In 2003, regional pay-television service providers MultiChoice Africa premiered the first edition of a reality television show Big Brother Africa.
The show had 12 housemates from 12 different countries. For a period of 106 days, the housemates played their game before viewers from 42 African countries.
Malawi was among the 12 countries which representated in this maiden reality television show. The other participants were from Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, among others.
The show, which was won by Zambian Cherise Makubale, became an instant hit among viewers across the continent. It was, therefore, only prudent to have a follow up season. The demand and excitement that the show had created was just huge.
Therefore, season 2 came. The popularity of the reality show remained impressive. And seven other seasons followed though the format kept evolving probably in trying to keep the show likeable, new and fresh.
As the seasons flowed, so were the stars which emerged from the spotlight that the reality show brought on their lives. Some used the platform and popularity to good use. To date, we still have individuals who use the prominence they gained to good use.
From Malawi we had Zein Dudha, Code Sangala, Masuzgo Msiska, Hazel Warren, Sipe Chitambo, Natasha Tonthola, Mzamose Chibambo, Fatima Nkata, Tendai Namate a.k.a Lomwe, Nafe and Wati Kulemeka.
The producers made efforts to keep the show refreshed by tweaking its outlook here and there. In the subsequent seasons we saw other countries sending two personalities going into the Big Brother house.
The changes were even reflected in the naming of the seasons. We had Big Brother Africa Revolution, All Stars, Amplified, Star Game, The Chase and finally Hot-Shots in what was to be the final season.
As creative producers, Endemol tried to keep the show attractive. Eventually, the thrill waned. It remained a popular show yes but not to the level that it started with.
A decision was, therefore, made to rest the show in 2012. Big Brother Hot-Shots proved to be the curtain call for the show that audiences across Africa had loved for the nine years it spanned. No official communication as regards the future of the show was made. Everyone was left guessing. That has been the situation till now.
On the screen, the continental show has been replaced with Big Brother Nigeria. People love it, people follow it and people watch it but certainly not to the level that Big Brother Africa reached.
Last week, MultiChoice Africa hosted media professionals from the 10 African countries to a showcase event in Sandton, South Africa. The participants were taken through the content package that the television service providers have planned for the coming year, 2020.
An insightful session it was. Fun and exciting too. Meeting the personalities that are behind some of the loved MultiChoice platforms was as good as it got. Learning from them what drives their development content needs was an eye opener.
During the interactive session, a question arose as whether the Big Brother Africa show will ever find its way on the television screens again. There was no one more capable to take the question than MultiChoice Africa chief executive officer of General Entertainment Yolisa Phahle.
“Every year we look at what kind of content that is going to make customers and consumers very happy and build the business and the industry. At this point in time we do not have a plan for Big Brother Africa. It is never say never but it is not something we are looking forward to,” she said.
In her cool and calm nature, Phahle left it there in as far as the coming back of Big Brother Africa is concerned. For the many fans who ardently loved and followed the show, the comeback may not be near and may never happen. Just enjoy the memories of those nine seasons.