The Big Brother reality show is usually greeted with fanfare and excitement. The turnout for the auditions gives us a glimpse of what’s at stake, and even celebrities audition to get into Biggie’s house for the chance to win millions of naira in cash and prizes. The fans of the show are ecstatic because of the guaranteed entertainment and drama from the housemates; however, the popularity of the show seems to have waned. The “Level Up” edition was barely followed; while the BBTitans edition was introduced before the reunion was over.
As the show winds down it’s clear that the usual buzz that the show is known for online and offline is lacking. The first-ever edition of Big Brother Nigeria was held in 2006. That season had current BBN host Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, actor Gideon Okeke, director Katung Aduwak, who went on to win the show, and others. The show returned to the screen in 2017 to a huge rave. It was bigger and better. The prize money was 30M cash and 30M worth of gifts. Warri boy Efe won the prize. From 2017 to 2021, the show had Nigerians in a chokehold.
Why did the “Level Up” edition fail to level up?
In 2022, DSTV announced the “Level Up” edition. The show was filled with fascinating personalities that should have been a guarantee of premium entertainment, but it didn’t succeed as expected, many Nigerians paid little attention to the show. The rave merely lasted online for a few weeks, and most Nigerians channeled their attention elsewhere: the coming 2023 election campaigns.
There were palpable fears in 2022 when DSTV announced that the Level-Up edition of the show would start. Political influencers believed that the show would take away the attention of Nigerians online who were hitherto concerned with politics. The political influencers called on the organizers of the show to reschedule the show after the Nigerian general elections. It was never rescheduled and the show went on as planned. A lot of drama went down in the show, but asides the Sheggz and Bella’s ship and drama, other events were barely noticed. The Saturday night parties, Sunday night evictions, and the season finale got at least some of the attention but the percentage of the votes was small compared to previous editions.
The Level-Up edition ended with Phyna winning the show. She became the second woman to win the reality show after Mercy Eke.
After a BBN show, a reunion is usually held to settle any lingering issues before the start of a new season, but the Level Up was different. The organizers must have noticed the show had a disastrous outing and thought a reunion wasn’t necessary.
The first episode of BBTitans aired on January 15, 2023. BBTitans was designed as a hybrid comprising Nigerian and South African housemates in one house as they slug it out for the $100,000 prize money. This was supposed to be a masterstroke, as the show was supposed to gain popularity by unlocking a new audience.
However, if you scroll through social media, the show has struggled to make a dent in public consciousness. One reason is obvious: the 2023 presidential elections. As the weight of the elections – one which was characterized by a desire to disrupt the political status quo- became glaring, Big Brother took a hit. Teen Vogue columnist, Nelson C.J argues that “I believe that this season was hosted during a pivotal time in Nigeria’s history- the elections, leaving very little room to pay attention to or even engage in online discourse about BBTitans.”
He goes further noting that “there is also the matter of the Housemates this year not being as compelling as past ones, making it hard to form fan bases or rivalries which typically carry the show.”
However, apart from the elections taking the attention of Nigerians, Dipo Akinsanya-Browne, a content strategist blamed the poor raves the show got this year on poor organization. “I think marketing in general towards the launch organization of the show was awful- there was little to no buzz around the show, it happened to coincide with the Nigerian general elections which did not represent the will of the people so people weren’t happy, and one of the easiest ways to salvage the situation was using influencers which the show also didn’t use,” Akinsanya-Browne argues.
Why is the show declining?
Before the show became an annual event, there was always an air of anticipation and suspense when the show came on, but two previous editions have seen Nigerians able to assume the winner within two weeks of the housemates’ arrival in Biggie’s house. This diminished the show’s mystery and made it more predictable.
In addition, the show became performative. The housemates mostly performed for the camera just to win votes instead of delivering the premium entertainment that was the main purpose of the show. The fans who were watching noticed the pattern of the housemates pandering to the gallery, and over time, Nigerians have found the housemates’ behavior performative.
The backgrounds of the housemates have also played a part. The house has seen a lot of housemates who’d previously found a degree of fame or from privileged backgrounds come onto the show to make a name for themselves and their brands, taking away the competitive edge of the show and turning it into a stage to make sure they could find fame. The show’s lost its juice because of this.
The 2022 edition didn’t gain the needed attention that a BBNaija show was supposed to garner, and the BBTitans was supposed to be the masterstroke which would have shaken the African entertainment industry, but that has not been the case.
The dip in attention and relevance says a lot about where the Big Brother franchise is right now: in dire need of a reboot.