Big Brother has entered a new phase in which it is now Channel 4’s equivalent of soaps such as EastEnders and Coronation Street rather than simply event TV, the broadcaster’s head of programming Julian Bellamy said today.
Bellamy added that the long-running reality TV show had moved on from the “pioneering” days of its first two series and had bedded down into an annual “post-watershed soap”.
“I do think it has settled into a different phase on the channel. When you think of Big Brother from series one and two, it was at its most pioneering,” he said, speaking at Channel 4’s autumn programming launch in Edinburgh today.
“There was a frenzy around the first couple of series, but you can’t keep replicating that. It is now settling into a different period. It is our post-watershed soap and that is fantastic. We have got to move on from contrasting it with Big Brother one and two.”
Bellamy said he did not expect the show to again reach the huge ratings peaks it did at the beginning. Big Brother’s ratings peaked in the third series in 2002, when the final, won by Kate Lawler, attracted 9.4 million viewers and a whopping 49% audience share.
“In all likelihood it feels like it has settled into a rhythm. Are we likely to get 10 million viewers again? That is going to be a tough call,” he added.
Bellamy defended the current series of Big Brother, saying it was a “really good series, genuinely”.
The current Big Brother contract with production company Endemol has two more years to go and Bellamy said no decision had been made on whether the channel would carry on after that.
“Big Brother is still an incredibly important show for us. It still gets twice the audience of the slot average,” he added.
“It has two more years on its current contract and it all depends on what happens after that. As long as it continues to be as robust as it is we will have it on the channel.”
Bellamy also made his first comments on the row surrounding the departure of Countdown host Carol Vorderman, who claimed she was forced out of the daytime show after being told to take a 90% pay cut.
“I feel genuinely sorry that Carol is leaving the show and that terms couldn’t be agreed,” he said.
“She has been a really big star for Channel 4 and Countdown and, genuinely, she will be sorely missed. I hope we will do something else with her in the future,” Bellamy added.
He added that names were currently being shortlisted for the new Countdown main presenter, a replacement for Des O’Connor, with Rory Bremner seen as a front runner.
Meanwhile, the Channel 4 director of television and content, Kevin Lygo, conceded the advertising downturn had begun to hurt the broadcaster.
“The advertising recession is absolutely here now and we are all feeling the pinch,” he said.
“We are going to have to cut our cloth accordingly this year and next. It is getting tougher, there is no question about it,” Lygo added.
Bellamy said this year’s programme budget would go down, although he added that Channel 4 would outperform the average 4% to 5% downturn in the UK TV advertising market predicted for the year as a whole.
But he added: “There will have to be some savings. How much will slightly depend on how things pan out.”
Source Media Guardian: