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Oh ‘Brother’: 3.5 mil view

Show brought in 73% aud share in last episode

AMSTERDAM — Endemol Entertainment’s “Big Brother,” the most watched entertainment show in Holland in 1999, racked up some 3.5 million viewers during its Dec. 30 episode when contestant Bart Spring in ‘t Veld walked off with a prize of 250,000 guilders ($125,000).

The show, which has aired on Dutch channel Veronica since mid-September and brought a 73% audience share in its last episode, isolated a group of complete strangers in the Amsterdam suburb of Almere for 106 days.

Not permitted to leave the house and grounds, participants were subjected to round-the-clock scrutiny through the aid of some 24 hidden cameras and a batch of more than 50 microphones. Their daily activities were edited and shown weeknights on Veronica.

Viewers and participants themselves voted to eliminate contestants and in the end, Spring in ‘t Veld took the prize when he became the last to remain in the house. Endemol has never released the last names of the contestants, but Spring in ‘t Veld’s identity has been revealed by other news sources.

Web site a hit

The show generated enormous publicity for Endemol in Holland and abroad, and the “Big Brother” Web site racked 52 million page views, another record for Holland.

But “Big Brother” also generated one lawsuit, filed by the U.K. company Castaway, which charged that the show was a copy of its “Survive” format. And although it drew on average around a million viewers an episode, it has yet to generate substantial sales abroad.

Endemol is producing the program for a March launch date on Germany’s RTL 2 and has formed an alliance with German multimedia company AME to develop Internet applications for TV formats; the first will be a German “Big Brother” Web site.

While Endemol announced at its annual meeting that European channel launcher SBS had agreed to take the show for all its territories outside Holland, negotiations are believed to be still in progress, and nothing has been inked between the two companies.

Veronica has also not yet contracted for a second season.

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