03 Nov Netflix’s ‘Great British Baking Show’ has a new winner âÂ…
Not everything Netflix labels âoriginalâ programming is made in-house. This may seem like false advertising, but Netflixâs co-production deals with other studios is a relatively smart compromise. The most obvious of these is âThe Great British Baking Show,â which Netflix airs as an âoriginalâ in this country despite it being co-produced in the United Kingdom by Channel 4. With the season finale arriving Friday, Netflix concludes its latest experiment in how it delivers television to American audiences. Instead of dropping the series binge style, this season has been airing weekly, as God and the queen intended. Such flexibility may seem like a small thing, but itâs also a reminder of the value of week-to-week television.
Instead of dropping the series binge style, this season has been airing weekly, as God and the queen intended.
âThe Great British Bake Offâ (known in this country as âThe Great British Baking Showâ for Pillsbury reasons) was already a well-established, and very popular property when Netflix picked it up in 2018. After an ugly fight between producer Love Productions and the BBC, the show moved to Channel 4. Thatâs when Netflix swooped in, making a deal to own first-run rights outside of the U.K. big enough that it could slap the âNetflix Originalâ sign on it starting with the U.K.âs season eight. (Due to all the shuffling, seasons are labeled differently in the U.S. and the U.K., with American seasons operating on a delay.)
For season 10 (U.S. season seven), instead of releasing all the episodes together at the end of the competition, Netflix decided to follow a once-a-week release schedule in tandem with Channel 4. There was still a slight delay â Channel 4 aired the episodes Tuesday evenings and Netflix released them Friday mornings â but for fans of the show who were used to waiting, this new 55-hour pause felt practically instantaneous. The bigger and far more positive change, however, was that fans who had been forced to convert to the binge model following “GBBO’s” move to Netflix were now able to experience the series weekly again, just like their U.K. counterparts.
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This sort of schedule isnât new to Netflix. It actually does this overseas with a lot of âNetflix Originalâ American series, like âRiverdale.â But the change nevertheless caused a minor uproar. Headlines declaring Netflix was abandoning binging were published, followed by more headlines telling everyone to calm down; Netflix was doing no such thing.
These overreactions were indicative of something, though. Netflixâs choice to go weekly felt like a sea change, especially when its competition are loudly eschewing the binge model. Was Netflix silently admitting that some shows simply work better when thereâs a wait between episodes?
It also felt like a big deal because by bowing to the weekly format, Netflix was acknowledging that âThe Great British Baking Showâsâ popularity isnât just about watching people bake. Like any reality competition, itâs about getting to know the contestants and arguing over the judges’ decisions.
It also felt like a big deal because by bowing to the weekly format, Netflix was acknowledging that âThe Great British Baking Showâsâ popularity isnât just about watching people bake.
Such discussions require time. As a result, contestants who last more than a couple of weeks on âThe Great British Baking Showâ gain celebrity status in the U.K. Season six winner Nadiya not only parlayed this fame into baking the queenâs birthday cake but also founded her own franchise of shows and cookery books. Both season five and season seven winners Nancy Birtwhistle and Candice Brown are household names. But they arguably became celebrities by turning up on peopleâs televisions week after week. That simply doesnât work with binging.
Netflixâs entire binging model was based on an attempt to âdisruptâ a facet of life people took for granted. In this case, Netflix was attempting to disrupt the TV schedule, freeing viewers from the tyranny of âappointment television.â But it turns out that humans actually crave shared experiences. âThe Great British Baking Showâ isnât about watching people kneel in front of ovens while their breads rise (or donât). Itâs about an event.
Itâs about spending the weekend arguing if the technical challenges are going too far. Itâs about debating if demanding pie dough be made structural, and then complaining when itâs dry is fair. (Itâs not, by the way.) And itâs about texting, Facebooking, tweeting and arguing with your IRL friends about whether David Athertonâs win was justified. (Considering Atherton probably should have gone home during Patisserie Week in the semifinal over Rosie, his underdog win did come with some strings. And watching season front-runner Steph crumble was brutal.)
Moreover, certain kinds of TV shows are more dependent than others on that shared experience model. Critics of âGame of Thronesâ love to point out âThe Big Bang Theoryâ has more viewers, but (almost) no one ever tweeted or wrote about it. Thatâs because âGame of Thronesâ was an event everyone watched together â to the point that HBO aired it simultaneously around the world. âThe Big Bang Theory,â on the other hand, is far more suited to the binge model, where one leaves it on in the background all day as comfort noise.
Reality TV especially depends on fan connection. Check Twitter during broadcasts of âThe Bachelorâ and âThe Bacheloretteâ and youâll see a burst of viewer action tied together via hashtags. Netflix has its share of popular reality style series, like âNailed It!â but when was the last time any of those contestants, or even the challenges, were memorable? For comparison, just ask any âGreat British Baking Showâ fan about the âbingateâ scandal during the Baked Alaska showstopper challenge.
The choice to air âThe Great British Baking Showâ weekly suggests Netflix is seeing the limits of its once disruptive ways. Itâs doubtful the service will give up its binge model anytime soon â itâs the staple that defines them. But recognizing not every show can work that way is a good sign for the ones that would do better stretched out over time. âThe Great British Baking Show,â meanwhile, can finish off its first decade knowing both U.K. and U.S. fans will be back to argue about which bake was better all over again for 10 weeks next fall.