Belfast Telegraph

TV executives in bidding war to keep Mary Berry at the BBC

Bosses at the BBC and Love Productions are set to engage in a bidding war to retain The Great British Bake Off judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

BBC bosses are battling with the producers of The Great British Bake Off to keep judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood at the Beeb.

The popularity of the TV cooking contest since it debuted on the BBC in 2010 saw executives at Channel 4 poach the show with a stunning $33 million (£25 million) per series offer to Love Productions, the company behind it earlier this week (beg12Sep16).

After the move however its beloved presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedoryc announced they would not be following the show to Channel 4.

Now bosses at Love Productions face a major battle to retain the show's judges, with BBC executives ready to break the bank to retain veteran cookery expert Mary Berry, 83 in particular.

"The BBC see Mary as being their premiere TV chef," a source tells the Daily Mirror newspaper. "She sums up their branding completely - she is quintessentially British, with strong family values and is a talented, homely chef with no gimmicks.

"They are pulling out all the stops to keep her at the channel, and are showering her with offers for different formats. With the Bake Off budget freed up, they have more money to spend on other culinary formats."

Mary will reportedly be offered a range of new shows in a bid to keep her out of Channel 4's clutches, the insider reveals.

"They've told Mary she can have whatever shows she likes - there are offers of Christmas specials and spin off shows about family meals and other feasts on the table," the source divulges.

After losing Mel and Sue as presenters, bosses at Love Productions are also reportedly set to make lucrative offers to Mary and fellow judge Paul Hollywood.

"The top bosses (at Channel 4) are incandescent with rage after Mel and Sue quit," a different insider tells the Mirror. "Even though they weren't contractually obliged to stay with the production, they were assured the show would retain its stars. There is a lot of pressure on Love to convince Paul and Mary to stay, so they are pulling out all the stops too."

Paul has previously hinted he would remain with the show, telling The Sun in April (16), "It's not my call. I work for Love Productions. I work for the Bake Off. I'm just a judge."

However BBC bosses are reportedly confident they can retain the chef, who has also presented motoring programs for the organisation.

If Mary and Paul depart, one of the favourites to be hired as a replacement is Jamie Oliver, who has previously said he'd "love" to take up a judging role on the show.

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