The rise and rise of Big Brother Naija
If you are a young Nigerian and haven’t considered auditioning for Big Brother Naija (BBNaija), chances are you have someone around you who has mooted the idea or sought your opinion about going into the BBNaija house. Although there is no data to back this up yet, chances are four out of 10 young and urban Nigerians have considered or are considering being part of the show.
Since its return in 2017, after an 11-year hiatus, the BBNaija show has been a growing force across Africa and beyond. Its global appeal, reach, and instant guarantee of an escape from the hustle life for young Nigerians; has seen it become the beautiful bride of many young creatives searching for a platform to shoot them, and their art to the limelight.
How BBNaija became a global force, with increasing popularity outside Africa, and one of the most successful instalments of the franchise across the world is a story with several parts but with one root – the organisers, MultiChoice Nigeria. Although it is not the first and only instalment in Africa, the last five seasons have seen the BBNaija show rise to become the biggest in Africa.
Since the show originated in the Netherlands in 1999, it has seen many iterations across countries like Canada, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Israel, among many others. The unique additions and reinvention the show goes through every season, that continues to make it appealing to its global audience, courtesy of its organisers – MultiChoice Nigeria, cannot be downplayed.
In Africa, Nigeria maintains its place as the epicentre of pop culture on the continent. Its music, movie and the biggest reality-TV show in Africa – have continued to dominate entertainment and influence other nations’ lifestyles. It is rare to find an African country today where its young citizens lack at least a passing familiarity with BBNaija. Although some observers have also identified Nigeria’s population as another force powering BBNaija’s popularity, many others believe it will be hard to sell a bad product even when the numbers favour the seller.
In the case of BBNaija, several factors have powered the show’s rising influence and popularity. From the selection of housemates from all walks of life, the BBNaija show represents all strata of Nigerian society, giving every class a relatable representation and reflecting many of the appealing themes and myths of the daily life of young adults – individuality, wealth, progress, tolerance, and optimism. The introduction of streaming platform Showmax in 2020, as an additional mode of watching BBNaija, has also contributed to the show’s rise and popularity, especially in other African countries, The UK and Republic of Ireland.
The rewarding exposure for housemates and brands that associate with the show, can also not be underestimated. Before BBNaija 2019, the Oppo smartphone was relatively unknown to a majority of Nigerians; after working with MultiChoice Nigeria for the fourth season, it has gained exposure that has translated to an increase in revenue just like other brands like Bet9ja, Pepsi, Gulder, among many others. Abeg Technologies also has a similar success story from being the headline sponsor of BBNaija season 6.
Users of the Abeg app rose from 20,000 before BBNaija season 6 to 1.8 million users during the show, says Patricia Adoga, the COO of Abeg Technologies. The success saw Abeg app returning as a sponsor for BBNaija season 7, albeit with a new name – Pocket.
Banking on the global exposure the BBNaija platform guarantees, small and medium-sized businesses are shifting their focus from engaging only actors, music artistes, and athletes as influencers to driving traffic and sales to their brands. They now consider working with influencers who rose on the platform of the BBNaija show.
With social media, BBNaija is also giving ordinary people the chance to become visible, attract, and influence followers, which has been financially rewarding, according to some of the social media influencers who managed the social media pages of some former housemates.
MultiChoice Nigeria is constantly reinventing BBNaija to meet the needs of young people on the continent as a source of entertainment, a guaranteed route to fame, wealth and a source of livelihood for others who never auditioned for the show. This effort and massive investment in the show has seen it become one of the most successful instalments of the Big Brother reality TV show franchise worldwide since the first edition debuted in Netherland in 1999.
The numbers also bear testament to this. In 2020, Big Brother Canada Season 7 reached over 17 million, while BBNaija reached over 50 billion in the same year.
If the new generation is not constantly reminded that the Dutch originally owned the Big Brother show, many would be pardoned to believe it originated from Nigeria because of the growing influence and popularity of BBNaija across the globe. If that happens, it will be hard to convince them otherwise.