With ABS-CBN apparently shutting down next year or something whatever*, the venerable and always controversial international reality series format Big Brother will be without a Filipino home for the first time.
While I may not be as big a fan of Big Brother as I am The Amazing Race, I definitely see the appeal and value of a well-done Big Brother franchise. When a Big Brother US season is interesting enough, I’ll watch to the very end. I even watched my first Big Brother UK season in years last year because it was so engaging and fun to watch.
ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother may have started as a faithful adaptation of the original Dutch format. But over the years, it was clear the franchise merely became an expensive promotional launching pad for potential new Filipino celebrities. Sort of like a nationwide (previously worldwide) focus group to determine which new young showbiz hopeful could collect enough fans to be profitable for the company. Or more specifically, which new “loveteam” can capture the hearts of fans.
Not an artista search like the network’s own Star Circle Quest or rival GMA Network’s Starstruck, but a celebrity search. And that is considering the fact that none of the “housemates” get any kind of training or preparation to become actors or singers while competing on the show. That is, unless the particular housemates actually were existing trainees at the network whom they wanted to give an immediate shove toward stardom via the show.
However, it seems that the Filipino audience has grown increasingly tired of what has become the bastardization of a groundbreaking reality format. The show’s ratings have been on a steady decline, culminating in a horribly rated and buzz-less 2019 edition which was pummeled by the Tagalized airing of Korean drama Are You Human. (Great show, by the way.)
So even if ABS-CBN weren’t closing down in 2020*, it would appear Pinoy Big Brother was on its last Legs.
But that doesn’t mean the Big Brother franchise has to die in the Philippines. In fact, it is actually a perfect time for it to be completely relaunched.
And thus, I present Big Brother Philippines.
Refocus the Format
At its core, Big Brother is basically Survivor inside a house instead of on an island. The dozens of cameras following everyone around 24/7, and the ability for people at home to watch live, is that extra element that sets it apart and gives Big Brother its signature voyeuristic feel.
So Big Brother Philippines, or BBPH, needs to be refocused toward a strategic game where the Houseguests must outwit, outplay and outlast each other in a confined and claustrophobic setting. And viewers will be able to follow along in real-time.
Survivor Philippines and The Amazing Race Philippines did reasonably well and there are many Filipino fans of the original Big Brother franchises as well. So there’s an audience for a true competition series like a refocused Big Brother Philippines would be.
I think a combination of the best aspects of the American and British shows would make for an interesting Filipino series.
From Big Brother US, obviously we will incorporate its unique format involving the Head of Household and no/very little public involvement in the game. Starting with its 2nd season, BBUS has always been more about strategy and gameplay. Making alliances, stabbing people in the back, getting paranoid. All part of the drama that makes BBUS so addictive to watch.
From Big Brother UK, the live show atmosphere is something else. The rowdy audience booing housemates at evictions, the big event launch nights. It had a big, sort of, flair for showmanship and big production that you definitely do not see on BBUS. But I would love to see it on a BBPH.
So essentially, we would be meshing together elements from both BBUS and BBUK.
First off, contestants will be called Houseguests and not “housemates,” if only to set BBPH apart from Pinoy Big Brother and to signal this as a new, fresh start.
To lay the week out, these are the basic “events” that will happen every week:
-Live Eviction and Head of Household Competition
-Live Nomination Ceremony
-Power of Veto Competition
-Live Power of Veto Ceremony
-Some sort of Luxury Competition/Shopping Task
-A Different “Big Coins” Task
Head of Household & Nominations
The Head of Household is decided via a competition at the end of every Live Eviction episode (Saturday). The winner of the comp becomes HOH and will then nominate two Houseguests for Eviction during a Live! Nomination Ceremony (Sunday).
Of course, the HOH is immune from the chopping block and gets the perk of a private HOH room and bathroom.
Having an HOH instead of the whole house voting to nominate ups the competition factor and makes every competition and every week important. Houseguests can’t just sit around and play up to the camera all day. They’ll have to make deals, make alliances, sneak around, etc.
The big responsibility an HOH has also forces contestants to take the game seriously as well.
And then of course the Houseguests themselves will Vote to Evict one of the two nominees every Saturday.
For the Live Nomination Ceremony, we will definitely be using the big key box. Have the HOH insert keys for the Houseguests that are safe and then have them pull the keys out one by one. That Ceremony from BBUS is still better than the current format of just revealing the two nominations instantly.
