Nearly half of the UK viewing audience pulled up a chair to the Season 6 debut of BBC One’s smash hit cooking competition The Great British Bake Off last night. The premiere numbers are the best in the series’ history, averaging 9.3M. That was good for a 43 share in the 8-9PM slot with a peak audience of 10M, according to the BBC. Last year, the launch episode for Season 5 drew 7.2M viewers.
The show continues to be a phenomenon for the BBC — which moved it from BBC Two to BBC One in 2014. It’s also a powerhouse in some 200 countries abroad via the original version and local formats. The U.S., however, is a slightly different case. A Stateside spin on the format, The American Baking Competition, only lasted one season on CBS, failing to tempt the taste buds of U.S. viewers in 2013.
In the wake of that, the original British version took its time crossing the pond with PBS first airing Season 5, as The Great British Baking Show, earlier this year to an average of about 2.5M, per The Washington Post. Further seasons are also headed to PBS.
By the looks of it, the kind-hearted cooking series is now poised to become even bigger in Britain. The finale last year scored the 2nd biggest overnight rating of 2014 with 12.29M viewers — more than watched the World Cup finale. And, it consistently played larger in the overnights than dramas like Doctor Who and Downton Abbey last fall. Reviews for last night’s season opener were roundly positive and Twitter action was reliably hearty, especially given the trademark innuendos that peppered the episode.
Made by the Sky-owned Love Productions, it initially debuted in 2010 with just 2M viewers. Cookbook author Mary Berry and baker Paul Hollywood are the well-liked judges who start with 12 amateur bakers all vying for the engraved cake plate prize. BBC commissioning editor, Clare Paterson, recently told The Guardian that it’s been successful because “It’s something viewers can sit down and watch with coffee and buns and laugh at the puns. It’s just incredibly lovable. There’s something about it that makes people feel good. The contestants bring the brilliant, small level of drama. And it’s reliably the same. It’s just nice.”
Here’s a Season 6 trailer: