audience of 6.9 million viewers and a 32.0% share of audience.

  • It peaked at 7.9m, marking the show’s biggest ever overnight launch audience to date on Channel 4.

  • Channel 4 said the debut is its biggest this year, and its highest rating broadcast since the series nine final of GBBO in 2018 (7.5m / 35.2%).

  • On the BBC in 2016, it hit a peak of 16 million people. The jump to commercial TV halved that audience. 

  • The show pulled the highest share of 16-34 year old viewers in its time slot (56%). It was the “biggest programme on TV this year among 16-34 year olds” – excluding addresses from the prime minister and The Queen.

  • Ian Katz, director of programmes at Channel 4 said it was “one of our top priorities to get Bake Off on air this year“. For him it is about bringing cheer after “all the grimness and hardship of the last few months. In the Bake Off tent, the worst thing that can happen is a pineapple upside down cake ending up on the floor.“

Behind the numbers

  • Early in lockdown, TV figures were at decade-high levels. Prices were at historic lows. With lockdowns easing and other activities now competing for attention, figures are returning to pre-Covid levels. In the UK, a tightening of lockdown rules could again spike viewership.

  • New sponsor Aldi will be enthused by these viewing figures, and the subsequent catch-up bump. In taking the top spot over from Amazon, it’ll look to be the destination of cake ingredients through the winter.

  • With ad income severely distressed these last few months, Channel 4 will need its top shows to outperform previous years. Especially with delays in the pipeline due to the lockdown.

  • Channel 4 snapped up the rights to from BBC in 2017 at a huge price but baited by the allure of attaching brands to the hot property. There will be spin-off shows too; Bake Off: An Extra Slice presented by Jo Brand with Tom Allen; and the festive specials and Junior Bake Off hosted by Harry Hill, with judges Rav Gill and Liam Charles. These will afford extra reach and broaden the appeal of the main show.

  • Comedian Matt Lucas joins the cast to offer a fresh perspective on the format.  

  • In the US, Netflix carries the rights to the show and is broadcasting on a weekly basis. The performance internationally will be vital too.