THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Saturday, December 31, 2016

SHOCKER. Chinese news channel CCTV on MultiChoice's DStv and ODM's StarSat suddenly switches to CGTN without warning.


CCTV, the Chinese  Central Television News channel carried on MultiChoice's DStv and On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes Media South Africa's StarSat pay-TV platforms has suddenly switched to CGTN - without any warning or any announcement.

"CGTN" stands for China Global Television Network.

Neither MultiChoice nor StarTimes seems to be aware of the abrupt change - the electronic programme guides (EPGs) of both African pay-TV services still call channel 409 on DStv and channel 266 on StarSat CCTV - and both continue to show and carry programming information for CCTV - not CGTN.

The embarrassing CGTN switch is off to a very bad start: CCTV - China's state broadcaster couldn't bother to issue any press release or notification to the media ahead of the "rebrand" of its international TV news service - and neither did MultiChoice or StarSat who don't seem to know about it at all.

CGTN didn't immediately respond to media enquiries on Saturday about the abrupt change.

According to the new CGTN website  it was "launched by the national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on 31 December 2016" [today], calling CGTN English its "flagship channel".

With its "CGTN English" moniker for its English language channel feed as well as adding words like CGTN French and CGTN Arabic for its other channel versions, CGTN seems to follow the naming convention of the Qatar-based TV news channel Al Jazeera.


According to an Associated Press (AP) report published in the South China Morning Post, China's president Xi Jinping on Saturday congratulated CCTV with the launch of CGTN, urging it to "tell China's story well, spread China's voice well, let the world know about a three-dimensional, colourful China, and showcase China's role as a builder of world peace".

CCTV/CGTN and China isn't calling the switch of CCTV News to CGTN a relaunch, replacement or a rebrand - its running a story with Xi Jinping who "congratulating the founding of CGTN".

In a badly reported on-air story, more fluff marketing piece than actual news, CGTN says "CGTN is much more than just a bit of rebranding", saying it "wants to provide the world with a fresh alternative".

CCTV News on-screen on DStv and StarSat suddenly carried the letters "CGTN" and its African coverage is sub-branded as "CGTN Africa".


The red from the CCTV News logo and on-screen look is completely gone, with CGTN now sporting gold and blue colours and new news intro's.

Part of the completely uprooted and replaced channel is a flurry of new programmes and programming strands and a new horseshoe anchor's desk.


CGTN also has a new slogan - it is suddenly: "See the Difference".

The CCTV Documentary English channel on StarSat channel 231 has been changed to CGTN Documentary.

CCTV and CGTN says it wants to deliver a new news perspective - but it already started off very badly, clearly not knowing how and not bothering to actually do better and improve its marketing and PR efforts.

The jarring "founding" of CGTN is a trash way of going about suddenly replacing one brand and look with a whole new one without bothering to tell the media about it.

Besides the cosmetic change, CGTN that had one chance to communicate its ... change ... couldn't be bothered to tell or report what else is actually changing - in perhaps its journalism.

A logo, name and branding change doesn't change the fundamental product - in this case a news product - in any real way.

Does CGTN have new content besides merely changing names of shows? Is it opening new global news bureaux, or hiring more journalists and reporters?

A "rebrand" doesn't help if what inside the wrapper is still exactly the same - which is what CCTV News did. With gold substituted for red, its seems to be still the same news.

Why change if you don't fundamentally come with a new product service offering? It will be interesting to watch CGTN in 2017 and beyond, especially its coverage of Africa, to see how the news channel and service perhaps improves it coverage.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Helga Palmer appointed as managing director at Endemol Shine Africa, replacing Sivan Pillay.

Helga Palmer has been appointed as managing director at Endemol Shine Africa in South Africa.

Helga Palmer's appointment at the production company comes three month's after the abrupt departure of Sivan Pillay as Endemol Shine Africa CEO Sivan Pillay who had been the managing director.

in South Africa Endemol Shine Africa produces shows like Clash of the Choirs for M-Net's Mzansi Magic and the troubled weekday soap Isidingo for SABC3.

"We are very pleased with Helga's appointment," says Moeletsi Mbeki, executive chairperson in a statement about Helga Palmer's promotion.

"She is a highly skilled professional who has a long and proven track record within the television industry. Her experience in business affairs and entertainment production places Endemol Shine Africa under strong leadership and paves the way for further growth."

Helga Palmer worked at Endemol South Africa before she became a commissioning editor at M-Net in 2003. She returned to Endemol SA in 2011.

In a statement Helga Palmer says "I'm honoured to be leading Endemol Shine Africa and the outstanding team here".

"We have ambitious goals for 2017 and I believe we are ideally positioned to further build on the company's track record of serving the market with a diversity of world-class content across scripted and unscripted genres."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

BREAKING. eNCA abruptly cancels Meet the Media with Eusebius McKaiser without any explanation; says 'the show has served its purpose'.


It cannot be that it happened because he dared to wear a doek, but eNCA (DStv 403) has abruptly decided to cancel its well-received new local weekly media review show, Meet the Media with Eusebius McKaiser - without any explanation as to why, saying "the show has served its purpose".

The Sunday morning, Hyde Park studio set media overview show that started a few months ago has abruptly been dumped by eNCA where Anton Harber is editor-in-chief, in a move seen as further denting the news channel's already horrific track-record with culling what's left of its current affairs programming slate.

