Why you should buy your Big Brother live feeds from your favorite fan site

Less than one month remains before Big Brother debuts its 16th season, and thus it’s time for fan sites promote the purchase of the show’s live, streaming feed subscription.

In the past, I’ve expressed irritation with the seemingly endless tweets and pleas to sign up–which can be clever and funny–but I’ve come to understand and appreciate just how important it is for many fan sites, because they earn commission on each sign up. Many Big Brother fan sites rely on the revenue generated from affiliate links to keep their sites running: their sites cost money to operate, never mind the time their owners, contributors, and/or users spend tirelessly following feeds, live tweeting, and otherwise providing a service for fans and even journalists.

Affiliate sites receive a small percentage of the cost of the live feeds for sending their users to sign up via special links. CBS actively seeks affiliate web sites; affiliates serve as de facto marketers, spreading the word for products.

Last year, CBS switched from partnering with RealPlayer’s SuperPass to hosting the live feeds itself, and as part of that, began using Linkshare to manage the affiliate and referral process. That change dramatically affected and hurt affiliates: fan site operators tell me that their commissions decreased by about 40 percent, and payments also come a month later than they did in the past. (I’ve asked CBS Interactive for comment, but have yet to hear back; I will update if they comment.)

Last week, you may have seen many sites ask you to not buy the feeds directly from CBS. For example, Big Brother Leak tweeted, “I urge and plead with you NOT to get the Live Feeds from the CBS email. Please wait until we/your favorite site posts their link!”

That’s because CBS sent an e-mail message Thursday encouraging people to sign up for the feeds. The problem: none of the fan sites had yet been given their affiliate links, meaning any sign ups that occurred via the e-mail and/or directly via CBS.com would not carry any affiliate revenue. Because of that, Julie Chen’s tweet about live feeds resulted in several replies asking her and/or her followers to instead support their sites by signing up via their links.

Feeds cost $23.99 for the season, a discounted rate available until June 26. Jeff Schroeder’s ad for the feeds says they have footage that’s “way too hot for TV,” but as a small disclaimer on the site says and as any feed-watcher knows all too well, “the feeds may be edited, delayed and/or blacked out on occasion at CBS’ sole discretion.”

If you’re going to actually pay to spend all summer staring at strangers making questionable decision while locked in a smelly Los Angeles soundstage, you might as well sign up in a way that doesn’t cost you any more but sends a small percentage to your favorite Big Brother site.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.