Reality skein draws masses

BUENOS AIRES — The final episode of “Gran Hermano,” the local version of reality skein “Big Brother,” captured an astonishing 90% viewer share for broadcaster Telefe.

It averaged 20 ratings points from March to June, ranking among hits like novela “Betty La Fea” and variety show “Videomatch,” before shooting up to 42 points for the big June 30 finale when 3,000 Argentines beseiged the house to catch a glimpse of the winner. “Gran Hermano” upped Telefe’s ad revenue. The broadcaster, owned by Spain’s Telefonica — which also owns Dutch programmer and “Big Brother” creator Endemol — sold ad time for $850 a second, the second-highest rate in the industry after hit soccer roundup show “Futbol de Primera.” Even at that price, Telefe had to turn away advertisers for the final episode as space rapidly sold out.

It also brought in revenue via Internet and pay TV transmission rights, merchandising, a voting phone line and a weekly “Big Brother” magazine.

All this has helped cushion Telefe during the country’s economic downturn: last year, broadcast TV investment in the capital declined by 18% from 1999.

The reality skein solidified Telefe’s No. 1 position in the Argentine broadcast TV market. Its overall audience share jumped to 43% in June versus a pre-”Big Brother” 36% in February, according to rating agency Ibope.

Telefe is now gearing up for a second “Gran Hermano” and has received 120,000 applications for spots on the show.

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