Friday, 4 February 2011

MasterChef Maketh Money

(...or 'The BBC are Clever')

Illustration Copyright Matt Ecclestone 2011

I was in WHSmith the other day, and was idly browsing through the recipe books when my eye was drawn to the faces of none other than Greg Wallace and John Torode. They were adorning the cover of a book boldly titled, in a fluorescent orange reminiscent of a Dyno-Rod van, 'MasterChef at Home'.

Funny, I thought, it can hardly be a year since they brought out The MasterChef Cookbook – a collation of recipes from various winners and finalists of previous series'. What could this be about? I picked it up and discovered that its contents covered recipes from the 2010 MasterChef series, including the spin-offs Celebrity MasterChef and MasterChef: The Professionals. It also contained a fantastic, hugely amusing portrait of John and Greg absolutely covered in cake and cream. Ten out of ten to the photographer for that one.

But, more importantly, what this led me to presumptuously conclude, was that they will be making a new book for every year of MasterChef. It was then that it struck me: the BBC are actually quite clever. Why? Because every year they will produce another book, and more importantly every year it will sell. I know, because I don't like splashing money on books (at least I would like to think I don't) and yet I am tempted to buy this one.

So yes, they can produce a salable book every year. This in itself isn't exactly genius, but there is more. As you may know, MasterChef is a competition, and therefore every year someone inevitably will win. As the viewers watch the progress of the finalists and the eventual winner, they slowly become more 'attached' (for want of a better word) to these contestants, especially in the latter stages where they demonstrate true grit, skill and determination in the face of the toughest culinary challenges one could possibly imagine.

The eventual winner is always an immensely skilled chef (as are the other two finalists) and emerges victorious as a hero, receiving an almost instant status promotion from 'home cook' and 'amateur' to 'celebrity chef'.

Food Fight: Things get messy when John and Gregg disagree. (Image from the Daily Mail.)

To put things in perspective, should the 'celebrity' part sound a trifle extreme, Alex Rushmer, a finalist of the 2010 series, wrote on his blog after the final had been aired: 'By Thursday morning my inbox was registering almost 700 unread emails that had come in since Wednesday’s final episode. Amongst them were job offers, inquiries from agents and, most lovely of all, messages from people I have never met.' Dhruv Baker, the winner of the same series, gained an extra 1,500 followers on Twitter in the day following the finals, which were watched by 6.6 million people in the UK.

So what the BBC are doing, in essence, is producing a celebrity chef every year. That person will then go on to do interviews in their magazines (GoodFood and Olive), and most likely will continue to contribute recipes for future issues, which may well serve to sell extra copies to fans of the programme. But not only that, this Master Chef will then go on to appear at the BBC organised events, such as the Summer Good Food Show and MasterChef live, selling more tickets for the BBC. Perhaps the winner will even go on to publish a recipe book, which can then be published by the Beeb's own publishing house. If they go as far as creating their own TV series, this will no doubt be snapped up by the same broadcasting company. The list goes on.

So what I mean when I say that the BBC are clever and that MasterChef maketh money, is that in producing a new celebrity chef each year, the BBC are securing a nice wedge of revenue for themselves, whislt entertaining and inspiring the British public in the process. Now that is what I call smart.

Dhruv Baker: 2010 MasterChef Champion. It may have 'changed his loiife' but it also gives the BBC some extra dough. It's all good for the economy I guess!

The new series of MasterChef starts this February, coming to all good TV's and iPlayer's near you.

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