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The Sydney Morning Herald: national, world, business, entertainment, sport and technology news from Australia's leading newspaper.

Channel Ten evicts Big Brother

Pamela Anderson … created renewed interest in the show.

Pamela Anderson … created renewed interest in the show.
Photo: Getty Images

Michael Idato
July 14, 2008

BIG BROTHER, the controversial, youth-friendly reality TV franchise, has become a casualty of television's cruellest cut - at eight years old it is too old for the Ten Network.

Ten's chief programmer, David Mott, told the Herald the series, which has struggled with "audience erosion", and media criticism of its new hosts, Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O'Neil, would be the last because it was no longer able to surprise. "The audience know how it works, the housemates know how it works," he said.

This was despite a spike in ratings last week when the former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson was brought in as an intruder.

The show, which costs Ten about $25 million a year, will be put on the market by the production company Southern Star Endemol after it wraps up on July 21. Potential buyers include Seven and Nine, who are waging their bloodiest ratings war yet, or the pay TV operator Foxtel.

Southern Star's managing director, Rory Callaghan, described Big Brother as a "viable" franchise, particularly with free-to-air networks launching new channels next year. "As a format in a digital environment, it is one of the only ones which can deliver the amount of hours for a network."

Mr Mott said Ten's decision followed continuing analysis and rising concern with the falling ratings. "It's very hard to create a series, the production values are solid and the housemates are giving us content, but we're still seeing further [audience] erosion."

Mr Mott dismissed media criticism of Sandilands and O'Neil. "That's all quite subjective," he said, pointing out that the pair appear only in the Sunday eviction program, not in the weekday program or the weekly Big Mouth.

Of the three Big Brother program strands, Big Mouth, hosted by Tony Squires and Rebecca Wilson, is the weakest performer. Its audience slipped to the half-a-million mark, and Ten has already shifted it into a late-night timeslot.

Mr Mott said Ten's decision had not been made at any single point, saying "there are no set rules as to when it happened. There is a whole range of factors." But he did confirm Ten had been renewing the series annually for several years.

"Last year we signed a one-year deal, and got into the series with a lot of positive aspects in terms of wanting it to work. We put a lot of resources behind it, a lot of emotion behind it. We think it's now time to move on, and to create some new opportunities."

Mr Mott said Ten stood by its decision to replace Gretel Killeen after seven series. "Kyle and Jackie have done an outstanding job."

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