In a terse statement about the abrupt cancellation of Meet the Media, eNCA simply says the show has "ended its current season on eNCA. In the new year, eNCA will be exploring new concepts for their programming to align with 2017's political calendar. eNCA looks forward to working with Eusebius on new projects in 2017".

eNCA was asked why it decided to cancel Meet the Media and why eNCA conceptualised and put a show on the air for just a few months if it didn't believe in the show.

"As indicated in the release we are conceptualising new ideas for the channel in 2017 and these will be announced before the end of February," says Mapi Mhlangu, eNCA news director in response to a media enquiry from TVwithThinus.

"We feel the show has served its purpose for the period intended. We feel there is a better way to use Eusebius' skills on our channel in the future".

Meet the Media was birthed during an extremely difficult year for electronic news gathering in South Africa that saw censorship from the SABC's TV news division, public broadcasting TV journalists who got crucified for trying to do their jobs, as well as the most journalists being fired in one year collectively at ANN7 (DStv 405), SABC News and eNCA - with internal controversy inside their newsrooms and several public protests in 2016 at the doors of each of the news outlets.

In just a few months Meet the Media brought a new and soothing panacea to a battered South African journalism community - a place where reflection and introspection about local media and journalism issues could breathe.

While Media Monitor on Sundays with Alicia Jali on SABC News (DStv 404) blatantly ignores certain hot potato media issues it doesn't want to highlight or discuss and while the controversial SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng in 2016 banned the showing and discussion of newspapers and even the mentioning of newspaper headlines and stories on SABC television and radio, Meet the Media weekly rejoiced, celebrated and showed not just newspaper front pages but the varied journalists and editors behind it.

Besides talking about the week's big news and South African newspaper stories, looking at news biases and journalism challenges within the South African press and media sphere, Eusebius McKaiser and Meet the Media made an authentic and deeply meaningful effort to do weekly, focused media discussions.

These ran the gamut from things like LGBT and faith issues, to political journalism, consumer and economics journalism, sport journalism, talk radio, newsroom juniorisation, lack of news gathering resources and the challenges faced by community journalism.

Talking to real electronic and print journalists and giving them face and airtime - from the biggest outlets and publications to the smallest community radio stations - Eusebius McKaiser and Meet the Media highlighted various aspects, the different types of journalism and bringing attention to some of the crucial issues the ordinary public consuming news and media are not aware of.

Not in years on South African television, until Meet the Media did it a few months ago, did viewers see something like an on-air discussion on how journalists covering cases of sexual violence feel themselves, cope, and handle the ethical issues around their reporting.

Meet the Media was quickly as agenda-setting in its nature and turned into can't-miss viewing for media types as it was reflective of exactly how the interconnected cogs of the local media sphere turn.

It's Meet the Media - not Carte Blanche - where the SABC's acting CEO Jimi Matthews who had just quit made his very first - and dramatic - on-air TV appearance.

It's Meet the Media where South African viewers got a glimpse of how truly diverse the country's press and journalism corps is despite the many challenges that still exists regarding transformation and race issues.

On a weekly basis, media glitterati from Ferial Haffajee and John Perlman to Stephen Grootes, Mandy Wiener and Wendy Knowler shared the Meet the Media stage with a full spectrum media coterie that ranged from Muslim women, gay men and TV producers to white legacy newspaper editors and black female talk radio hosts - all unified in trying to tell the ever-unfolding South African story.  

Not since the 1990's well-respected Between the Lines on the SABC that was eventually cancelled has South African television truly had an unvarnished and uncensored media navel-gazing show like Meet the Media - one that eNCA abruptly cancelled because "the show has served its purpose".

Together with Carte Blanche on M-Net and the newly added Reliable Sources on CNN International (DStv 401) this year, Meet the Media helped to transform Sunday television into the most meta-media day of the week, now only leaving the more advertising and marketing centric Maggs on Media on eNCA on Sundays.

While it's clear that there wasn't editorial interference into the actual content and discussions taking place inside the weekly half hour of Meet the Media, it's quite possible that Anton Harber, eNCA editors and top executives were rankled to differing degree - if they were watching - by some of the criticism levelled against eNCA itself in a few episodes.

The criticism however ironically served to only strengthen viewer perception about the credibility of Meet the Media to really get to grips with real media issues.

Some episodes of Meet the Media didn't single out eNCA specifically, but did include criticism of the eMedia Investments news channel - although the criticism came more in a way of searching for answers about the "why" of it and by example, looking for solutions.

Instances of where eNCA came in for criticism on eNCA itself through Meet the Media the past few months included it's lack of comprehensive coverage during the tertiary #FeesMustFall protests and its lack of aptly places field journalists outside major cities, juniorisation of the newsroom, how commercial broadcasting issues affect editorial decisions, as well as eNCA's shoddy use of off-the-mark Ipsos polling in the run-up to the municipal elections that created wrong perceptions with dubious research methodology that were not disclosed to viewers.

In the same vein Meet the Media also unintentionally served as a media showcase for things like eNCA's newsroom diversity, with its now last episode including Matuba Mahlatjie as a panelist who is a black male gay sangoma working inside the eNCA newsroom.

Game of Thrones on M-Net again tops the list for most pirated and illegally downloaded show in 2016; robot drama Westworld joins the list.


The hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones is once again topping the list of the most illegally downloaded show, taking the number one place on the top 10 list for 2016 TV shows downloaded and shared as illegally pirated torrents.

For the fifth year in a row Game of Thrones, broadcast in South Africa and across Africa on M-Net Edge (DStv 102), took the crown.