The strategy that went into what order the HOH put in keys was also a great, mindgames-kind of decision that needs to be included here,
And being Live, it helps add to the tension of the Ceremony for TV.
Connected to this is wondering how to involve the audience into the show.
One thing I loved about Big Brother UK 2018 was having the audience secretly voting for their favorites with the least popular housemate also getting nominated. This caused some surprising (to the housemates) nominations that sowed paranoia in the house. And that was absolutely fun to watch. Housemates were suspecting each other, not knowing the vote was from the public and not their fellow housemates.
I don’t think we can incorporate that into an HOH format. Though apparently Big Brother Over the Top, CBS’ online-only streaming season, incorporated similar to that.
But one thing that adds to the drama is the Houseguests not knowing how they are being received by the audience. In BBUS, they get no idea how they are coming across at home. In BBUK, the boos and cheers during Eviction Nights are what give the housemates clues as to who’s loved or hated.
I think I prefer Houseguests NOT getting any indication of how they are being perceived so as not to affect the decisions they make in the game. Especially in the Philippines where reality show contestants, especially Pinoy Big Brother contestants, specifically play up to the camera to endear themselves to the public. Obviously so they get the votes to survive and win. But BBPH would be much different of course.
So for BBPH, I think audience participation will be limited to what BBUS normally does. That is, choosing Have Not Foods, punishments, random powers. Maybe even something as inconsequential as house decor or lighting even. Things that viewers can vote on and control that engage them and keep things fun for the Houseguests.
But one radical idea would be giving the audience a Vote to Evict, or really a Vote to Save. That is, have viewers vote for which of the nominees they want to save. The nominee with the lesser number of votes gets one Vote to Evict. The interesting thing about that would be the “Boto ng Bayan” (“People’s Vote”) or BnB(?) could end up being the deciding vote in a tie. Or their vote could actually force a tie which would then put the decision to Evict on the HOH to cast the ultimate deciding vote. And with the Houseguests not knowing the audience’s feelings toward them, it could add another element to their strategies.
One of the major reasons ABS-CBN loved the text voting for PBB was they made a lot of extra revenue from the texts and even vote cards they used to make available. But these days, reality show voting can be done for free on Google, on websites, apps, even on Twitter. So in that aspect, public voting can be one aspect of the show, but not a major driver of revenue. Simply just something to add to the drama of the game and audience engagement.
Other than the spotlight Head of Household competitions, BBPH would have Power of Veto Competitions to allow nominated Houseguests a chance to save themselves.
Then, something that BBUS hasn’t had in a while, BBPH would have either a Luxury Comp and/or a Weekly Shopping Task. It would help fill the other days of the week. But can also drive some tension in the house as well. Have teams compete for luxuries, prizes and extra perks. Have them earn their grocery budget. Either one could also allow for the inclusion of Have Nots, Houseguests who would be prohibited from eating certain foods, getting only cold showers and even sleeping in an uncomfortable room.
One thing from BBUK19 I enjoyed was the Big Coins. The in-house currency was interesting as it kind of added more BBUS-type gameplay into the more traditional BBUK. The Big Coins were earned a number of different ways and they were used for a number of different things at auctions and determining status in the house as well. Sometimes housemates could bid on a luxury, but sometimes they also could bid on safety in the game. It would be a fascinating thing to throw in here on BBPH.
Again though, having more activities and competitions like this, which can also drive and provoke drama in the house, helps fill the daily episodes and the live feeds.
Which brings us to…
So where would BBPH air? Will there be live feeds? I think GMA Network and TV5 would both be good homes for BBPH. But interestingly enough I think each network would have a different look and feel to their respective productions. Both networks would use the format I laid out above. But in terms of overall look and feel, I think TV5 would skew a little more toward the looser BBUK while GMA’s version would skew more toward the structured and controlled BBUS.
For either network, Big Brother Philippines would air every day in primetime. A possible weekly schedule could look like this:
The “teleserye” or soap opera format works in the Philippines as people do like to tune in every day. Not only does it maximize the value of the franchise you’ve paid a lot of pesoses for, it helps keep viewers engaged all week long.
So, it would be necessary to have something planned for every day of the week just in case the Houseguests are too boring and don’t provide enough material to fill the episodes on their own. (But if we cast well, then that won’t be a problem.)
The weekend episodes could be one hour with the weekday episodes 30-45 minutes.
