In some stunning news, Big Brother Canada has dropped its live feeds for its upcoming season 11, which starts next week.
Instead, its network, Global, is replacing its free live feeds with something it calls “Digital Dailies,” which it says will be “uncut content from inside the BBCAN house, offering viewers an extended peek into the houseguests’ lives.”
Do you know what that sounds like? The live feeds. Do you know what that is not? The live feeds.
That seems like a spectacular way to both alienate and anger a core group of Big Brother fans.
Corus Entertainment executive Lisa Godfrey tried to make sense of that in a press release quote that’s some tasty word salad:
“This new content offering came together after thoughtful consideration, with us taking a new approach to the BBCAN live feeds by offering an exclusive peek inside the house and moving away from the 24/7 live feeds. We are constantly looking for new ways to evolve the show to ensure we operate with the utmost duty of care and prioritize the mental health and well-being of the houseguests, and their family members, as well as our own production team who work closely on the series. We are happy to continue delivering the exclusive content we know audiences love, in a way that works best for our BBCAN family.”
I do appreciate the mention of “the mental health and well-being of the houseguests,” which implies that the live feeds create real problems for the houseguests once they leave, or their families while they’re on the show. Of course, what creates many of the problems are the things houseguests say and do, like when they do racism on CBS’s Big Brother.
That said, I do not believe that the “well-being” of the cast is the actual, primary reason they’re cutting them. I’d also bet that the “exclusive peek inside the house” will not be the “exclusive content we know audiences love.”
But I think the even more stunning news is that CBS’s Big Brother is probably not dropping its live feeds for BB25.
For me, as someone who’s interested in how reality TV is made and produced, the live feeds are the most-interesting part of Big Brother.
They are often more entertaining than the actual show and its formulaic episodes, and have captured everything from houseguest masturbation to a houseguest flirting with a producer.
There is no other reality show that gives us live access to raw footage used to craft prime-time episodes. (Other shows, like Fox’s Utopia and ABC’s The Glass House, have attempted versions of the live feeds, but neither show survived past one season.)
Feed watchers—and there’s a community of them, as Hamsterwatch’s Dingo wrote about here—not only know what’s going to happen on the episodes, such as the results of challenges and HOH or veto ceremonies, but they also have insight into how the show is edited.
They see the dramatic moments play out live, and see how much tedium and nothingness happens on a reality TV set.
Of course, the Big Brother live feeds aren’t exactly uncensored or unfiltered.
What CBS says is “the exclusive 24/7 live feed” is certainly no such thing. For starters, the live feeds only show a few camera angles selected by the producers. The
feeds are completely turned off for competitions, and do not show Diary Room conversations.
And of course, there’s the button in the control room someone presses to shut off the live feeds any time something problematic starts to happen—though that button is usually pressed too late to fully erase that moment from the Internet’s memory, revealing, say, horribly toxic behavior.
Executive producer Allison Grodner once told TV critics that the live feed watchers are “24/7 armchair producers, watching this live, 24/7” and said that, as a result, it’s “the least manipulated reality show out there.”
And Grodner later told me that “it’s no big conspiracy” why the live feeds are cut. But it sure does seem like they get cut right when the worst stuff starts to happen—moments that rarely make it onto the TV show.
The live feeds have revealed things such as:
- an avalanche of racism, sexism, and homophobia
- producers erasing a person from a scene
- producers covering up both gay slurs and a fan-favorite’s bigotry
- a producer’s racism
- unwanted genital touching
Those moments on the feeds have led to plenty of headlines and criticism from fans and cultural critics (hello!) alike.
Meanwhile, CBS executives have been repeatedly asked to defend events that became public knowledge because of the live feeds, though one former executive wasn’t bothered by it, curiously enough.
The live feeds are, of course, a source of revenue for Paramount Global, CBS’s parent company. Now that they’re part of Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access), they ideally help to not only get people to pay for three months, but keep subscribing when Big Brother is not on.
Anyway, that brings me to my surprise that CBS is apparently not going to follow Canada’s lead. Is the revenue and social media attention worth the headaches?
Do Paramount executives want the world to keep knowing what the cast is actually doing and saying, and how badly mangled actual events are when they end up edited into CBS episodes?
I’d have guessed not! Add in some precedent from a neighboring country and there’s a perfect excuse to pull the plug.
But apparently, the cost is worth the revenue and whatever else it brings to CBS.
EW’s Dalton Ross reported—and he’s usually a good source for insider CBS information—that “there are no plans to change the live feed offerings for viewers of the American Big Brother when the show returns for its landmark 25th season this summer.”
Host Julie Chen Moonves retweeted that, adding a GIF of Bianca Del Rio snapping, indicating that it was indeed accurate.
Normally, I’d say that most things Big Brother Canada does—like spending money on a spacious set instead of redecorating the same half-soundstage house every year—should be copied by CBS. After all, many fans prefer it to the US version.
But if CBS does indeed choose to keep the live feeds for Big Brother 25—even if it’s for strictly financial reasons, or out of fear that viewers will abandon the show if they cut off access to that steady drip of hamster life—they’ll be choosing to continue to show us at least a tiny glimpse of how reality TV is made. That’s valuable, educational, and sometimes just plain entertaining.
I certainly hope the live feeds never again capture bigotry or racism, violence or cover-ups, because I hope those things never happen.
But if they do, I’m also glad we’ll have whatever makes it out of the house on the Internet as evidence that will continue to hold people accountable for their words and actions—even people playing a silly summertime game.
Friday 3rd of March 2023
You didn’t mention that Global Television and BBCAN has never charged for the live feeds like CBS and BBUS does. The question of lost revenue by cancelling the feeds therefore doesn’t even come into play for BBCAN.
Friday 3rd of March 2023
When, or will the USA get to see Big Brother Canada S-10 & S-11? I have been watching S-1 thru 9 many times that I am tired. Canada is better than US (I hate to mention it). If you going review it then we should be able to watch them. Thank-you.
Wednesday 1st of March 2023
I don't have time to watch live feeds but I like catching up on sites like Hamsterwatch to see what I missed. What BBCan is doing totally misses the point of the game being called 'Big Brother' from George Orwell's 1984. I get the mental health stuff but HELLOOO... if you don't want to be seen don't go on the game. BBCan is a shell of it's original game when it first began. It was so well done and great to watch. I'm not sure if I will watch it anymore if the producers are spoon feeding what they want us to see.