In 1949 a ground-breaking, futuristic novel was published containing far-fetched notions
of constant surveillance undertaken by a system headed by a party leader named Big
Brother. Now, almost 64 years later, George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 rings true as
the eighth season of Big Brother Africa, a reality television show in which contestants’
every move is followed, continues to take the continent by storm.
Pay-TV broadcaster M-Net and format owner, the global entertainment company
Endemol, introduced the concept of reality television to South African audiences in 2001
with the very first 24/7 Big Brother broadcasts in the southern hemisphere.
Big Brother and the inhabitants of the specially-built Big Brother House immediately
grabbed the imagination of the nation, and inspired newspaper headlines and constant
discussions. Then after a second South African season in 2002, Big Brother ventured
into the entire continent, where it continues to create excitement and viewer
participation season after season.
Big Brother Africa The Chase, an M-Net AfricaMagic property, is currently captivating
viewers across Africa with just under one million unique website visitors; more than 1.5
million video views (online); over 30 million page views (online); and more than one
million messages to TV in just two weeks.
Big Brother Africa also boasts more than one million likes on Facebook and generates
approximately 300 000 tweets per week.
“It is always rewarding to work on a project that delivers viewers, and this season of Big
Brother has delivered just that. As the African market becomes more and more social
media savvy, the online interaction with the brand grows. There has been a noticeable
growth in the interaction between viewers and Big Brother on these platforms, and the
challenge moving forward is to keep feeding that appetite and growing these platforms,’
says the team at Endemol South Africa who produce the show for M-Net AfricaMagic.
Commenting on the choice of the theme the team comments: “We have done a variety
of themes throughout the years, except for a special love theme. So, The Chase became
a natural choice.’
The team attributes the success of Big Brother Africa in principle to human behaviour.
“People are naturally voyeuristic, and it’s this inquisitive nature that keeps viewers glued
to their television screens and social media platforms abuzz. However, changes to Big
Brother Africa The Chase, most notably the limited interactions between the two houses
and the dynamics between housemates make for a compelling offering to viewers.’
Big Brother Africa 8 has housemates from 14 countries in the house and with the series
being broadcast in 50 countries on the continent, there is bound to be controversy due
to different takes on morality, lifestyles, tradition and culture.
Production on the 24/7 series is a constant process. Storylines that emerge during the
day are handed over from the content teams to the editing teams. The team starts
structuring the episode from early evening, working through the night to ensure the
episode is ready for the relevant approvals the next morning. The show is then delivered
in the afternoon for broadcast 24 hours after it started the assemble process.
Since no one involved in production knows which housemate will leave on any one
particular show, production and edit teams prep for the possibility of any one of the
nominees leaving. Highlights packs, voting packs and questions are prepared for all
To make sure the show runs as smoothly as possible, Endemol South Africa employs
approximately 150 people on a contract basis and also contract the services of various
companies that supply services and staff to the project. Over and above there are also
the M-Net and MultiChoice teams that support and contribute to the project.
Behind the scenes
Endemol South Africa’s Big Brother Africa team is made up of a large central production
group that manages and supports all departments; the content teams responsible for
telling the stories; post-production handles all the daily edits; the task team create and
implement tasks and challenges; the art department responsible for the house interior;
and technical teams dedicated to producing and executing the daily and live shows.
The house is equipped with nine handheld cameras. Forty-seven cameras are installed in
the house: these are a combination of hotheads, cue balls and infrared cameras. There
are 137 microphones, which include a radio mic for each housemate.
Terja Beney is the executive producer on Big Brother Africa 8 and is supported by Marie
Rosholt (ESA consultant), Liza Kleitman (series producer), Japhta Mohlabane (series
director), Brad D’Arcy (assistant series director), Katleho Khabele (live show producer)
and Ryan Deacon (line producer).