Viacom’s Channel 5 Raids BBC Again For The Hairy Bikers, As It Retreats From Entertainment

By Jake Kanter, Peter White

Hairy Bikers
Hairy Bikers: Route 66 BBC/Twofour

EXCLUSIVE: Viacom’s Channel 5 has raided the BBC again for on-screen talent — this time poaching the cooking duo known as the Hairy Bikers for a chocolate-making competition in partnership with Nestlé.

Deadline can reveal that David Myers and Simon King will make their first major non-BBC show for Channel 5, in a format that has been created by ITV Studios-owned production company Twofour.

Titled The Hairy Bikers Chocolate Challenge, the duo will preside over a group of chocolate enthusiasts competing to create and name their very own brand of confectionery at Nestlé factories in Yorkshire. The victor will get to put their twist on one of the world’s best-selling chocolate bars, which will then be sold across the UK.

Myers and King will be joined by Ruth Hinks, the UK World Chocolate Master, who will watch on as the contestants agonize over their creations. The Hairy Bikers have always worked with different production companies and their most recent project, BBC Two’s Hairy Bikers: Route 66, was made by Twofour.

The Hairy Bikers Chocolate Challenge is executive produced by Melanie Leach and Andrew MacKenzie, who left Twofour last month to set up South Shore. Melanie Darlaston is the executive producer for Motion Content Group, while Tara Jang is the series producer. It was commissioned by Channel 5’s factual commissioner Guy Davies.

The Hairy Bikers are the latest presenters to be lured over by Channel 5’s director of programs, Ben Frow. The Viacom executive has signed up the likes of MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace, wildlife presenter Chris Packham and train enthusiast Michael Portillo for Channel 5 shows — all of whom are traditionally associated with the BBC.

Frow proudly showcased some of these signings at a lavish upfronts event in London on Tuesday, with the likes of Wallace and Packham in attendance. Frow discussed upping the ambition at Channel 5, and boasted about changing perceptions of the brand, taking it upmarket, and giving the competition a “regular kick” when it comes to ratings.

Channel 5’s entertainment retreat

But the capture of BBC stars for factual and factual entertainment formats marks another trend at Channel 5: It’s retreat from traditional entertainment. At the London event, Frow announced a raft of new commissions and looked ahead to 2020 with a glossy showreel of new shows. But entertainment was conspicuous by its absence.

In fact, Frow’s only mention of entertainment was to trumpet how Channel 5 has moved on from Big Brother, the behemoth that has dominated its schedule since the broadcaster first signed a deal for the Endemol Shine Group show in 2011.

Frow told Deadline that entertainment was not a priority for the broadcaster following the cancellation of the reality series. He admitted to burning off the latest version of The Bachelor, starring former Extra host Mark Wright, in a late slot earlier this year, and that he was not currently searching for big-ticket entertainment shows.

Another series of Blind Date has been filmed for next year, but there are no current plans to commission further episodes of the dating show, which is made by So Television, Olga TV and Sony’s Stellify Media. Host Paul O’Grady has also talked about his reluctance to carry on with the show. It’s a similar situation with Gino’s Win Your Wish List, also made by Stellify, which will be back next year, but there is uncertainty beyond that.

On stage, Frow added: “Part of our mission has been about who were we going to be in a world without Big Brother. We had to get to a place where we could say, ‘No, we won’t pay the money. No, we are strong enough, we are robust enough to get by without that juggernaut in the schedule. A juggernaut that took up over 200 hours of programming and 17 weeks in the primetime schedule a year.”

This article was printed from