Why ITV2 is the perfect home for Big Brother

A big sibling for Love Island would be a marriage made in TV heaven says Ben Dowell

Presenter Emma Willis (Channel 5)

Wanted: a home for a reality TV show of great pedigree – but one which has perhaps seen better days.

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Yes, Big Brother, the 20-year-old reality TV behemoth, is leaving Channel 5 and is homeless. But probably not for long.

As the debate continues about the whys and wherefores of Channel 5’s decision to ditch the show– was it too expensive? Does Channel 5 want to go upmarket? – one thing is clear: rights holders Endemol want to find another channel for Big Brother.

To my mind, ITV2 seems like a great option.

For starters, ITV is in the running to buy Big Brother producers Endemol, a deal which City analysts believe it has a strong chance of securing. In effect, it would mean ITV already owns the show if this happens.

Secondly, Big Brother would be perfect for ITV2: an ideal complement to Love Island, which has a swelling army of fans aged 16 to 34 in defiance of broadcasting lore that has always said young people don’t watch scheduled TV.

Meanwhile, ITV’s catch-up service is in good shape, attractive to the target audience for Big Brother. ITV Hub is a big draw for Love Island – according to the channel, the show’s 2018 finale attracted 1.9 million streams alone, added to a broadcast audience of 3.6 million.

Channel 5’s catch-up service My5, by contrast, leaves “much to be desired” according to an industry report earlier this spring. If the lessons learned by ITV about live streaming Love Island could be applied to Big Brother, the results would surely be new life and a younger audience for the godfather of reality TV.

Love Island in the summer with a celebrity and civilian edition of Big Brother either side? Sounds like a strong offer, making ITV2 the home for reality shows alongside Survival of the Fittest and Ibiza Weekender. Both commercially and creatively, it makes sense.

Who knows, both shows could have a lot of fun with each other, as has been the norm with latter day Big Brother with its fondness for suddenly parachuting people into the house. There has already been something of a mash-up thanks to Love Island’s Gabby Allen entering the Big Brother House – and if ITV2 gets the show there would be scope for more of the same on a grander scale.

Of course, if ITV2 did land Big Brother, the channel may be wise to rest it for at least a year and bring it back refreshed.

The recent row involving Roxanne Pallett and ‘punchgate’ has not always cast the show in its best light. So perhaps a rest and a refreshing new look and angle could help. It would also follow precedent: there was a year-long gap between Channel 4’s last show and the first on Channel 5 in 2011.

Wherever on the EPG it ends up, it feels it’s not over for Big Brother, which has still proved a ratings hit despite Channel 5’s decision to dispense with it. The recent celebrity edition of the show averaged nearly 2 million viewers per episode – which in the current climate of fragmented audiences is a hefty return.

This week I asked Bob Bakish, the CEO of Channel 5 owners Viacom, who he thought would buy it. He wouldn’t be drawn, but did say that the show would be a good get for the right broadcaster – “one big decision” he said, which would “pick up a piece of audience”.

“Competition and reality TV isn’t close to resembling dead,” he said. “It’s a vibrant area of programming. This is a decision we made based on the evolution of Channel 5… I don’t want that to be interpreted as any broader judgement on Big Brother.”

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Nor would we. It was a gamble to get rid of it for Channel 5. ITV2 should be licking their lips…