BBC Baking Competition Ends Season 5 With Its Highest Ratings Ever

'The Great British Bake Off' averaged 12.3 million viewers, one of the biggest TV audiences of the year in Britain

BBC baking competition The Great British Bake Off drew its highest-ever ratings with the Wednesday evening finale of its fifth season.

The U.K. public broadcaster reached an average of 12.3 million viewers with the final episode of the season on flagship network BBC One and a peak audience of 13.3 million, compared with 8.4 million (and a peak audience of 9.1 million) for the final episode last year on BBC Two.

Ratings advisory firm Attentional said the ratings, including a 51 percent share of U.K. TV viewing at the peak, gave the show "one of the biggest TV audiences of the year" in Britain. The only programs that have drawn bigger U.K. TV audiences this year are a few games during the soccer World Cup.

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The move to the main network this season proved a success. Bake Off had already kicked off the season with its biggest season premiere audience ever.

When the BBC announced last year that the fifth season would move to BBC One, industry observers took note, and many were curious if the show would continue to draw a crowd or lose some momentum.

Last week, the semifinal drew 8.8 million average viewers and a peak audience of 9.7 million, the show's biggest peak audience ever at the time.

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“We are extremely proud of this year’s remarkable success in The Great British Bake Off’s first season on BBC One," Richard McKerrow, creative director, Love Productions told The Hollywood Reporter. "Its current stellar ratings haven’t happened suddenly; instead it’s grown slowly and steadily over five years." He argued that the show's "essential generosity and good-heartedness"  makes it "exceptional amongst competitive formats on television, and probably for that reason most of all the nation has fallen in love with the show.”

The show has been credited with reviving interest in baking across the U.K.

In the U.S., a CBS version in 2013, The American Baking Competition, was short-lived amid weak ratings. It was hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. But the format has continued to sell to other territories. A recent deal with Acunmedya in Turkey brought the total number of international sales of Bake Off to 15.

Twitter: @georgszalai