BBC's 'Great British Bake Off' Hits Its Highest Season Launch Ratings Ever

The baking competition has moved from BBC Two to the U.K. public broadcaster's flagship network, BBC One.

BBC baking competition The Great British Bake Off drew strong ratings with its season-five debut Wednesday night after being moved from BBC Two to flagship network BBC One.

The first episode of the new season drew an average audience of 7.18 million and audience share of 34.6 percent. That made it the day's most-watched show in Britain. Its audience peaked at 7.9 million.

The show's season-four debut had drawn 5.60 million average viewers, up from 3.46 million for the third season launch, 2.79 million for the second season and 2.03 million for the first season in 2010.

The season-four finale had set an audience record for the show and BBC Two, which was also higher than Wednesday night's audience.

The last season finale drew an average of 8.4 million, giving BBC Two its biggest ratings at least since the launch of the current measurement system and beating a previous record held by Top Gear. The peak audience came in at 9.1 million, or a share of 34.1 percent. 

The ratings juggernaut has transferred to BBC One, Britain's most-watched TV channel, for its fifth season. The U.K. public broadcaster's move drew much industry attention.

The show features amateur bakers whose work is judged by experts. It has been credited with boosting interest in baking across the U.K.

Over its four seasons, the show has grown in the ratings.

U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, recently acquired a 70 percent stake in Love Productions, the show's producer, as part of its "strategy to grow a broad, international content business spanning broadcasting, production and distribution."‎ Financial details weren't disclosed.

The deal is a major BSkyB investment in the U.K. independent TV sector. The firm's distribution arm, Sky Vision, which it has been beefing up, will distribute Love's new shows and formats.

Beyond Bake Off, the firm has also produced such shows as ‎The Great British Sewing Bee for BBC Two, social issues documentary series Benefits Street for Channel 4 and the network's docuseries about people with terminal illnesses, My Last Summer.

Twitter: @georgzalai