Monday, April 13, 2015

INTERVIEW. BBC Worldwide's TV executive Kully Kaur Bains (who's not a baker) opens the oven on The Great South African Bake Off.

With The Great South African Bake Off coming to BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174) with South African bakers who can enter now to be in this local version of the popular reality show, I spoke to Kully Kaur Bains, the head of programming for Africa at BBC Worldwide in London to find out more about the show.

Why specifically The Great South African Bake Off as BBC Worldwide's second local programming commission for South Africa and Africa?
Kully Kaur Bains: The Bake Off format has been hugely successful not only in the United Kingdom but internationally. It's in its 5th series now and started its life on BBC Two in the UK, and very quickly captured the imagination of the UK population across the spectrum of audiences.
Quickly it migrated to BBC One to a primetime slot where the last series has done phenomenally well.
Internationally this format has been made in 18 different countries worldwide and it was time to bring it to South Africa where we have a local cushioning strategy on the BBC channels.

The first local series that BBC Worldwide commission for South Africa was shown on BBC Entertainment (DStv 120), and now The Great South African Bake Off will be on BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174). 
So I was wondering did the BBC set out to look for a show specifically for BBC Lifestyle, or did you choose a show first and then once you decided it's The Great South African Bake Off that it will be going to BBC Lifestyle?
Kully Kaur Bains: It was always something we wanted to do for the lifestyle channel. In the past we've shared some brands across the two channels but we wanted to do something that was specifically for our lifstyle audience.
The Bake Off has done phenomenally well in South Africa, the last series has doubled its share, so it made sense to have the show exclusively for BBC Lifestyle in South Africa, so the decision was always Lifestyle.

And then I'm wondering how severely will South African bakers be tested?
Kully Kaur Bains: Oh, they will be put through their paces! We're not going to be lenient on people, we're trying to keep it as close to the UK format as possible, with some tweaks for the South African audience. So they will be put through their paces. That shouldn't put anyone off from entering because South Africa has fantastic bakers and great talent.

Then the presenter or the presenters, and the judges - any word on who they will be? Can you say whether it would be South Africans, or maybe a Mary Berry?
Kully Kaur Bains: We're currently looking at a number of exciting options. What I want to try and do is to have one South African judge and one UK judge.
Then once we've decided who the judges are we'll have a look at the presenters because obviously the dynamic will need to work with the threesome. But yes, certainly there will be a South African judge.
We've seen a couple of showreels but it is too early to announce yet.

The production company is Rapid Blue of course which did the very popular and critically praised Come Dine with Me South Africa. Why did BBC Worldwide choose that production company again?
Kully Kaur Bains: We loved working with them and have a very good relationship with them. They dine three series of Come Dine with Me South Africa. It was just a natural fit. They know us, we have a very good synergy with them in terms of our working relationship, so it was just a natural choice.

What type of contestants and bakers are The Great South African Bake Off looking for?
Kully Kaur Bains: Well obviously they need to bake! Ha ha. They need to be over 18 to apply, and they need to have a passion and creativity when it comes to baking styles; they need to have a bit of technical knowledge.
But you know, there are some great baking talents in South Africa. One of the reasons we confirmed this show is that every time I came to the market people were asking why don't you do this, why don't you do The Bake Off in South Africa?
It's going to be exactly like the UK, amateur bakers who've got enthusiasm and creativity - that's what we're looking for.

Over the past few years we've seen this explosion in reality competition television firstly, and then also in the genre of culinary arts - anything from Hell's Kitchen to MasterChef and things like that. What do you think sets a show like The Great Bake Off apart from all of the other ones?
Kully Kaur Bains: To be honest with you, I'm not a baker, but I've watched this show since the first series to the current series. It's full of drama, it's full of emotion. It's reality at its best. It's full of humour.
It's a highly competitive show with lots of personality and personalities and baking is what people are passionate about. People get crazy if their souffl├ęs don't rise!
And it's a very personal thing I think. That's one of the reasons why it is so successful - it captures the imagination of the audience.
And it's not a show that's targeted at a particularly older audience, or a male audience,or a female audience.
Bake Off transcends demographics and I think that's key to its success - and everybody loves a cake, whether they like to bake it or eat it, it's something that in people's psyche wherever you go.