Big Brother and the Product Life Cycle

A BBC news report headlined in 2002 with 'Has Big Brother had its day?' (BBC, 27th July 2002).However, 5 years later we are now witnessing the final of Big Brother 2007, with the usual hype and publicity.The programme makers have creatively developed the programme each year to offer new surprises and twists to keep people watching.However, are there as many of us now watching as in previous years?Are the makers running out of extension strategies for the programme?The row over alleged racism caused by the celebrity version of the show, with arguments between Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty may have tarnished the Big Brother brand (BBC, 24th May 2007).   However, some would argue this cash cow had already begun its decline as a result of previous criticisms of the Big Brother voting system.These criticisms led to promises by Channel 4 of no profits being made from voting in the current series (The Times, 30th May 2007).

When a business examines its portfolio of products, it must identify where in its life cycle each item is positioned.From this it can take steps to promote and extend the life cycle, or to withdraw the product offering from the market altogether.The Times newspaper suggests that Channel 4 has undertaken a review of programmes in light of a 'cash squeeze and the threat of privatization' (The Times, 25th August 2007).This has produced a shake-up of evening programming that has resulted in the ending of Celebrity Big Brother, You Are What You Eat, and Brat Camp.It is suggested that the ending of Celebrity Big Brother alone has left a shortfall of 29 hours of programming to fill just in January (BBC, 24th August 2007).

When withdrawing products from the marketplace, it is important to plan new product introductions to take their place.We will have to wait and see what new innovative programming Channel 4 will offer to generate improved viewing figures in 2008.To consider how a company might approach the development of new products, the Times 100 Nivea case study examines the process for developing new consumer products.

To understand the product life cycle in more detail, try looking at the Times 100 case study about how Kellogg identified and extended the life cycle of its All Bran products and at the current study from 3 on the product life cycle for 3G.


Has Big Brother had its day?- BBC News, 27 July 2002

Big Brother rapped over race row – BBC News, 24 May 2007

Channel 4 'will not profit' from Big Brother votes – TimesONLINE, 30 May 2007

Celebrity Big Brother 2008 axed – TimesONLINE, 25 August 2007

Celebrity Big Brother 2008 axed – BBC News, 24 August 2007

The Times 100 Case Study – Nivea, How market research supports the new product development process

The Times 100  – Kellogg's, Building a brand in order to sustain its life cycle

The Times 100  – 3, Market leadership in the 3G market

Suggested Study Questions:

  • What are the key stages of a product life cycle?
  • What is meant by a 'cash cow'?
  • Consider the current Saturday night programmes shown on one of the main TV channels.Identify where you consider each programme to be positioned in its product life cycle.
  • In light of the new product development undertaken at Nivea, how do you think Channel 4 might approach the development of new programmes?
  • What approaches did Kellogg use to extend the life cycle of its All Bran product range?