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And the winner is Big Brother

And the winner is Big Brother

The latest series of Big Brother is a big hit on the net, reports Guardian Unlimited.

Last year interest in the reality show dropped by half after the first week, but this time the programme's appeal is increasing, according to research company Hitwise.

Only BBCi's weather centre was ahead of Big Brother in Hitwise's top 100 for the week ending June 5.

Hitwise's general manager Simon Chamberlain attributes the website’s new found success to the fact that many more people have the Internet - and particularly broadband - in their homes than they did 12 months ago.

Then there is the small matter of the housemates, who are more interesting than they were last year.

There has been a lot of talk about titillation this time around. Much of the coverage in the run up to the start of the series was about sex and whether there would be any on screen, but gone are the days of free 24-hour web cams, this time around anyone left wondering will have to pay to find out.

For the first time, the Big Brother website is carrying extra content exclusive to the Internet. Viewers are given the option of paying to receive behind-the-scenes documentaries and extended footage, which will be released at the rate of one a week.

If it has been good for Endemol then it is also good for Channel 4. "We're averaging around 4m page impressions a day," says Andy Grumbridge, managing editor of interactive at the channel. And the rest of benefits.

"It extends our reach, so if you've got the pure Big Brother fan coming in they’re very likely to click on 4Entertainment or 4Dating, for example."

It is, of course, no coincidence that these microsites address the same demographic as Big Brother. "One of the things we're very pleased about is that this year more than any other year we've got a host of relevant items on the site - 4Car, 4Homes are all being cross-promoted from Big Brother. Every year we've seen a rise in traffic to post-Big Brother, and it never quite goes back down to where it was before."

This was even true last year, when the Big Brother website lost half its viewers during the first week.

According to Hitwise's figures, this year the website is more than holding its own. It is 54 per cent bigger than the previous year.

Peter Cowley, head of interactivity at Big Brother's producer Endemol says there's more money to be made out of internet sites built around TV programmes: "There's been a huge uptake of broadband and a lot of broadband ISPs and their customers are looking for good, rich content to illustrate what broadband can do."

Sources: Guardian Unlimited

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