There would be LIVE episodes (with the host) on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays for the Eviction, HOH Comp and Nomination & Veto Ceremonies. Live episodes should also help drum up buzz for the show, especially with social media’s prevalance in the Philippines.
The other episodes can have a cheeky narrator like BBUK.
I think of the two, TV5 would be top choice if only because they have more real estate on their schedule to accomodate Big Brother Philippines. But they would also have the resources of Cignal and PLDT to readily support the series. (More on that later.)
Like I mentioned, I think TV5’s version would have the look and feel of BBUK. A little looser, perhaps a little more capable of pushing the envelope. Not as many restrictions in terms of content that GMA would have.
GMA, meanwhile, has less primetime real estate for the series. And having a full slate of programs, they also have a certain image to protect. So much less T L S under the SPG rating than TV5 could get away with.
A GMA-produced BBPH could mirror their Survivor Philippines productions which certainly did not lack dramatic game moments and fights. It really would also mirror BBUS’ more heavily structured format where production carefully crafts storylines for everyone.
I see TV5’s version just letting the events in the house and the Houseguests dictate story while GMA would prefer to incubate several storylines instead throughout the season.
BBPH 24/7 Channel on Cignal + Live Feeds
That said, I would prefer TV5 because they can use their Cignal and PLDT siblings to the fullest to help support a BBPH.
Both Cignal and PLDT could support and provide the technical backbone for the Live Feeds. And I do think Live Feeds are an important aspect to the series to help drive interest and engagement among fans. Considering Filipino Houseguests would likely be a little more conservative in terms of sex, nudity and even profanity, a Live Feed may not cause too much controversy.
But at the same time, it’s not like we’re marketing BBPH to children. This is an SPG-rated show after all. But the Live Feeds would of course be unfiltered and unlike BBUS, BBPH will show as much as possible. Most likely, blocking only the POV Competition. Especially as the POV and Nomination Ceremonies will be LIVE on TV anyway.
We can charge a fee for access to Live Feeds. But I’m not sure there’s really an audience in the Philippines that would pay for such a feature. So, making them free and fully accessible worldwide may just be the way to go. The money that could be made from premium Live Feeds will instead have to be made in other ways. Though a company could definitely sponsor the Live Feeds and have them prominently featured on the Feeds and website.
Meanwhile, Cignal could launch a BBPH 24/7 Channel which would basically broadcast a Live Feed on TV.
Whereas the online Live Feed would have the four (or more!) cams to choose from and the ability to rewind/flashback to previous days, like BBUS, the BBPH24/7 Channel will feature only one Live feed as chosen by the control room.
(Of course, GMA could still strike a deal with Cignal as well.)
To make the series as accessible as possible to a worldwide audience, having one YouTube livestream could also be a possibility. Maybe not the BBPH 24/7 Channel feed, but another separate feed that would be YouTube-safe. And also, if the Live Feeds aren’t free, a YouTube feed could still keep interested people in the mix. The YouTube feed could include the Live shows and episode simulcasts as well.
Social Media Engagement & Content
You may have noticed that cute owl and rooster up there in the BBPH 24/7 Channel sample. Patterned after Orwell the owl who “hosts” Big Brother After Dark in the United States, we can introduce Orly the Owl (Orwell’s Filipino cousin?) and Jorge the Rooster to “host” the BBPH 24/7 Channel feed.
(Jorge and Orly. George Orwell. Get it? Lol)
#BBPH will be the main driver of social media engagement across all platforms. For Twitter specifically, there should be the main @BigBrotherPH account which will have more formal and maybe serious, official tweets.
And then @BBPHOrly and @BBPHJorge would be handling their own accounts as they each “host” BBPH 24/7 for 12 hours every day – Jorge during the day, Orly overnight.
They’ll basically “narrarate” the feed on Cignal at the bottom of the screen with recaps of events, live commentary, exclusive gossip and (hopefully) witty comments. The same would be done on the official Twitter accounts. So a couple of interns (likely actual show writers) will be in charge of Orly and Jorge’s tweets and on-air commentary.
YouTube will also play a major role in social media engagement as BBPH (and any reality show, really) will need to post as many clips and extra content as possible. Posting Live Feed highlights, full TV episodes and maybe even exclusive Diary Room clips helps give fans more to consume and eventually talk about. Especially if the TV episodes can’t feature everything that goes on in the house.
