Why Big Brother Bosses Are Alienating Fans By Snubbing Live-Feed..

Will we ever see TV like this again?
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the Big Brother live feed is back! But before you rush out to buy military grade caffeine gum so you can watch a collection of strangers sleeping whilst you pant like an animal, you’ll only have an hour after the live eviction to quench those voyeuristic urges.

Whilst this gesture will placate some of the fans, many will simply say this is far too little far too late. Why did they ditch the live feed, anyway?

For some, the live-feed was an essential part of the Big Brother experience. In retrospect, it was a bit rubbish. My memories of it were mostly snippets of conversation, too dull to put into a full episode, occasionally interrupted by that weird ambient noise that sounded like a directional mic pointed at a bush. Maybe I just missed the good bits. At one stage a drunken brawl escalated to the point where security had to intervene, but they cut the feed for that, Ministry of Truth style.

From this point of view – cutting it makes sense, as it’s not something I imagine a lot of people watched, but for the show’s hard-core fans that wasn’t really the point. It was part of the Big Brother experience. The house changes, the contestants changes, the host changes, and the channel changes. (In both senses!) What makes Big Brother, Big Brother, it is argued is the 24 hour filming. Being able to view this continuous stream was more then just time filling, it was integral to what makes Big Brother.

When Channel 4 ditched the feature in 2008, there was uproar. Channel 4 defended themselves, saying that there wasn’t the consumer demand for it “In the summer we found – and it’s been a trend over the last couple of series – that less people are watching the stream on red button, but more people are watching the clips on the website.” said David Williams, the commissioning editor.

This upset fans, and Channel 4 brought the feature back in 2010, during Big Brother’s last run on Channel 4 before it hopped over to Channel 5. Instead of broadcasting it, Channel 4 elected to have as an online streaming service, whereby fans could buy a week or a season pass.

Enter Channel 5. Big Brother was back, but Davina wasn’t the only thing that didn’t make the crossing, the live feed had also disappeared once again. In it’s place, Channel 5 went with something I imagine was called a “integrated social media and content distribution campaignâ€? by the marketing types, which, in short, is some updates on twitter.

Fans were narked off to say the least and naturally, started an “integrated social media campaignâ€? of their own, again, putting some stuff up on twitter. This tweet sums up fans’ frustration with Channel 5’s unwillingness to bring back the livefeed..

“So we have 8 mins left to get to know these housemates..impossible!!!..when are BB gonna realise live feed is the only way!!!â€?

..said one frustrated fan last year on OTB. With Channel 5 having reintroduced the live feed, albeit for an hour afterwards, it’s a small win for Big Brother fans. Host Brian Dowling has said that the show bosses have realised that there is a demand for the live feed, but whether this ever turns into the rolling live stream that fans want is still uncertain.

Channel 5 may eventually go down a similar route, but the broadcaster’s on-demand service is a bit shit – I attempted to use it as part of my Christmas tradition of watching The World’s Strongest Man, with no success. Whilst I have little technical knowledge, it seems hard to imagine Channel 5 providing a quality live streaming service with it’s current set up. Big Brother fans have already made unfavourable comparisons to Channel 5’s Big Brother site, and Channel 4’s.

With any luck, Channel 5 can sort out the technical errors, and use the live streaming of Big Brother as a way to introduce more people to their on demand service. I know little people that use it compared to say, iPlayer or 4od, although this may reflect the quality of the programming rather then the video player itself. If not, they risk alienating a core group of fans for one of their biggest shows (if they haven’t done so already..)