As broadband penetration, speed and cheaper internet access keep growing, more and more people are also downloading better and higher resolution pirated versions, moving from 480p episodes to 720p and 1080p to watch episodes in high definition (HD).

According to TorrentFreak that compiles the annual list, illegal downloads are growing worldwide, although the numbers don't account for the exploding trend of streaming.

"A lot of people have made the switch from torrents to streaming sites over the past months, which likely had an impact on the numbers," says TorrentFreak.

Yet, despite the increase in streaming, the torrenting of pirated copies remains steady, with about 350 000 illegal torrents per episode of Game of Thrones that took place in 2016 - the same as in 2015.

In South Africa, TV viewers now have access to Naspers' ShowMax, Netflix, PCCW Global's ONTAPtv.com, the LGBT streamer Pride TV, MTN's VU and since last month also Amazon's Amazon Video Prime as legitimate subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming services.

Interestingly, out of the top 10 list of most pirated and most sought after TV shows, M-Net holds the broadcasting rights to 8, with 9 of the shows available on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform on the M-Net (DStv 101), M-Net Edge (DStv 102) and VUZU AMP (DStv 103) channels.

Only the zombie drama The Walking Dead on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131) from the FOX Networks Group Africa channel is a show available on a TV channel other than one of the M-Net linear TV channels, and Jeremy Clarkson's The Grand Tour car show that just started is the only one making the top 10 list from a legitimate SVOD streaming service.

While Game of Thrones from HBO retains its title for half a decade now as the most desired TV show in the world, 2016 brought a newcomer that instantly jumped to third place - the HBO science fiction robot drama Westworld that like Game of Thrones was also an "Express from the US" title from M-Net.

The superhero shows The Flash and Arrow come in at the fourth and fifth spots, with The Big Bang Theory that is quickly losing steam and dropped from third to sixth place.

"The new show quickly gained popularity in pirate circles and is in third spot already, which is quite an achievement," says TorrentFreak that crunched the numbers using BitTorrent trackers.

TorrentFreak also rubbished the British tabloid reporting that recently claimed that The Grand Tour has become "the most illegally downloaded show in history" with the first episode allegedly downloaded 7.9 million times.

"It is nonsense," says TorrentFreak. "First of all, it would be virtually impossible for any new show to be the most downloaded ever if it's up against those that have been available for years."

"But, let's assume that we're talking about downloads on a weekly basis. Even then, the signs are pretty bad. Looking at the most recent list of most pirated TV-shows on The Pirate Bay shows that several other shows currently outrank The Grand Tour by a wide margin, The Walking Dead in particular."

Rank 2015 Show
1        1       Game of Thrones
2        2       The Walking Dead
3                 Westworld
4        5       The Flash
5        4       Arrow
6        3       The Big Bang Theory
7        7       Vikings
8                 Lucifer
9        10     Suits
10               The Grand Tour

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rest in Peace Friedrich Stark: South Africa's TV industry truly lost an 'Aaron Spelling'; super producer's legacy will live on through Stark Films and studios.


To call Friedrich Stark - the South African super producer who unexpectedly passed away on Christmas Day at 62 - in a sense the "Aaron Spelling" of South Africa's TV industry would be an apt description.

Like the "wizard" in The Wizard of Oz, South African viewers have been dazzled for decades by the ongoing spectacle, hard work and ingenuity of some of his biggest creations, not realising that he is actually the man behind the curtain.

ALSO READ: Shock at unexpected death of SA super producer Friedrich Stark (62).

Although truly a "super producer" by South African TV standards - he's been the co-producer of Generations on SABC1 for decades that ranks as the second-most watched show on South African television, the producer of Binnelanders on kykNET for over a decade and the owner of production company Stark Films and the state-of-the-art Stark Studios - Friedrich Stark has also been one of the most unassuming and unpretentious people you've ever met.

Friedrich Stark didn't just make television - he was truly in love with it.

Together with his wife Elsje Stark they threw themselves unabashedly into their work of making television - good television - as independent producers, advancing and moving South Africa's growing TV industry forward through literally building it from the ground up brick by brick.

I was there when they launched their new soap Binnelanders on kykNET (DStv 144) in 2005. I remember how Friedrich Stark told me Afrikaans viewers deserve better daily scripted television and that the team will try and up the ante when it comes to weekday soaps that often become run-of-the-mill TV sausage making factories blindly churning out empty bubblegum content.

More than a decade later Binnelanders is still going strong.

I was there when Friedrich and Elsje Stark flung open the door of their brand-new and expansive Stark Studios in Fontainebleau in Johannesburg in 2010 that they designed, created and built through a lot of blood, sweat and tears. (The building's front face is used and can actually be seen as the scene-setting shot of the Binneland Clinic's fake facade.)

During the opening night Friedrich and Elsje divided people into two groups in did simultaneous tours of their new studio complex.

I went with Friedrich and was struck by how his pride, passion, intimate know-how and real love for his work, his work space, and for television beamed through everything he showed and explained in the finest detail.


Greater producer independence
I was there when Friedrich and Elsje Stark launched their new Afrikaans sitcom Parys, Parys in the Free State town of Parys. They again upped the ante. The Starks independently produced Parys, Parys and got it sold to first kykNET; then to SABC2.

You might not know it or understand why, but it was and is a very big deal.

We want to help and try and change to model of how TV is made in South Africa, said Friedrich, explaining it to me more than once, and so passionately.

