Channel 4’s outgoing chief creative officer Jay Hunt today said she would be “delighted” if the new Great British Bake Off series exceeds 3 million viewers – despite it bowing out with a peak of 14.8 million on the BBC.

But despite the eye-watering outlay, Channel 4’s ratings expectations are considerably more modest than the 14 million viewers who made it the most popular programme in the UK when it was broadcast by BBC 1.

“We’ve been very clear: this show is break even for Channel 4 at around 3 million, so anything north of that would be fantastic.”

Lord Grade, the former Channel 4 chief executive, last month criticised the broadcaster for the £25m-a-year deal, saying it undermined the station’s supposed creative principles.

“Where was the check and balance to stop them doing that?”

Responding to the criticism, Hunt said big ticket formats like Bake Off – with its lucrative advertising and product placement appeal – give Channel 4 the ability to fulfil its public service remit by bringing in the revenue for more challenging commissions.

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