Not all viewers will watch hours of Live Feeds, so posting little tidbits throughout the day on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. will keep people, even casual fans, updated. And if there are meme-able or viral-worthy moments, they can be easily shared.
Why leave the posting of clips to fans recording their computer screens? Have all traffic directed toward official accounts, which raises the profile of said accounts and awareness from the general public.
Visual Identity + House Design
For BBPH’s visual identity, we again think of BBUK>TV5 and BBUS>GMA.
Here’s an edited version of BBUK19’s opening credits for TV5:
You also catch a glimpse of BBPH’s logo and the brand new eye as well.
For the new BBPH eye, it uses Endemol’s new eye they want to have across all Big Brother series.
Pinoy Big Brother Otso‘s eye is okay, if not a little too busy. So for BBPH, we have a simpler eye that still uses colors from the Philippine flag.
Here’s GMA’s BBUS-inspired opening credits.
(And for any BBUS fans, don’t make anything of the choice of houseguests included here lol)
That ugly “Philippines” block I added certainly isn’t as slick as TV5’s BBPH. But you get the idea of how a BBPH would modify BBUS’ title card and logo.
Now for the house, I really liked BBUK19’s house design. Not just the simpler floorplan of the house, but the way they used lighting throughout to set the mood. They were able to control and adjust colors all over the house to suit whatever the situation such as an Eviction, a Big Coins meeting, etc.
(Please pardon these horrible sketches lol! But hopefully you get the general idea.)
Considering we will have a few Live shows throughout the week, it would be great to have a house where we can change the lights to a dark blue on Nominations Night. Or a gold theme for the Veto Ceremony. And then a dark, intimidating red hue on Eviction Nights, for example.
Have the house be fully adaptable to different events and situations. Be able to set the stage inside the house itself. Install big screens throughout to enable customization to announce the Ceremonies or be part of competitions. Have a big video wall as the “memory” wall of Houseguests. Things like that.
Make the house functional in a way that allows for the house to be adaptable.
I envision a two-floor house. A mix of BBUK and BBUS’ houses. Have two bedrooms and a large bathroom/changing room. (Should we or should we not have restrictions on whether men and women can share a room together?)
Have an open floor plan for the common areas including the living room, dining room and kitchen. Have the Diary Room door right in the middle of the living room, perhaps in a corner.
I like BBUK’s stairs up to the front door. But where would we have Houseguests sit on Eviction Night? In the living room? That would be ideal, especially with the lighting customization and maybe having a large video wall nearby.
But BBUK had housemates in a living room past the backyard and away from the front door. While they could still hear cheers and boos, it was reasonably isolated from the outside world on Eviction Nights. But the living room, as I envision in the floor plan, is the perfect spot for teams to ride out the Live Eviction. And of course being right where the Diary Room door is as well.
The HOH room is upstairs, just like BBUS, with their own bathroom as well.
There are three, basically, lounge areas throughout the house to perhaps give teams more secret locations for strategizing, secret-telling and other activities. There’s a lounge area or even game area upstairs next to the HOH room door. Then there’s an outdoor lounge area by the door (like BBUS) and then a laundry room with a wall of glass (like BBUK’s extra bathroom and living room). Houseguests can hang out in the laundry room. Or it can be a fitness room as well.
The backyard with the pool and hot tub and maybe fitness equipment can be used and modified to house the big competitions. Big Brother Canada has a much smaller, artificial backyard and they usually stage competitions in an adjacent cavernous warehouse room too. BBUK also had two competition areas, one indoors in a room next to the Diary Room and the other in an adjacent outdoor section.
For here on BBPH, I think it could be possible to have a smaller area, not the backyard, to host smaller competitions. That way, closing of the backyard is at a minimum and Houseguests can enjoy the outdoors.
But of course as we will have large comps throughout the season, like an Endurance Comp, the BBUS-type backyard is a safe bet. Especially as we don’t know where we will build the new BBPH house and if there’s enough room for more. Is there a big vacant lot next to TV5’s Reliance HQ? That would be ideal. Maybe some big open lot in Pasay City next to the huge resorts?
Wherever we decide to build the BBPH lot, it would be nice if it was in a central area that can welcome lots and lots of people to the audience for live shows to get that BBUK-type of rowdy atmosphere.
Obviously for cost purposes, the BBPH house and studio need to have more use than just one season of the show a year. So if it can be converted and used for other productions, offices, whatever throughout the year, it would help make the investment worth more for GMA or TV5.