He said that there should be more space - and that there should be more independence and freedom for South African TV producers - than just the "master and slave" existence where productions companies just make the shows that TV channels commission.

One of his big missions in his TV-making life was to show and prove that TV production companies in South Africa can come with their own ideas for shows, create quality local content free from commissioning editors' interference and narrow channel requirement constraints, and then not just be able to sell that content, but to retain the intellectual property rights.

In that way, production companies, actors and crew could continue to earn more than the pittance of residuals doled out by broadcasters when you as the production company - instead of the broadcaster - actually own the show.

That same model was followed for the drama series Vlug Na Egipte that was helmed by their one son Human Stark as director, with the show that was eventually picked up by kykNET that didn't originally commission it.


Grace under Generations fire
Probably the darkest and most difficult period in Friedrich Stark's producer career came in mid-2014 when the principal cast of Generations went on strike, with the 16 actors who were eventually all fired.

Friedrich Stark, Mfundi Vundla and MMSV Productions were caught in the middle.

Their client and therefore primary responsibility was to the SABC, but it was also the SABC who raised and created the unrealistic expectations that led to the actors' revolt, and during the labour stand-off the SABC also gave little actual support to the producers caught squarely in the scandalous TV production quagmire.

Caught in a double-bind situation of helplessness not of their making, the production impasse privately took a huge emotional and physical toll on Friedrich and Elsje Stark who didn't publicly talk about it or about the personal impact on their lives despite a barrage of bad press. It was true grace under fire.

When you're truly in love with making television, it's extremely difficult being forced to sit back and watch your creation being hijacked and destroyed, while you have to remain quiet.

The same happened a few years earlier when the SABC literally came to the brink of financial collapse in 2009 and owed South African production companies - the Starks included - hundreds of millions of rand collectively in outstanding payments.

Yet, while several production companies went under, the Starks persevered in one of the most difficult, under-appreciated and unpredictable businesses in the country: making television.


Generous, people-focused producer
As a journalist it's often very difficult - especially in the fake-make world of television - to get an accurate read on someone where glitter is constantly made to pass for gold. Yet Friedrich Stark was, and really remained, one of those gracious, friendly, really polite and generous people-focused producers in a world filled with a lot of false pretense.

Despite several knocks and setbacks over several years - anything from problem-actors who can't continue and must be let go, to sudden budget cuts and ongoing production challenges that can make even the most pleasant producer hardened, cynical and jaded over time - Friedrich Stark never lost his authentic openness and "niceness", nor his true passion for television that he shared with his wife.

Their world didn't revolve around them, but around the people who entered their TV orbit.

They would help, support and retain actors with personal problems directly affecting day-to-day production and production schedules long after others would have given up.

Friedrich Stark who started out as an actor in film and television and became a producer, not only built the local South African TV industry through his ongoing wealth of knowledge sharing but by creating new and better TV content, lifting TV production standards, expanding production capacity and relentlessly fighting for independent producers' rights.

This "Aaron Spelling" could have chosen to close himself off, enjoy the fruits of his labour and to bask in his own success. He kept doing the opposite.

He made time for people. He stayed hands-on and involved in the smallest nitty-gritty tasks actually the responsibility of a junior producer. He's the type of person who would come sit next to you and slowly drink a glass of red wine although there would be more important people in the room.

South African lost an "Aaron Spelling" on Christmas Day in Cape Town when Friedrich Stark simply didn't wake up again. But the legacy he leaves for South Africa's TV industry - and Stark Films - will live on.

Shock at unexpected death of SA soap super producer Friedrich Stark (62) and Binnelanders writer Elsabé Roux.


Shock is reverberating through South Africa's TV industry following the unexpected death of Binnelanders and Generations producer and director Friedrich Stark and the Binnelanders plot outline writer Elsabé Roux.

The cause of death of neither is known and has not been released yet.

ALSO READ: An appreciation: Rest in Peace Friedrich Stark: South Africa's TV industry truly lost an 'Aaron Spelling'.

Friedrich Stark was 62 and passed away in Cape Town in Christmas Day. The couple has three adult sons, Human Stark (33), Ulrich Stark (29) and FW Stark (24). His sister Helena Stark died in August 1983 and was a production secretary who also worked for the SABC.

Friedrich Stark who was married to Elsje Stark were the courageous South African super producer couple behind Stark Films that Friedrich Stark started in 1985 when he left the SABC a  few years after he was appointed as the SABC's head of actuality programming.

He produced Generations on SABC1 in partnership with MMSV Productions and Binnelanders for kykNET since 2005.

They built and designed their state-of-the-art Stark Studios complex that opened in Fountainbleau, Johannesburg in 2010 where not just the Binnelanders sets are housed and the weekday Afrikaans soap is being filmed, but also several of kykNET's former and ongoing actuality and current affairs shows.

Friedrich Stark who started out as an actor had roles in Afrikaans films like Die Voortrekkers (1973), Môre, Môre (1973), Dingetjie is Dynamite (1975), Kiepie en Kandas (1981) and the TV series Net ’n Bietjie Liefde (1977) when television started in South Africa, in a career that spanned decades.

Friedrich Stark was an executive producer on the Afrikaans sitcom Parys, Parys that was broadcast on kykNET and SABC2, and his Stark Films is the name behind several other series like Vlug na Egipte and Terug na Egipte.

Karen Meiring, M-Net director of Afrikaans channels, in a statement called Friedrich Stark "a pioneer in the TV industry". "He was always warm, friendly and generous in sharing his knowledge and experience. It was a privilege to have had him as part of the kykNET channels".

