CBS has emerged as the likely U.S. home of a reformatted version of the red-hot Dutch import “Big Brother.”
A final deal with the Eye has yet to be worked out, but industry insiders said late Wednesday that CBS appears willing to pay somewhere just north of $20 million to adapt and produce as many as 100 hours of the show for broadcast as early as this summer.
Making a pact with CBS more likely: The other two webs which had been in the hunt for the Endemol-produced skein — ABC and Fox — have taken themselves out of the running (Daily Variety, Jan. 25).
Reps for CBS and Endemol both declined to comment.
If the Eye wraps up an agreement for “Big Brother” and if, as expected, the show’s U.S. format closely mirrors the Dutch version, CBS would be making a historic commitment of network airtime to a single broadcast — essentially agreeing to strip a program across its primetime sked for most of the summer.
“Big Brother” is a cross between “The Truman Show,” MTV’s “Real World” and the Swedish skein “Survivor” — the latter of which CBS is already planning to adapt as a weekly series starting in June. It involves a number of contestants who are sequestered together under the eyes of round-the-clock cameras; those who last ’til the end of a 100-day frame walk away with a large cash prize.
An Internet component is expected to be a part of any deal to import the show to the U.S., possibly allowing auds to vote via the Web on which contestants get to stay. A 24-hour Webcast would also be a logical extension of the format.
It’s unclear whether CBS and Endemol are talking about linking a CBS broadcast of “Big Brother” to any of the net’s soon-to-be-related Viacom-owned cable connections. Promoting the show on MTV, home of “The Real World,” would make sense, though MTV might be wary of diluting one of its strongest franchises.
Industry insiders said Endemol execs still have some doubts about launching “Brother” on CBS, which attracts the oldest-skewing aud of any of the Big Four nets. If a deal with the Eye doesn’t happen, the age concerns would likely be the cause.
At the same time, CBS execs didn’t want to see “Brother” fall into the hands of ABC or Fox, who could use the program as a club against the Eye’s much-hyped “Survivor.”
Nonetheless, there was already buzz Wednesday that either ABC or Fox — or possibly both — might launch their own competing skeins similar in theme and tone to “Big Brother.”
Insiders familiar with the negotiations said Endemol has been very aggressive with particular deal points related to “Big Brother” and has demonstrated scant willingness to bend.
From Endemol’s perspective, sticking points include the Dutch conglom’s stipulation that it must retain all Internet rights to the show and that it must be an active partner in the localized formatted version. For U.S. webs, the problem is certainly how to clear enough airtime to fairly expose the show to viewers.
A deal in the U.S. for “Big Brother” would represent the first time that an American broadcast network has reformatted such a high profile Continental European show. It could also open the floodgates for this type of show: Belgium’s “Tourist Trap” and Holland’s “Big Bus” are just two other wacky game/survival shows that might make it across the Atlantic.
ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” originally a British phenom, has helped fuel U.S. webs’ interest in format deals.