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'Our Zoo' TV show worth £30m in PR to Chester Zoo, says MD

Chester Zoo’s managing director Jamie Christon has said the hit BBC show, Our Zoo, has provided the equivalent of around £30m (US$48.1m, €38m) in free PR for the visitor attraction in the north of England.

Our Zoo tells the tale of zoo founder George Mottershead, how he decided to start the establishment and the trials and tribulations he came up against while doing so. The show’s first season – which ran for six episodes airing every Sunday on the BBC in a prime time spot between September and October – garnered an average rating of 5.1 million viewers an episode.

“Response has been fantastic,” said Christon speaking to AM2. “We’ve had about 5 million viewers every week and visitor numbers for the month of september are 52 per cent up on last year. A combination of a good month of a weather and Our Zoo is what I think has made it happen.

“£30m is PR equivalent,” he continued. “If we were out there buying space to promote the zoo it would have cost us £30m to get the same sort of media exposure with the amount of publications and media outlets the zoo has appeared in."

The zoo launched a number of new offerings in conjunction with the show, including tours around George Mottershead’s home, which was heavily featured in the show.

“People are interested to see how the whole thing’s run,” continued Christon. “It’s not just the house. It’s things like the stable block around it and how the zoo’s developed over the last 80 or so years. It seems to be an add on to people’s days out but we are attracting people who haven’t been to the zoo before or who are coming from much further afield.”

Following the huge success of the show’s first season for both the zoo and the BBC, Christon said he hoped the show would be commissioned for a second season, but that it was still up in the air.

“Is there going to be a second series? We don’t know yet but we hope so and the finale left it wide open for a second or third or even fourth series. We’ve got close contact with Big Talk Productions who make the programme on the BBC and I’m sure if it’s going to happen we’ll hear about it in the next few weeks and months,” he said.

Chester Zoo is also currently halfway through construction on its £30m Islands project, set to be completed in December this year and to the public in May 2015.

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Chester Zoo’s managing director Jamie Christon has said the hit BBC show, Our Zoo, has provided the equivalent of around £30m (US$48.1m, €38m) in free PR for the visitor attraction in the north of England. Our Zoo tells the tale of zoo founder George Mottershead, how he decided to start the establishment and the trials and tribulations he came up against while doing so. The show’s first season – which
<i>Our Zoo</i> just finished up a six-episode run on <i>BBC One</i> / Big Talk Productions
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