On the Binnelanders website, Mitzi Booysen, head writer and co-producer of Binnelanders said "Friedrick was charming, friendly,funny, generous and very clever".

"When it was necessary, he'd let me laugh at myself and as a person you were always fully aware of his appreciation and support. I'm sure that everyone part of the extended Stark family are in shock about his untimely passing. I know that I'm going to miss him very much, not just as a colleague, but as a friend. RIP, Friedrich".

On the Binnelanders website Frans Kalp, a friend and co-writer said about Elsabé Roux that she was a talented scriptwriter who started her career at the M-Net soap  Egoli, and then moved on to write for Villa Rosa, Binnelanders and Generations. "Elsabé will always be in our hearts and will remain beloved by us".

The SABC didn't release any statement.


Elsje Stark told Eyewitnessnews (EWN) that everybody is in shock following the unexpected death of her husband on Sunday.

Generations in a statement says "Friedrich was an industry pioneer and active leader in the local television production industry and played a prominent role in the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO). He will be remembered for his entrepreneurship, vision and ability to inspire and lead".

On Twitter actress and producer Connie Ferguson said "So, so sad. Praying for strength for the Starks, friends and colleagues."

Actress and radio presenter Phemelo Motene said "he insisted I join the cast of Generations when I had no idea I could act".

Doreen Morris said "shocked to learn of the passing of Friedrich Stark, legend of film & TV. Condolences Elsje, Human, family & friends".

Veteran actress Florence Masebe said "Friedrich Stark had a huge impact on my career as a young actor. I'm finding it hard to process his loss. Condolences to the Stark family".

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Janez Vermeiren and Siv Ngesi co-presenting new M-Net travel show, Wingin' It, from 29 January; produced by Cheeky Media.


Janez Vermeiren and Siv Ngesi will co-present a new locally-made travel show, Wingin' It, produced by Vermeiren's production company Cheeky Media for M-Net, in which the two who are friends in real life, jet-set across the world to exotic locations without a pre-planned itinerary.

Wingin' It will start on M-Net (DStv 101) on Sunday 29 January at 17:00, spending 48 hours in places ranging from Baku, Ho Chi Minh City, Bogota, La Paz and Kathmandu to lesser-seen sides of Istanbul, Bangkok, Tokyo, Mexico City, Havana and Reunion Island.

I'm told there's 12 30-minute episodes of Wingin' It, with Janez Vermeiren and Siv Ngesi travelling together and both appearing in each episode.

As one of the most well-travelled South African TV presenters of the past decade, Janez Vermeiren, together with Siv Ngesi, have been visiting some far-flung international destinations the past few weeks - especially Asia and Southeast Asia - the social media snaps of which some media over the past month interpreted as the two being on vacation.

It's the first TV production from Janez Vermeiren's Cheeky Media for M-Net, and will be the first time that the double-dipper producer and presenter will be fronting as an M-Net face after he's been known to SABC audiences for years.

After leaving SABC3's Top Billing two and a half years ago in mid-2014 after he also co-presented three seasons of the spin-off travel show, Top Travel, Janez Vermeiren produced and appeared in the Edgars advertiser-funded production (AFP) She’s the One reality show for e.tv.

That was followed by a flurry of shows that Cheeky Media - co-owned by Janez Vermeiren and Yusuf Stevens - did for SABC3 that included five seasons of The Man Cave that Janez Vermeiren co-presented with Siv Ngesi and Lunga Shabalala, and the ongoing weekday afternoon talker Real Talk with Anele Mdoda.

As part of its now depleted budget to up its local content ratio to 80% on SABC3, the SABC this year also commissioned Cheeky Media to do the local travel show Biting About with Dene Botha and Bridget Pike, the Johannesburg restaurants review show Biting About that Janez Vermeiren co-presented with Amanda du-Pont, and Jou Ma se Chef presented by Siv Ngesi.

Siv Ngesi who had previously appeared on M-Net's 2010 local soccer drama League of Glory, and Mzansi Magic's S.I.E.S, became very good friends with Janez Vermeiren during the production of Man Cave over the past two years.

M-Net describes Wingin' It as "a fast-paced plunge into the world's most fascinating and eclectic destinations seen through the eyes of two diverse and intrisically competitive best buddies".

"These heartthrobs certainly don't visit the world's run-of-the-mill travel brochure type of hot spots and tourist attractions," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.

"They land in cities you might never have thought of exploring, or even heard of, but which may just, after you've seen their mischievous adventures, end up on your bucket list. It's a great fun-filled show that will put a smile on your face - and awaken the explorer in you".

Other January local programming highlights on M-Net include the start of the second season of Sarah Graham's Food Safari on Monday 9 January at 18:00, and the second season of The Voice South Africa starting on Sunday 29 January at 17:30.

The 101 starting on Sunday 29 January at 16:30 will be a new weekly "TV guide show" to help viewers find new programmes and be informed about schedule changes across M-Net's channels on DStv.

The avalanche of new TV scripted TV series reaches new record in 2016; will continue to grow in 2017 as viewers struggle to keep up.


While South African TV viewers complain about repeats, the latest results from an annual study about "Peak TV" and the number of new shows being made reveals that television in American and on South African screens are awash with more new television that any one person can possibly hope to watch.

As viewers are already struggling to keep up, 2017 is set to bring even more new television.

