Although it is known for its soap operas, Brazil remains faithful to the ‘reality show’ Big Brother, which in its 21st edition continues to attract millions of viewers, including the star Neymar. Almost daily, the Paris Saint-Germain star shares with his followers on Twitter his impressions of the participants of “BBB” (Big Brother Brasil).
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In the first 60 days of the program, BBB21 had an average daily reach of 39.9 million people, registering an average of 27 audience points and 50% participation, breaking the audience record of the previous seven editions and exceeding BBB20 by 17% (+ 4 points) in relation to the same period of the previous season.
The impressive numbers make its broadcaster, TV Globo, rub their hands with the good deal: the 21st edition will be the longest in history, with a hundred days of the program and, above all, the most profitable.
The brands’ logos are ubiquitous in all the events organized in the “Most watched house in Brazil”, the mansion with a pool where the ‘brothers’ isolate themselves from the world and overcome challenges under the scrutiny of 11 cameras and microphones that watch them 24 hours day.
The value of three advertising pieces of 30 seconds is enough to pay the final prize, of 1.5 million reais, disputed by the participants. But in addition to these impressive figures, the program has become a true social phenomenon, amplified in recent years by social networks. In addition to the celebrities who accompany the participants’ adventures, unknown youtubers started to accumulate fortunes, attracting millions of subscribers with their comments and analysis of the ‘reality show’.
Popular “like a Cup”
“Each year, when the BBB starts, it becomes the main topic of conversation, like the World Cup or the Olympic Games,” Laurens Drillich, president of Endemol Shine Latino, the Latin American arm of the producers who created the Big Brother concept in Holland in 1999. And like a World Cup goal, fans cheer in front of the television when their favorite candidates save themselves from elimination.
“We have a passionate audience for the program. We see people celebrating results of tests and walls on windows and balconies throughout Brazil. This gives us an extra motivation to put this program on air from Sunday to Sunday”, adds the director general of Big Brother Brasil on Rede Globo, Rodrigo Dourado.
The good performance of the program represented a relief for TV Globo, which, due to the pandemic, was forced to suspend the production of soap operas for almost a year, limited to reruns during prime time. “You can’t think about BBB without thinking about B in Brazil,” explains anthropologist Michel Alcoforado, founding partner of Grupo Consumoteca.
“BBB works because it is a ‘reality show’ that manages to connect directly with the Brazilian tradition of telenovelas, which have always been directly related to the causes of everyday life, as a mirror of society,” he says. But unlike soap operas, in this program it is the audience that chooses the winner, through the popular vote.
Social themes on the table
After two years in office for the Jair Bolsonaro government, Brazilian society is deeply divided and is now mourning the more than 300,000 deaths from the pandemic, which also causes a serious economic crisis in an extremely unequal country.
For Michel Alcoforado, “since Bolsonaro joined the government, what we have observed is that there is an emptying of the discussion in Brazil in general”, with each side entrenched in its position. With a lighter approach, “BBB resumes guidelines that are fundamental for Brazilian society at the dinner table”, says the anthropologist, listing machismo, racism, and the LGBT theme.
However, Big Brother Brasil was not always an ode to diversity. “Before, the profile was very standardized. All strong, muscular men and women on the cover of a magazine,” recalls Felipe Oliveira, a 34-year-old black man who participated in the eighth edition in 2008.
“BBB knew how to reinvent itself. Society changed over 20 years and BBB knew how to position itself,” says Oliveira, a relationship analyst at Instituto Identidades do Brasil (ID_BR), which fights for racial equality in the corporate world.
“When I participated in the program, there was a certain situation that I spent 1h, 1h30 discussing affirmative actions [para fomentar a igualdade racial]. This did not pass in the edition of the program. Nowadays, every time there is a more delicate agenda, such as LGBT phobia, it ends up passing “, he concludes.