Nigerians are gassed up for the commencement of the sixth season of their favourite reality television show, Big Brother Naija.
The show requires several contestants from all over the country to live together in a house in a fancy social experiment-like fashion to gain the sentiment of viewers. The viewers' favourite then takes home the grand prize which includes a huge sum of money (N90 million this time around) alongside other gifts and benefits.
Over the years, there has been a lingering controversy that the reality show has been sponsoring moral decadence and idleness among Nigeria's ever-increasing young population. Some have taken the argument further to suggest that BBNaija has contributed to economic weakness by diminishing productivity among the youth.
The fact that several viewers often develop hard-to-comprehend loyalty towards certain housemates (referred to as "stanship") has also built a perception of non-rationality about the lovers of this reality show.
However, there is a largely overlooked upside for Africa's largest economy from this controversial reality show, sponsored by the deep commitment of viewers to the participants. Some of these advantages are explored in this article.
Fandom has taken a new dimension in this present age, as some people have transcended the status of fans, and have become "stans". These people show a heightened level of commitment to their favourite celebrity(ies) and even dedicate their energy towards promoting their beloved (in this case, housemates) as well as defending them against online trolls. One remarkable example is how fans of Erica Nlewedim, one of the former housemates, call themselves "elites" and represent their community with a star symbol. These stans in a bid to promote her have formed several communities including WhatsApp, Telegram, and even Facebook groups. This particular fanbase first proved its strength when they crowdfunded Erica after she was disqualified from the house, raising nearly 70 thousand dollars before it was closedq. A community capable of doing that for a total stranger is definitely not one to be overlooked.
While this culture has been labeled as toxic and mentally inferior by many, it has quietly morphed into a force to contend with in today's economy. This is because many of these communities have also given many young Nigerians the opportunity to network, and consequently improve their careers and even businesses.
This becomes even more remarkable when we see that many stans build sentiment towards one another when it comes to patronage, referrals, and even job offerings. Some have even created blogs dedicated to their favourite housemates, and have begun to rake in earnings. There are also cases of stans becoming sources of crowdfunding for members of their community who are in need of assistance.
By taking turns to sponsor prizes for the weekly tasks embarked upon by housemates, brands like Pepsi, Betway, Innoson, Indomie, among others, get to expand their visibility and become more talkable as their names are exposed to millions of viewers across Africa tuned in to watch the show daily.
The brands also benefit from the non-stop social media engagement guaranteed from being associated with the show, as their brands become well-mentioned hashtags during Big Brother conversations.
Another sweet spot is the way the show has directly helped grow several small and medium-sized enterprises. Every week while the show lasts, vendors and businesses are contracted to supply necessities such as food and branded wearables to the house.
The BBNaija platform also provides a ready market and publicity for many entrepreneurs, especially those in the fashion industry.
In many cases, the clothes, shoes, jewellery, etc. supplied to the housemates for their parties and special events become very popular on social media, with the vendors even running out of stock due to the surging demand from viewers. Some of these businesses even begin to get patronage and interest from other African countries.
Organising a show as large as Big Brother Naija definitely needs an entire village. This is evident in the hundreds of workers behind the scene as shown at the conclusion of the last season who didn't even make up the entire crew.
The show has obviously become an annual source of employment for many youths today, including media personnel, accountants, security guards, interior designers and so on as Multichoice reported during the last season that 90 percent of the crew were Nigerian.
Also, by onboarding several ancillary and freelance staff, organizers of the show have also opened the gateway for future economic opportunities because the crew members can now leverage the BBNaija experience to secure lucrative gigs or take part in productions on a similar scale.
More so, due to the high reputation of the show, everyone who partakes in the organization and airing of the show would naturally have strengthened negotiating positions in future gigs.
Despite the recycled controversies around moral uprightness, Big Brother Naija has proven itself to be more valuable than "just a show". Last year, the show was estimated to have independently brought in N2 billion to the Nigerian economy. Nigerians can still choose to become part of the value chain the show produces, while the new season is in its early days.