The latest results from the annual "Peak TV" study released by the FX pay-TV channel reveals that 2016 brought viewers more original TV series than ever before - 455 compared to 421 in 2015 - with the number that will grow even more series in 2017.

This is just for American shows - the large majority of which is seen in South Africa. This excludes reality shows, documentaries and kids' television, as well as the additional local content shown by South Africa's broadcasters the SABC, e.tv and M-Net.

"Peak TV was once again far from peaky in 2016, with a record 455 scripted original series across broadcast, cable, and streaming sources," says Julie Piepenkotter, the executive vice president of research at FX Networks in a statement.

"This estimate represents an 8% percent increase over just the last year (421 in 2015) ― but an astonishing 71% increase over five years ago (266 in 2011) and 137% over a decade ago (192 in 2006)."

If the trend keeps up, it means that 2017 could deliver close to 500 original scripted shows, each consisting of multiple episodes viewers have to try and sample and then try and keep up with.

Interestingly the biggest growth is now coming from so-called "streaming" shows, original TV series - drams and sitcoms - produced by and for subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) players like Netflix and Amazon's Amazon Prime Video that launched last week in South Africa and 35 other African countries.

These online pay-TV services like Netflix and Amazon are now driving new TV show growth, producing almost twice as many series in 2016 compared to last year.

Some of the content from these SVOD players have been brought and are broadcast on some of the linear TV channels on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform - for instance Orange is the New Black from Netflix, Mozart in the Jungle from Amazon, The Art of More from Crackle and some others all shown on M-Net.

There's however an exploding number of new shows that are only accessible through subscriptions to these SVOD services, making subscriptions to these services the only way for South Africans to see this growing number of shows.

With DStv that no longer has everything exclusively, TV watchers who want to keep up with and watch everything, now need subscriptions for a growing number of additional pay-TV platforms.

If you want to watch Shadowhunters, Fuller House or the upcoming A Series of Unfortunate Events in January 2017 you'll need Netflix, and an Amazon Prime Video subscription for Jeremy Clarkson's new The Grand Tour is the only legitimate way to see that show.

Then there's the library series services of Naspers' ShowMax and PCCW Global's ONTAPtv.com with back catalogues of hundreds of shows, with MTN's VU and the LGBT streamer PrideTV also providing carousels of TV series.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

SABC's flagship SABC News bulletin on SABC3 plunges; sheds more than 222 417 in just one month.


Viewership of the struggling SABC's flagship TV news bulletin has plunged, with the public broadcaster's main English TV news bulletin on SABC3 at 18:30 that has shed more than 222 417 viewers in just one month according to the latest South African TV ratings.

Meanwhile the SABC's Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho TV news bulletins in November also shed viewers with SABC2's Sesotho news no longer one of that channel's top 20 most watched shows.

The embattled SABC is being battered by a barrage of shocking daily revelations about alleged corruption fraud, mismanagement, censorship and undue political editorial interference that's been rocking the loss-making corporation, while scandals have engulfed its controversial bosses James Aguma and Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Meanwhile an ongoing SABC inquiry by an ad hoc parliamentary committee into the gutted and now non-existent SABC board, heard shocking testimony the past few weeks about the blatant flouting of corporate governance at the SABC where scandal after scandal keeps dominating the headlines and damages what's left of the SABC's brand reputation.

The SABC's flagship TV news bulletin saw more than 222 417 viewers flee in just one month as it audience rating (AR) dropped from 922 152 in October to 699 735 in November.

It is the second lowest number of viewers for the SABC3's prime time TV news bulletin since June this year when Hlaudi Motsoeneng abruptly ordered his disastrous 80% local content decree for the SABC's only commercial TV channel.

Since then SABC3's ratings collapsed as viewers fled and rejected all of the badly produced local shows suddenly rushed to the channel's schedule the past few months - causing a knock-on effect on its news ratings.

Last week SABC journalist Lukhanyo Calata testified before the SABC inquiry in parliament that decisions like this damages the SABC news division's credibility and reputation.

Lukhanyo Calata was one of the so-called "#SABC8" journalists who were fired for protesting the SABC's abrupt censorship decision earlier this year to no longer show visuals of the destruction of property during public protests. 

The SABC lost a labour court case and was ordered to reinstate seven of the journalists.


Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho TV news viewership also down
The SABC's Xhosa and Zulu news bulletins, both on SABC1 also showed a drop - although percentage wise more marginal - from October to November.

The Xhosa news fell from 4.15 million viewers (12.2 AR / 35.7 share), losing more than 348 137 viewers to 3.8 million viewers (11 AR / 33.8 share) in November.

The Zulu news shed more than 321 752 viewers, and dropped from 4.07 million viewers (11.9 AR / 35.8 share) to 3.75 million (11 AR / 33.8 share) viewers in November.

On SABC2, viewership of the Afrikaans TV news bulletin managed to remained steady at 1.48 million viewers (4.3 AR / 15.3 share) despite debilitating timeslot changes for it and Afrikaans soap 7de Laan of which the viewership fell another bit in November to 1.81 million viewers - it's second lowest viewership number this year.

The SABC's debilitating timeslot change of the Sesotho news on SABC2 to 18:30 in July has also hammered this TV news bulletin's ratings.

Going from 1.36 million viewers in July and plunging to 1.15 million viewers in October, SABC2's Sesotho TV news bulletin in November totally dropped out of SABC2's top 20 most watched list, which means it got somewhere less that 1.13 million viewers. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

BREAKING. 'Devastation' as SABC finally pulls the plug on SABC3's High Rollers; show loses interdict bid; over 100 workers hear they're out on the street a week before Christmas.


