B'caster forced to pay big bucks for reality skein

LONDON — U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 could be forced to pay £70 million ($132 million) to retain reality hit “Big Brother” when its deal with production company Endemol ends next year.

Endemol reportedly plans to demand a hike in its annual fee for the format, amid speculation that rival ITV is planning to make an offer for the show.

Under its two-year deal, which runs until the end of series eight next year, C4 is believed to pay Endemol around $19 million a year for the show and spinoff series, including “Celebrity Big Brother.”

Kevin Lygo, C4’s director of programs, has already said he would fight to hang on to “Big Brother,” one of the web’s ratings mainstays that also generates huge revenues from phone voting and sponsorship deals.

Series seven pulled in a total audience of 8.2 million viewers for the finale this summer, trouncing ITV’s rival reality series “Love Island.”

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