Here’s Why “The Great British Bake Off” Has a Different Name in the United States

updated Aug 8, 2019
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Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

For fans who found ways to sneakily watch The Great British Bake Off well before PBS and then Netflix imported the beloved show from Britain to the U.S., the show’s name change as it crossed the Atlantic felt weird: why would the show make such a small, unimportant change? The Great British Bake Off enjoyed fame on both sides of the pond, so it would seem like a poor choice to change the name. And yet, PBS made the decision to do so — and the reason why is even more simple than you might imagine. There’s no great debate on what feeds American audiences, or how they perceive the show, it’s just that in America the words “Bake Off” were already taken.

Since 1949, The Pillsbury Company has gathered the best recipes from around the country using their products and given a large cash prize to the best among them. Though it was originally called the “Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest,” that eventually morphed into the Pillsbury Bake Off, and the name “Bake Off” is a registered trademark of the company. Pillsbury, it seems, was not open to allowing the show to use that name in the U.S. and therefore PBS had to go in search of a new name for it.

When the name change first happened, PBS’s public editor wrote about it, almost admitting that the American name doesn’t live up to the promise of the British one: “while the promotional material is the same, that title signifies, well, so much more.” But she also points out that there is a lot that goes into picking a name. “When coming up with a name the first thing organizations do is to conduct a thorough check of the name from every angle. Will it make sense for our audience? Has someone used it before? Did they copyright it?” And unfortunately, it was that last one that made Bake Off become Baking Show.