Big Brother Naija: The Big Show That Defies COVID-19

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Vanessa Obioha writes that the race for the coveted N85 million grand prize for the Big Brother Naija Season 5 begins today

Against all odds, the organizers of the popular reality TV show, Big Brother Naija, will be opening the doors to contestants to compete in its fifth season. Not a few people envisaged that the coronavirus pandemic which has adversely impacted social life and big-time entertainment will put a pause on this year’s show. But the organizers surprised all, announcing in May that the show would return this year following the success of the fourth season, themed ‘Pepper Dem’.

The previous season was adjudged, by some, the best of the reality TV show since it returned to dominate the airwaves in 2017. The organizers revealed that it received the highest number of votes, over 240 million. More so, it was the first season to crown a female contestant, Mercy Eke.

With the towering feat of the previous season, the organizers embark on another season, promising its teeming audience more high-octane drama and entertainment. Of course, there were fears concerning the health safety of the contestants and the production crew, but with each stumbling block, MultiChoice Nigeria skillfully deflects like a pugilist, putting measures to eliminate all threats.

“The timing of the show is also particularly important, given the dominance of the COVID-19 pandemic; auditions for the fifth edition will now hold online and viewers and stakeholders alike can rest assured knowing that global best practices, precautions, and preventive measures will be followed throughout the show, even as we guarantee the premium entertainment BBNaija is renowned for,” stated the Chief Executive Officer of MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe.

The company received over 30,000 entries for this year’s edition, the highest number so far.

Channel Director, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, revealed few weeks ago that a pool of housemates has already been selected from everyone that auditioned and are currently being quarantined (individually).

“They will continue to undergo testing to ensure that they are all healthy and ‘rona free before the show launches. The Big Brother show lends itself to a certain level of quarantine, seamlessly integrating into the COVID-19 guidelines.”

It was further revealed that the Big Brother House, a lavish setting that often leaves viewers’ jaws dropped, has been disinfected and won’t be accessible to anyone until the premiere day.

Still, on ensuring that the show does not flout any rules of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the organizers announced that there will be no live audience in its eviction shows, leaving Ebuka Obi-Uchendu the show’s host to employ his creativity to entertain viewers for the duration of the show.

Despite the tweaks due to the pandemic, some of the show’s elements such as the Arena games and Saturday night parties will be likely retained.

Known to attract notable advertisers, Betway Nigeria was revealed as the lead sponsor for this season in June. The Country Manager of Betway Nigeria, Lere Awokoya, explained why they got on board with the show at a recent virtual conference.

“First of all, I have to reiterate that we are really excited about this because we all know how much of a monster the Big Brother Nigeria platform is. But one of the reasons why we thought it was a seamless fit between the Big Brother Naija and Betway Nigeria brand was based on the similarities that both platforms share. Of course, we’re both providing entertainment to similar demographics, but what’s on top of the list in terms of our similarities is the passion that we have for the games. We love to showcase these games because we understand that our consumers, whether it’s the Betway consumers or the Big Brother Naija consumers love the games and the entertainment that we provide. So it is logical that we collaborate and provide a variety of entertainment features that we know our audiences will enjoy.”

The premium online and mobile sports betting platform also unveiled artiste and music producer, Don Jazzy, and the host Obi-Uchendu as its ambassadors at that event.

“They will be representatives of Betway in all things entertainment and technology during this period and beyond and they will serve as partners and advocates for Betway and everything that we do so that they will help us engage with Nigerians in Africa, both on traditional media as well as on social media where we expect them to bring to the table their creativity, their voices, and passion to help promote the spirit of fair competition, which is something that we are very passionate about,” said Chris Ubosi, Chris Ubosi, the brand’s representative in Nigeria.

Reacting to his appointment, Don Jazzy expressed excitement on being part of the journey.

He stated, “Last year, I didn’t follow the show from the beginning because I was busy at the time. But this time around I will be driving the conversations from the get-go. It’s going to be an interesting season with Betway.”

Continuing, Obi-Uchendu explained: “Everything is all familiar at this point. Betway is a brand that is recognizable anywhere in the world and partnering with the biggest show on the continent Big Brother Naija is a good partnership. It’s going to be a very easy relationship.”

Now the curtain will be opened tonight and the contestants, usually drawn from their different backgrounds will begin the race to win the coveted N85 million because whether there is a pandemic or not, the Big Brother Naija show must go on.