October 16, 2023

Appraising the impact of BBNaija reality show


By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze

BIG Brother Naija is a live-in-house reality TV show featuring a group of housemates who compete over a coveted star prize and other brand sponsored consolation wins. The star prize for the 2023 season tagged all-star season was N120 million. BBNaija has a huge number of following, especially among the youths. The show is sustained by viewers and those who constantly vote to keep their favourite housemates in the house till the end.

Biggie’s Diary Session with housemates illuminates the hidden intentions, interactions, actions, expectations and behaviours in the house. It is a game of intrigues governed by strict rules. Friday Night Party is strategic for retaining the youthful audience. It features whatever is almost obtainable in clubs and gigs on a normal weekend. Therefore, the youths always look forward to it. One major highlight of the show is the routine “Sunday eviction exercises”.

It is always a moment of uncertainty and intense suspense. The aggregate vote of viewers supporting a housemate determines who to evict or not. Contestants are also permitted to nominate each other for possible eviction. This is in addition to the decision of the newly introduced ‘Eviction Jury’ made up of ex-housemates. At the end, those who could not garner the required percentage of votes are evicted. The eviction process is simply democratic.  

The first Big Brother Nigeria was aired from March 5-June 4, 2006. There was a long break untill the second season in 2017 when it became an annual show. The show auditions thousands of youths all over Nigeria who are keen on taking their interest in entertainment business a step further. The eighth and latest edition of the show which commenced from July 23 – October 1, ended with Ilebaye Odiniya beating 19 others to win the coveted price of N120 million in addition to a Sport Utility Vehicle, SUV, donated by Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing. It is yet to be ascertained how much other housemates get at the end as consolation prizes.  

There is no doubt some housemates have emerged stars and subsequently grew their popularity through the platform. Mutual friendships and enduring networks are built from the interwoven culture and diversity of housemates. The show is a game which offers participants unlimited latitude to employ all manners of subterfuge, erotic and emotional intelligence to lure viewers into voting for them. Sex related content, scenes, and alcoholism are dominant features. The organisers are aware of the level of influence sex and alcohol have on the generality of the youths, thus, both were deployed as unique selling points to retain and sustain viewership.

In between the show, Nigerian cultures and traditions are promoted in attires and in aesthetic backgrounds. A number of tasks sponsored by popular brands are undertaken to test the intelligence quotients of housemates individually or as a group and at the end prizes are won. Some of the housemates end up as ambassadors of those brands and sign deals with others at the end of the show. The media, telecom industries, entertainment, fashion, tourism and hospitality businesses have gained more visibility by identifying with the housemates in either their programmes and events or signing them on a deal.  

What is the impact of BBNaija reality show on the lives of Nigerians? It was reported that brand equity, increase in subscriber or user acquisition and revenue growth are major motivating factors for the BBNaija organisers. Most Nigerians will tell you that BBNaija is entertaining. Other than entertainment and the sexualisation of the show, it does not seem to deliver much in skills acquisition, enterprenuership, education, morality and societal rebirth.

This is a show majorly characterised by lewd, obscene and morally bankrupt scenes. A reality show which promotes free-for-all alcohol consumption leading to many messing up themselves afterwards is depraved. Media reports place the value of sponsorship of BBNaija at “around N10 billion”. According to Busola Tejumola, the Executive Head of Content and West Africa Channels, MultiChoice Nigeria, the All Star Season costs N5.5 billion in investment. She disclosed that the season raked in 1.5 billion votes across all voting channels.  

Plaqad, a marketing, public relations and technology company in 2018 carried out a research on Big Brother Naija, with available data derived from the 2018 “Double Wahala” season. The study was primarily focused on identifying the “value of the show, and its impact on Nigeria”. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were applied and also using data derived from primary and secondary sources. Other sources of data collection included those got from interviews, focus group discussions, online research, and surveys.

Sources of both primary and secondary data were drawn from the organisers, ex-housemates, auditionees, sponsors, journalists and bloggers; critics, fans of various housemates and the general viewing public. Key findings of the study revealed that: “70 per cent of viewers love BBNaija for its entertainment value. Six per cent believe it contains educational value.

Eighty per cent of viewers believe BBNaija provides youth with the opportunity to succeed. When asked which option between “Yahoo-Yahoo”, a “University Degree” or contesting in BBNaija is the fastest and most reliable route to success for young Nigerians, the overwhelming response was BBNaija. More than 53 per cent of respondents voted in favour of BBNaija while 43.6 per cent said a university degree was a surer path to success. 

Only two per cent opted for “Yahoo-Yahoo”, 61 per cent of respondents believe BBNaija influences pop culture. Some described its impacts as “revolutionary”. 100 per cent of the current auditionees surveyed think BBNaija is a faster route to financial success than a 9-5 job while 50 per cent say the show impacts youth culture in Nigeria. Even though BBNaija is rated 18, more than 30 per cent of those surveyed still said they find sex and nudity among housemates quite offensive.

Also 6.4 per cent think there is apparent favouritism in the show, while 2.6 per cent said lack of consolation prizes on the show was their biggest issue with the organisers of the show. One per cent of respondents said BBNaija has helped improve Nigeria’s image on the International Scene. The responses above have clearly shown significant areas of interest and the mindset of the youths in terms of fulfilling their life dreams. Unfortunately, education came second behind the BBNaija as the most reliable means to succeed amongst the youths. Moreover, 100 per cent of the youths think BBNaija is a faster means to financial success.  

A piece in a national daily described BBNaija in glamorous prose: “In its essence, is a journey into Nigeria’s rich cultural tapestry. With participants from various backgrounds, it reveals a tableau of traditions, stories, and identities, narrating the Nigerian tale in its entirety. BBNaija captivates with its undiluted depiction of life. It’s a stage where relationships blossom, friendships solidify, and differences clash, all unfolding organically, creating an emotional bond with its audience.”

Every reality show has its pros and cons. Aside the monetary rewards and other material gains, the cons of the BBNaija far outweighs the pros. Nations flourish in line with what it regards as its core values. What are the core values of Nigeria as a nation? Making money is great. What the society frowns at is the way and manner it is acquired. Is it legit?

Therefore, keeping the moral fibre of the society intact and sustaining it is a task that must be done. Nigerians were irked when some of the housemates failed what many considered elementary questions in one of their tasks. Effort should be made to improve more on decency and knowledge based show. Subsequent BBNaija shows deserve the attention of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission to ensure adherence to general rules. 

Eze, a media and development communication specialist wrote via  [email protected]