Big Brother Naija will hit the screens this January and many do not quite know what to expect. The first Nigerian edition of Big Brother aired in 2006 and between then and now, a lot has changed. The Nigerian television audience has evolved just as everything else has.
The re-emergence of Big Brother Nigeria (rebranded as Big Brother Naija) has raised a lot of questions. Why now? What happened in between? and more. To shed bright light on the concept of Big Brother Naija and what is has in store for the Nigerian audience this 2017, General Manager (Sales and Marketing) at Multichoice Nigeria, Martin Mabutho sat with members of the YNaija team and here’s everything he wants us to know about Big Brother Naija:
Why did MNET wait 10 years to bring back Big Brother Nigeria?
Between the first Big Brother in 2003 which was Big Brother Africa, there’s been different variations of Big Brother. Big Brother Mozambique, Big Brother Africa 1 and 2, Big Brother South Africa and then eventually, there’s been more and more voices and reasons to bring back a Naija-specific Big Brother with the rise in the Nigerian music industry. If you recollect, the Big Brother Nigeria 10 years ago played a critical role in ensuring that Nigerian music travels. It was a great platform for artistes such as Styl Plus (Imagine That still rings in my head), so we think the time is right especially since the music has evolved.
Also, it presents a platform for the guys in the house to showcase their various talents or not *laughs*. I think Nigerians deserve it, most importantly our viewers deserve it. It’s an engaging show that takes over the airwaves and changes conversations.
What new, exciting features are getting infused in the new Big Brother Naija?
I can assure you there’s going to be twists, turns and surprises because that’s the nature of Big Brother but it’s more of what we want people to take out.
And what’s that?
The story of urban Nigerian youth continues to be told every time and it can never be told enough. When you think you have one Nigerian working on a Beyonce video as a stylist, another one pops up somewhere designing sneakers for Nike, another one pops up somewhere in London doing something amazing. So, the energy, the creativity, the culture of urban Nigerian youth, in my personal view, is immeasurable.
Let’s look at what Big Brother has done for some of the guys that won or didn’t win. Look at Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Gideon Okeke, Michelle Dede; some of them were already getting established and some were not even in the entertainment industry. Careers have been built out of Big Brother so I bet that this Big Brother is going to present a new household name, if not a couple of household names. There’s a huge pool of talents that need to be given the outlet to go out and be appreciated; especially in this era where the needle is shifting a lot faster from formal to informal employment, and that cuts across entertainment and the creative industry, at large.
We just did The Voice, we brought West African Idols, Nigerian Idols, Naija Sings and we’ll keep moving. As a player in the entertainment space, I believe our platform is quite critical and it’s humbling to see how many young people apply to come into Big Brother. So we hope that our subscribers appreciate the effort, the content and engage with the content, especially when its time to vote.
So, Big Brother goes beyond providing entertainment value?
Oh, it’s definitely more than entertainment. People are not going into Big Brother to represent any state or tribe but themselves. That’s why we’re saying it’s about the different types of talents that you find and I think just even calling it “Naija” means we’re tapping into the urban Nigerian culture.
Do you have numbers for applicants at the Big Brother auditions?
Yes, it’s thousands. Remember, we had initially said that we’d hold auditions in Lagos only? There were requests from all over and people still came to Lagos from other parts of the country, despite holding the auditions in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
What are the criteria for selecting the 12 lucky contestants?
There’s a selection panel made up of people from the production team, the management team and most importantly, people that have worked on the format for a long time. Contestants progress in stages, they do medicals to test for fitness to stay the duration of the show away from the outside world. Because it’s a bit difficult. Try staying without your mobile phone, without friends and family, without access to radio/TV, living with strangers in a secret location and maintaining your sanity *laughs* I suppose that’s why the stakes are so high.
We have a 25 million naira cash prize on the table, a brand new KIA Sorento SUV and the most important thing is that, you’re a few centimetres away from getting fame. When you walk out of that house, we’re not saying the jobs will be automatically handed to you but you will have people who supported and voted for you and brands will gravitate towards you because of the popular opinion.
There’s an example, look at Big Brother Africa 1. Gaetano didn’t win but he’s the most popular, Ebuka and Gideon as well. It’s for the smart ones to take advantage of the platform.
We noticed that Big Brother Africa has been rested for some time, why is that?
I think part of what keeps people entertained is the constant refreshing of content. If we’ve done BBA for so many times, it’s inevitable for people to say “Not again, give us some thing else”. We’re responsive, we don’t operate our business in a vacuum, we listen to what our consumers want. So when people said give us a unique Nigerian edition, we responded.
As part of this, we’ve opened up Big Brother Naija to all DSTV bouquets and even on GOtv Plus because too many people want to see it. So it won’t be restricted to the Compaq, Compaq Plus and Premium bouquets.
Talking about opening up, what is it about the controversial “Shower Hour” this time?
We don’t have shower hour in this edition. We made a conscious decision not to include the shower hour. Why do people like it though? Is watching people naked entertaining? Is it quality entertainment? We have to keep improving without losing the morality, without decaying.
It’s supposed to be open to a wide audience so let’s not leave a bad taste. Let us not design the show such that it leaves a bad taste in some sectors of the community whether through religious or moral beliefs.
So will there be age restrictions?
Yes there will be age restrictions. It’s a rated show, people of a certain age cannnot watch and Parental Guidance is adviced. There’s also a rule book for contestants. No foul language, no extreme nudity. On our part, we’ll communicate how the audience can block the channel from showing up on their TV