Tuesday, October 6, 2015

BREAKING. Major mess and embarrassment as BBC Worldwide's The Great South African Bake Off fails to start on BBC Lifestyle on DStv as promised.

There's not just egg on the floor but actually on the faces of BBC Worldwide, BBC Worldwide's Africa and South African division led by Joel Churcher, its BBC Lifestyle channel on MultiChoice's DStv, and even sponsors Snowflake and the hilariously out-of-touch Mugg & Bean.

The highly hyped The Great South African Bake Off spectacularly flopped on Tuesday night when the show failed to start as promised on BBC Lifestyle without warning or explanation.

There wasn't immediately any press statement or media release on Tuesday night as to what went wrong and why and what is happening, while shocked viewers stared in amazement when what started on BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174) was instantly a buzzed-about TV flop.

Similar to when flights get cancelled and airlines only give the opaque operational reasons which means nothing to passengers, there's been no explanation for the reason behind the sudden unexplained technical difficulties experienced by BBC Worldwide and BBC Lifestyle which kept The Great South African Bake Off off of DStv.

On Tuesday night viewers did see The Great Bake Off - but not the touted brand-new South African version with presenters Anne Hirch and Donovan Goliath who embarrassingly still did media interviews on Tuesday afternoon telling viewers to tune in on the evening.

On Tuesday night it wasn't one of the 12 South African contestants, but BBC Worldwide, BBC Lifestyle, and the South African version of the Love Productions format that came in with an unexplained "under bake" as the first episode inexplicable failed to materialise.

The Great South African Bake Off is produced by Rapid Blue with Julie Swanston, the vice president of commissioning at BBC Worldwide, as the executive producer.

After the well-liked by strangely cancelled Come Dine With Me South Africa on BBC Entertainment, The Great South African Bake Off is supposed to be BBC Worldwide's big splash for BBC Lifestyle in the local South African TV content arena.

The no-show made BBC Worldwide, the BBC's global commercial division, and BBC Lifestyle as a TV channel look more like the SABC than the high quality pay-TV brand it wants to be.

South African viewers are more accustomed to erratic scheduling problems, episode mess-ups and late minute pre-emptions without explanation from the country's own public broadcaster than the BBC.

Viewers believe the BBC to be better and have an expectation and brand perception that the BBC is better than the SABC. On Tuesday evening however the BBC behaved exactly like the SABC regularly does, something DStv subscribers don't expect from the BBC, and not from pay-TV platforms like DStv.

BBC Worldwide's Africa boss Joel Churcher promised that The Great South Africa Bake Off would be "event television" - only the event didn't happen.

Viewers showed up for the television event they were invited to, but the BBC wasn't there, didn't show up and didn't bother to even leave a note to say why not. That breaks trust in a brand just like it does if a friend were to do that.

On Tuesday evening there was no explanation nor apology on-screen or any scroll on BBC Lifestyle to explain to viewers as to why The Great South Africa Bake Off didn't start, nor any press statement to the media during, or in the hours after the embarrassing failure of the programme to launch on BBC Lifestyle.

Equally if not more embarrassing, was the sponsors and their adverts on DStv and their flopped communication during the 20:00 primetime hour that the episode was supposed to be on.

Snowflake ironically kept running commercials on DStv touting how Snowflake and The Great South African Bake Off is "too fresh to flop" on BBC Lifestyle.

The biggest sponsor disaster on Tuesday night involved with the non-start scandal was however reserved for the disconnected and robo-tweeting Mugg &amp

Mugg & Bean, in a jaw-dropping act of marketing and PR failure, asked viewers on Twitter "afterwards" whether they've enjoyed watching the first episode of The Great South African Bake Off, clearly oblivious to what had happened, exposed for not having even watched the very show it was sponsoring.

It's not clear when BBC Worldwide discovered or realised that it's not going to, or not going to be able to broadcast the first episode of The Great South African Bake Off on Tuesday evening as promised and scheduled on BBC Lifestyle.

It's an even bigger mystery as to why BBC Worldwide didn't communicate properly and tell the media when it found out either beforehand or during the hour when there was perhaps still time to mitigate some of the damage and warn and apologise to viewers.

The damage to viewer sentiment towards the show as well as the impact this is going to have on BBC Lifestyle viewership on DStv is incalculable.

How many viewers tuned in on Tuesday evening expecting to see the start of The Great South African Bake Off and now won't return? How many viewers who would have watched now don't know when to return, or simply won't bother to try again next week if the show perhaps manages to start next week?

There's sponsor damage too. Viewers who saw Snowflake and Mugg & Bean will likely not think of or even be able to remember or recall their marketing message.

Rather anyone who tuned in for The Great South African Bake Off only to not see the show they were promised but a Snowflake "too fresh to flop" or Mugg & Bean commercial during the timeslot will likely have laughed not with, but at, those brands.

Speaking of brands, the half-baked start of the hyped show has definitely dented the image and brands of BBC Worldwide, BBC Lifestyle, Snowflake and Mugg & Bean but it's not just their loss.

DStv will be losing some money over this: DStv Media Sales will likely have to do good fors to the advertisers in make-up commercials who had their adverts shown in an hour which didn't end up containing the actual content they agreed to pay for.

And then there's the viewer - left with TV's version of the proverbial empty tray.

While the embarrassment is the BBC's, the disappointment is that of the viewers - left none the wiser as to what happened and why, wondering if they got the date and time wrong, wondering why their TV channel couldn't be bothered to tell them what's going on, and why they're seeing Mary Berry instead of Anne Hirch on BBC Lifestyle and not what they were promised, and tuned in to see.