Unless, the Pinoy Big Brother house across from ABS-CBN’s headquarters ends up being part of the new BBPH deal with Endemol. Then that house can be renovated to fit our needs. But I doubt that would ever be possible. Lol And again, we want to distance ourselves from PBB as much as possible.
So perhaps the biggest concern for BBPH will be its cast. For a show like Big Brother, the cast is everything. If you’ve got a dull cast, you’ve got nothing.
So we definitely need to cast competitive people. People who have no problems or qualms playing the game. And other people. They’re fighting to win. And hopefully fighting each other (not physically though! … maybe) for the top spot.
In casting Houseguests, we’ve got to make sure these aren’t just people willing to sit around until they are offered management contracts and a role in a new teleserye. Maybe even a record deal. Sure, a prospective Houseguest can have showbiz aspirations. But they can’t merely play cute to the cameras and viewers at home while waiting. They’ve got to really play the game and put in the effort.
If we fail at casting, then there would be no point to BBPH in the first place. So we’ve go to be sure to cast the right group of people.
Who to Host?
Which brings us to the host. Who should host such a series? I really would prefer a Julie Chen-Moonves or Emma Willis or Arisa Cox-type of host. Toni Gonzaga is obviously one of the best hosts in the Philippines. But if we were to find someone new, it would have to be someone who would follow the show, know what was going on and be very invested in what happens inside the house. Have them engage fans on social media too, for example. And be a host that doesn’t need notes from production to ask questions of Houseguests.
At GMA, my first choice would be Iya Villania-Arellano. Definitely one of GMA’s best hosts and someone who would fit the vibe of the previously mentioned ladies from around the world. Solenn Heussaff would be another good choice as well, especially being a Survivor alum too who could relate to the gameplay aspect of BBPH. For a TV5 series, I’m not as sure. Could we go for someone like Amazing Race Philippines auditionee and experienced host Wilma Doesn’t who’d definitely have the personality to carry the hosting duties of the show. Or someone like a Maggie Wilson who would be able to be both fun and formal as a host.
It is really a different experience when the host is as much a fan of the show as you are in the audience. So if we can find a big Big Brother fan in the Philippines, then they’d get some bonus points in our host search.
Marketing and Promotion
In my Produce 101 Philippines pitch, I laid out a pretty good marketing strategy that allows for several major sponsors and product opportunities that would help promote the show as well as help fund it.
It’s a little more interesting for Big Brother Philippines since again, this isn’t a talent search. So product placement won’t be as seamless as dressing PD101PH trainees in brand name clothes, for example.
One of the easier sponsorship opportunities for BBPH would be a tech company outfitting the house with not only the cameras, obviously, but all the TV and screens as well. How about the washing machine and dryer? The refrigerator?
Get a grocery store to sponsor the weekly Shopping Tasks. Or have specific sponsors for the Luxury Tasks as well if they involve some kind of service or event (like a movie premiere or a Jollibee party).
IKEA is opening up their largest store in the world in the Philippines soon. Have IKEA furnish the house with all the furniture and knickknacks.
Taking that even further, have one of the country’s big developers actually build the house and then have their names splashed across the building.
“The SM Prime Big Brother Philippines Compound” or “The Big Brother Philippines House by Ayala Land”
And as I mentioned earlier, have a company or a few companies sponsor the Live Feeds. Have their branding prominently featured on the website and even on little bugs on the Live Feeds themselves. Not too intrusive, but little reminders of the sponsor.
Then there’s of course the grand prize package that will no doubt include cash, a house and lot and a car, at the very least.
Plus, the merchandise opportunities with BBPH-branded clothes and accessories. But also BBPH-branded housewares. Anything from linens to IKEA furniture seen in the house to kitchen utensils. All branded with the BBPH eye maybe.
The in-store displays of course would promote the show itself. And if you’ve ever been in a Filipino mall, you know there is HEAVY foot traffic every single day of the week.
The Ultimate Goal
The ultimate goal here is to relaunch and re-imagine the Philippine Big Brother franchise. Take the series back to its roots and incorporate the American format that involves lots more gameplay and competition. Move past the celebrity search that was the last Philippine version of the format. Instead, embrace the worldwide reality series hit. Bring the drama. Bring the competition. Bring the guilty pleasure fun. Big Brother Philippines is ripe for a reboot. And perhaps, it’s not as unlikely now as it once was.
*For the record, I don’t think ABS-CBN will actually go off the air in 2020. lol