CBS floods the zone with ‘Big Brother’ rollout across platforms

CBS has many more ways of delivering "Big Brother" than it did when the show first premiered in 2000. Image: CBS

CBS is revving up the multiplatform engines for next week’s return of reality mainstay "Big Brother," planning a flood of content across broadcast, cable and digital venues.

When the show first premiered, in 2000, it had only the flagship broadcast network as a base. Now, the 87 HD cameras and 100 microphones in the Big Brother house will be exploited in multiple arenas. Based on a format from Endemol Shine, the show is a juggernaut internationally, with the U.K.’s Channel Five reupping it in 2015 for a tidy nine-figure sum.

Despite an overall slump in reality ratings across the dial, certain mainstays continue to crank away, especially for broadcast networks. Some long-runners, like "Shark Tank" on ABC, have even seen ratings gradually grow over the course of a long run, defying the usual network gravity.

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Bets on reality have big consequences for broadcasters. They are important weapons in the fight to prove to advertisers that traditional linear TV has certain must-see components that give it an edge over streaming services or other cord-cutting enticements. CBS, the longtime No. 1 network in terms of total viewers, this week has reportedly posted single-digit gains in its upfront ad sales compared with 2016.

Big Brother’s 19th season will debut on the CBS broadcast network over two nights, Wednesday and Thursday, June 28 and 29. After the two-night premiere, Big Brother will air Sundays beginning July 2 (at 8 p.m.), Wednesdays beginning July 5 (also at 8) and Thursdays beginning July 6 (at 9 p.m.).

Pop, the cable network jointly operated with Lionsgate, will offer the exclusive TV broadcast of "Big Brother After Dark." The nightly two-hour show, airing in the wee-hours slot of 1 a.m., will run seven nights a week for 12 weeks.

Then there is digital streaming service CBS All Access, which was but a gleam in Les Moonves’ eye when Big Brother first aired in the summer of 2000. The $5.99 monthly service will feature every episode from every season of the show, which debuted after CBS’ Survivor proved the commercial viability of reality TV. For the third year, All Access will also present “Live Feeds,” extra coverage of the goings-on inside the Big Brother house, including interviews with the guests who get evicted.

Last fall, as part of a push for “original” series, All Access premiered a spinoff version called "Big Brother: Over the Top," which ran for 10 episodes.

For those without a subscription to CBS All Access, catalog episodes will be available on demand on CBS.com and the network’s mobile app.

CBS has renewed Big Brother through 2018. News personality Julie Chen, who is married to Moonves, is the show’s longtime host.

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