Great British Bake Off versus Top Gear – The impact of change on well-loved TV

January 01, 1970 by Leela Bozonelis

A tale of two well-loved TV shows

March 2015.  Jeremy Clarkson allegedly assaults a BBC Top Gear producer after a day's filming in Yorkshire.  This sets off a chain of events that led to the demise of the most popular factual programme on the BBC.

November will see the launch of Amazon's The Grand Tour, a Top Gear reboot featuring the presenters that left the BBC.  The opening scene of the opening episode is alleged to have cost more than $3 million. It is safe to assume punching a producer has not made Clarkson poorer.

Bake off too hot for BBC?

Fast forward to September 2016.  Love Productions, the company that makes Great British Bake Off (GBBO), announces that the much loved baking competition will be leaving the BBC for Channel 4 from 2017.

The GBBO scandal did not involve violence (it is hard to imagine Mary Berry being involved in a Clarkson–like fracas) but the shock was bigger than even the Top Gear incident. Within days presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc had announced they would not follow the programme to Channel 4.  Judge Mary Berry did the same, leaving the remaining 'star' of the show, Paul Hollywood, to wonder whether to follow his colleagues or the bank notes.

Presenters or channels – which matters most?

LexisNexis has been analysing an overview of brand insight and sentiment for both Top Gear and GBBO following two seismic moments in recent TV history.  The results show a real difference in public attitudes between the two shows.

In the aftermath of the Top Gear scandal, the BBC was mentioned more than 1000 times in articles, with Amazon being referenced more than 600 times.

This is in stark contrast to GBBO.  After bake-gate, the BBC was referenced in articles more than 2000 times, with Channel 4 clocking up only half as many references.  The media and public sentiment focussed on the BBC losing GBBO, rather than Channel 4 gaining the programme.

A search of articles containing Top Gear or GBBO sees Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood ahead of any other presenters with more than 1,500 references each.  This number outperforms the trio of Top Gear presenters combined.  Add in Mel and Sue and some 5,000 articles referenced the four stars of GBBO.

For GBBO's audience Mary Berry was the star of the show – by far the most referenced presenter. The programme could probably survive life without Mel and Sue but it is doubtful it will make it without the baking octogenarian.  The other critical element was the channel.  People felt GBBO should be on the BBC.  They saw it as a BBC programme.  Love Productions may have done a more lucrative deal in the short term, but have they limited the lifespan of GBBO by moving it from the BBC?  Can they have their cake and eat it?

Contrast this with Top Gear.  The new BBC version has been a failure.  The jury will be out on the Amazon series until it is aired in November, but loyalty seems to reside with the presenters not the channel.

How TV production companies can mitigate risk

TV production companies may create one outstanding brand every couple of decades. Nurturing it is about more than short term gain.  Insight into what the media and social media is saying can help drive a better understanding of what audiences find important.  And this can help sustain a TV brand through times of change.

Analytics powered by LexisNexis Newsdesk®

The analytics and media insights references in this blog are powered by LexisNexis Newsdesk®, looking at traditional and online media coverage over the last 100 days. Data correct at time of publication. To find out how your TV production company can benefit from powerful media insights visit our Media Production Suite.

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