We are mere hours away from The Great British Baking Show’s season premiere. (Read up on last season’s gentle drama here!) But if you’re reading this exciting news in Britain, you’re undoubtedly confused by the first sentence in this article. For one thing, I’ve gone and cocked up the name of the whole bloody show—it’s The Great British Bake-Off, innit? And second, I’m a tad late with this “breaking news,” cos the first episode was on the telly Tuesday night.
As a professional GBBS recapper (one who loves her job, by the way), these are the inconsistencies I end up explaining to both Brits and Americans every year, and so before I kick off another season of writing recaps and screaming at my TV, I figured I’d get ahead of them so we can all transition into the tent without confusion.
The reason I recap GBBS every Friday (for Great British Baking Show), not GBBO (for Great British Bake-Off), is because of trademark law. In America, the Pillsbury brand has owned the rights to the term “bake-off” for decades, as it pertains to any sort of cooking competition.
In 1949, the company hosted its first Pillsbury Bake-Off competition in New York City, broadcast on CBS, to celebrate its 80th anniversary. The winner was awarded a $25,000 prize, roughly the equivalent of $285,000 today.
Seventy-two years later, the Pillsbury Bake-Off remains the most famous non-British baking competition in America, with a grand prize of $50,000 and a kitchen makeover. In comparison, winners of the Great British Baking Show get flowers and a cake stand, while Paul Hollywood gets £400,000.
All that is to say, Pillsbury will not have its good name sullied by the horrors of British reality programming. So, in the United States, The Great British Bake-Off is distributed under the slightly clunkier name The Great British Baking Show.
As for the release date discrepancy: when The Great British Bake-Off moved from the BBC to Channel 4, The Great British Baking Show also moved from public to private television, leaving nonprofit PBS and jumping to very-much-for-profit Netflix. And, as per the international licensing agreement between the two nations’ media powerhouses, Channel 4 debuts new episodes on Tuesday in the UK and has exclusive rights to them for the next two days after that.
Each Friday, the Great British Baking Show episodes are added to Netflix to be enjoyed/harshly criticized by American audiences. And this year’s contestants are sure to give us all plenty to discuss all weekend long.