The SABC3 shows High Rollers has lost an urgent court application to try and interdict the SABC from prematurely cancelling the prime time drama series months before its existing contract expires, with the SABC that is directly contributing to, and causing, massive job losses of local artists in South Africa's TV industry.

More than 100 dedicated actors and crew working in South Africa's TV biz on a SABC TV show have been told they're out on the street just a week before Christmas - now all facing not just a very bleak festive period but also a very uncertain 2017.

The show describes the SABC's shock move putting workers on the unemployment line with their families who depend on them, as "devastating" to the High Rollers cast and crew.

In November the SABC shocked viewers and the South African TV industry when it abruptly told High Rollers production company Rous House Productions it wants the local drama series off of SABC3it wants the local drama series off of SABC3 with production that must cease within 30 days.

The SABC said it wanted High Rollers, that it initially launched with big fanfare in April 2013, now immediately gone "because of programming strategy changes on SABC3" - a decision that was slammed as "bisarre" by South Africa's TV industry.

The shocking SABC instruction comes after the broadcaster signed a new third season contract earlier this year for 156 episodes for the fictional Kings Casino set show and also extended the weekly episode broadcast from three to five episodes per week.


Shocking new SABC precedent
The abrupt premature cancellation, with High Rollers having months left on its contract, now sets a shocking new precedent for the South African public broadcaster, with fearful producers of TV content no longer sure that the SABC will honour any existing commitments and contracts.

By shutting down High Rollers, it's the second time in just over two years that the SABC has effectively "fired" the cast of a local production after the striking actors of SABC1's Generations were unceremoniously dumped and the show shut down for months in August 2014 and disappeared from the airwaves after the actors said they were being exploited and demanded better contracts and better and fairer working conditions.

This year the SABC's chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng said the South African public broadcaster supports local productions and artists, will improve contracts and conditions and will increase local content on SABC3 to 80%.

The harsh reality is that the SABC under Hlaudi Motsoeneng's destructive reign is doing the opposite, and is directly making over a hundred South African actors and crew jobless a week before Christmas - people who thought they had steady work well into 2017.

The SABC said earlier that it is " "not in a position to discuss its contractual obligations with production houses and content providers with third parties, including the media".

On Thursday Judge Andrew Louw in the Pretoria High Court dismissed Rous House Productions' urgent court application for an interdict to prevent the canning of High Rollers.

The show also lodged a complaint about the SABC's shocking cancellation of High Rollers with the broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), but that case will only be heard in February 2017 at the earliest when production on the show has already ceased and the large ensemble cast and crew let go.

"It is with heavy hearts that Rous House Productions has no choice but to stop production of High Rollers on the last of the 30 business days, 12 January 2017, as stipulated in SABC's cancellation clause and terminate in excess of 100 individuals contracted on High Rollers," the writing and directing executive producer brothers Luke and Joshua Rous tell TVwithThinus.

"We have had an amazing journey with this immensely talented and hard-working cast and crew and are devastated that they no longer have jobs come January 2017," say Luke and Joshua Rous.

"To the fans of High Rollers and the members of our industry who have stood by us, thank you for you for all the support you have given the show over the years and we look forward to entertaining you on other productions in the future".

High Rollers' large ensemble cast includes local stars like Anthony ColemanThapelo MokoenaTerence BridgettHayley OwenJai PrakashVilje MaritzThishiwe Ziqubu and Thishiwe Ziqubu.


Weekly episode play-out trimmed
High Rollers won't be able to jump and be picked up by rival broadcasters like e.tv, M-Net or Mzansi Magic since it's an SABC commissioned show with the Rous producer brothers who struggled for over four and a half years to get the public broadcaster to bite and commission the show.

TVwithThinus has learnt that in February the SABC will cut back on play out schedule of the already produced High Rollers episodes. High Rollers will be reduced from five back to three per week, with the three year old and cancelled international sitcom Whitney scheduled into the prime time timeslot of 19:30 on Thursdays and Fridays.

By Saturday an online petition started four weeks ago to save High Rollers had amassed over a 1 000 signatures and comments from not just viewers but also actors, production crew and people working in South Africa's TV industry, all shocked and outraged at the SABC's callous treatment of local television.

"Isn't it local content we're supposed to be after? So cancel something that's obviously that and doing well?" said a local South African soap star working on another SABC prime time show. "This is where the minister of communications and her self-appointed henchman Hlaudi Motsoeneng are allowed to chop and change as they please".

Nhlanla Ndlovu who works on High Rollers says "So many background artists I book depend on that show to put food on the table, including myself".

Viewer Alexia Staschik said "the SABC is out of control", with Robert Beney saying "the SABC has clearly failed all sane levels of governance. Its decision-making has been compromised by autocratic, non-sensical decision-making".


SABC3 viewership plunge
The viewership for High Rollers fell since May when the SABC introduced a dramatic schedule make-over for SABC3 from a low 645  858 viewers (1.9 AR, 5.6 share) to 540  570 viewers ( 1.6 AR, 4.7 share) in October and 431 963 (1.3 AR, 3.8 share) in November.

The High Rollers ratings depression is however in line with and part of the entire SABC3 schedule's ratings collapse.

SABC3 saw a total viewership implosion since June with the channel's ratings falling month after month since May when Hlaudi Motsoeneng's announced his decision to purge SABC3 of international content and the channel rushed a slew of badly produced local shows into production and onto the schedule that saw viewers flee.


