AOL to be exclusive online partner for 'Big Brother'

AMSTERDAM — One in every two Dutch households tuned into the final episode of “The Bus,” a fly-on-the-wall entertainment show from Holland’s wacky format factory Endemol that ended late June 5 with winner Antonette Sterrenburg taking home 1 million Dutch guilders ($434,000).Broadcast by Dutch channel SBS6, “The Bus” started off as possibly the most obvious attempt ever to snag audiences, with its prize initially to be based solely on ratings points. When audience share dropped due to unseasonably warm weather in Holland, SBS6 sweetened the pot by doubling the prize money.

As in precursor “Big Brother,” the most watched entertainment show in Holland in 1999, contestants — 11 when “The Bus” launched in mid-February — began living together on a double-decker bus and were monitored 24 hours a day by camera and microphone. Contestants were gradually winnowed down by viewer selection.

Hide, then seek attention

During the week contestants would remain hidden in one location — although it seldom remained a secret for long — and on the weekend participants would cruise around Holland making themselves as visible as possible.

Some 1.2 million voters over the last couple of days — 900,000 on June 5 — cut the selection down from a final three to one. “The Bus’ ” Web site drew some 24 million page views, about half the number of page views drawn by Endemol’s “Big Brother,” but SBS6 is calling the show a success and plans to kick in a new season next fall.

Endemol Entertainment and SBS6 jointly own the rights to “The Bus.”

AOL partners for “Brother”

In a related story, Endemol, which sold the rights to “Big Brother” for the U.S. to CBS, and CBS have announced that America Online will be the exclusive online partner for “Big Brother,” which will premiere on CBS July 6.

America Online will offer its members and Internet users a co-branded “Big Brother” interactive area, located at AOL keyword: Big Brother and at http://www.bigbrother2000.com.

The Web aspect of “Big Brother” and “The Bus” have been credited with much of the shows’ success in Holland because it brought in hard-to-grab youth audiences that the small screen has failed to capture.

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