Debut Season of 'Big Brother China' Begins India

Chinese Big Brother Mumbai House - H

Although production is taking place on a set on the outskirts of Mumbai, viewers will never know that the all-Chinese show wasn't made in Shanghai or Beijing.

The first Chinese version of global hit reality format Big Brother has begun production — on a set in a former industrial factory outside Mumbai, India.

But Chinese viewers will never guess that Big Brother China wasn't produced at home. The full cast has been flown in from China, and the show won't betray a single hint of its Indian setting. 

The decision to shoot abroad was “driven by the available experience and existing infrastructure [of Endemol India],” says Ryan Cheung, a managing director at Chinese video giant Youku Tudou, which is producing the show in partnership with Endemol Shine China. Endemol has brought in a veteran team to produce the format's high-stakes debut for the China market, including executive producer Rebecca De Young, who has been a producer on the U.K. version for over a decade, and a crew of 400 from the Indian version of Big Brother, which has run for eight seasons.

In a first for the format, Big Brother China will be shown exclusively online by Youku Tudou. The company says its video services receive over 580 million unique visitors every month, an audience that is “bigger than some Chinese broadcasters," according to Cheung. "Moreover, China's youth are moving away from television to online content,” he adds.

Compared with television and film, the online space in China also “offers a slightly easier working environment” in terms of state regulatory controls, Cheung says. Considering Big Brother is known for pushing the envelope wherever it has been adapted, it remains to be seen how far the Chinese version can test the waters. But its creators say they will self-censor the show by cutting out abusive language, unruly behavior and anything considered politically sensitive.

Viewer interaction online will also be a plus. “We plan to introduce various interactive elements allowing viewers to share their choice for the final winner,” said Endemol Shine China managing director William Tan.
The show's Chinese title will mean “Housemates, Let's Stay Together.” Like all regional adaptations of the format, the show will also feature contestants being challenged with tasks and voting each other out. The young Chinese contestants, whose identities have not been revealed publicly, are a mix of five men and five women from diverse backgrounds, including a female singer and a "macho muscle man." The group was selected to showcase “China's millennial culture,” according to Youku Tudou senior director Amy Shundong Xu.
It is not yet clear if the Big Brother China project, the first major TV collaboration between the world's two most populous countries, can qualify and derive any benefits from the film and television coproduction treaty signed by the countries last year.