IT is beginning to look as though Channel Four’s television kidnap of BBC One’s greatest ratings topper is more of a half-baked take-off than a Great British Bake Off!
With Britain’s favourite fairy cake-maker, Mary Berry, putting loyalty to the Beeb before the chance of a bigger pile of dough down the road, the scooped-up soufflé is looking decidedly flat.
Mary’s loyalty to her half-century relationship with the BBC is not the only ingredient missing from the new-look GBBO – the non-defection of Bake Off’s two comic confections, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, leaves C4’s big bucks buy-up looking less like a TV cookery coup and more like they’ve paid a rumoured £75million for an almost-empty tent!
The show’s creators, Love Productions, tripled their fee in pricing the BBC out of a mouth-watering market by selling future series of the runaway ratings to C4. But the saucy move has turned sour.
So how DID such a mega deal fall flat?
JON ROSEMAN, now soaking up the retirement sunshine and writing novels from his home in Italy, was one of London’s biggest and best music and media agents – he looked after Nick Ferrari and me when we were a radio presenting duo – is best placed to explain. . .
“As an ex agent, now deceased, I have a comment or two: the secret to buying something, ANYthing, is to KNOW what you’re buying.
“So Channel 4 bought a format, AND said format didn’t include the people who made the format successful. Stupid? Almost certainly.
“There is no Laurel and Hardy without Hardy. There is no Morecambe and Wise without Morecambe. There is no Two Ronnies without a Ronnie.
“Did no one have the forethought to predict the furore which would explode in this deal, thus tainting the entire future of the series? Channel 4 executives were blinded by the potential coup, no doubt thinking ‘up yours BBC’.
“It doesn’t take too much imagination to see their mouths dribbling in anticipation, their frenzied faces smeared with the foam of potential victory (doomed to be probably Pyrrhic, at best) when Love Productions came a-calling.
“As an agent I would never enter into a deal for a client from a successful series without knowing who was coming along for the ride. I would want to take the temperature before advising my client to act unilaterally.
Paul Hollywood is being vilified because his advisors where blinded by the cash. Now he is likely, though not certainly, to be presenting a show which is probably doomed, enveloped with the stamp of a greedy man who destroyed a wonderful institution.
“How many of his products will fly off the shelf now seems questionable. He has hurt profoundly those people who have made him a star and almost certainly hurt his potential long-term income. A million today is not as good as several million tomorrow!
“There is an important lesson every agent must learn: no one is indispensable. NO ONE. But an entire team? The risks were too great.
“When I negotiated the great Roger Cook’s ITV series I was well aware that without Roger there could be no Cook Report. Did that mean I could ask for an indecent amount of cash? Of course not.
“Everything has a value and a good agent needs to know that value. One bad call could mean that either a client loses the deal or the agent loses his client.”
The whole precarious business of poaching already established shows from a TV rival is fraught with pitfalls. It depends on the reaction of you, the viewer.
The proof will be, as they say, in the pudding. . .