No SABC CEO, COO and CFO by end of December
Parliament's SABC inquiry into the collapse of governance and management at the public broadcaster was shocked when members of parliament were told that the SABC from the end of December will not have an acting CEO or chief financial officer (CFO).

The SABC also doesn't have a COO since Hlaudi Motsoeneng did not return to work this week following a Western Cape High Court ruling on Monday that he shouldn't be employed at the SABC in any position and should undergo an independent disciplinary hearing.

The SABC inquiry heard how the public broadcasting's commissioning process of new local TV content has allegedly been derailed by Hlaudi Motsoeneng with disastrous results for the SABC's finances as well as ratings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

ANN7 on DStv called 'a bunch of wankers' for not showing the SABC inquiry; Sindy Mabe disses viewer: 'You obviously don't care about the price of milk'.



In yet another jaw-dropping on-air faux pas a viewer called ANN7 (DStv 405) "a bunch of wankers" for the failure of the Guptas' TV news channel to show the ongoing SABC inquiry.

In yet another bisarre ANN7 on-air incident, a viewer, Michael from George, called in on Monday and slammed the TV news channel from Infinity Media, carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform, as "a bunch of wankers" for not showing the SABC inquiry.

SABC News (DStv 404) and eNCA (DStv 403) both broadcast the shocking and revealing testimony from a litany of witnesses about the allegations of corruption, fraud and the collapse of governance at the South African public broadcaster on Monday, while ANN7 had a panel discussion about the price of milk.

"Why don’t you broadcast that parliamentary thing on the SABC?" asked Michael.

The stunned Sindy Mabe, formerly on-air at the SABC and e.tv and who recently jumped to ANN7, told the viewer "you obviously missed it Michael, but what is your real question?"

"No, it is on now! It is on now!" said Michael. "We also have programming, Michael," blurted Sindy Mabe.

"You’re just biased aren't you? You're such a bunch of wankers, you know that? The SABC – " and then he was abruptly cut off.

Sindy Mabe deadpanned: "Michael, you obviously don't care what the price of milk is".


Corruption: SABC destroyed from within
On Monday in parliament, witnesses slammed and implicated the Gupta owned The New Age (sister newspaper to ANN7) in attempts to capture the SABC's SABC News division and for money being funneled from the SABC to ANN7.

The SABC's former head of technology, Sipho Masinga, told parliament how, before ANN7 was launched as a MultiChoice channel, he was in a meeting with Nazeem Howa who had a 3-page document detailing how it wanted to take over, run and rebrand the SABC's news.

"I couldn't believe it," said Sipho Masinga. "The New Age wanted to take over and manage SABC News with the SABC that has to supply the staff. The New Age tried to take over SABC News and rebrand it".

"I knew if I opened the door (to the Guptas) that we were going to have problems." Sipho Masinga testified that Hlaudi Motsoeneng left the room just before The New Age document with the proposed take-over of SABC news was given to him.

ANN7 was later launched as Infinity Media's own TV news channel that belongs to Oakbay Investments, the same as The New Age.

Later during the day, the freelance SABC contributing editor Vuyo Mvoko – who was effectively fired as one of the so-called "#SABC8" earlier this year for speaking out against Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s TV news censorship decree – also slammed ANN7.

Vuyo Mvoko testified that money that should be coming to the SABC is being funneled to rival broadcaster ANN7 through the controversial The New Age Breakfast Briefings broadcast on SABC2's Morning Live.

"What SABC executives haven't informed you about is they have allowed SABC money to be used to build a rival channel – ANN7."

"Yet, the money the owners of TNA make, none of it – not a cent – goes to the SABC. From the millions they make through sponsorship, to the tables they sell at those breakfasts – they do not take any of that to the SABC except, perhaps, to the people who make things happen for them."

Vuyo Mvoko said Morning Live resources – SABC resources and budget – are diverted to pay for the production costs of the breakfast briefing broadcasts, while The New Age gets the money and dividends from the events.

Vuyo Mvoko said the SABC's TV news bulletins and current affairs programmes "are bleeding ARs (audience ratings)" because of the reputation and credibility damage the SABC has inflicted on its brand.

Vuyo Mvoko said The New Age actually wanted to do more than just the breakfast briefings and proposed "provincial The New Age breakfast briefing broadcast weeks" that would financially cripple the SABC even more.

"Someone is being enriched further at the expense of the public broadcaster," said Vuyo Mvoko. "Corruption is taking place; the public broadcaster is being destroyed from within."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

KwaMashu set prime time soap Uzalo on SABC1 extended to 5 days a week from 1 February; actors Glen Gabela, Luthuli Dlamini added.


Uzalo on SABC1 will roll out more episodes per week from 1 February 2017, with the KwaMashu set prime time local soap that will add episodes on Thursdays and Fridays.

The extended weekly episode order kicks in from the third season next year, with 5 episodes per week for the Stained Glass Pictures show filmed in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, that's been ramping up production in order to deliver 66% more of Uzalo per week to viewers.

It follows after the off-the-cuff announcement in mid-July by the SABC's controversial and famously matricless boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng in a press conference to address the unfolding set of crises at the beleaguered South African public broadcaster, that he has decided Uzalo will be increased from 3 to 5 episodes per week.

The increased episode order and on-air play-out on SABC1 for the Gugu Zuma-Ncube produced soap will only kick in from the 3rd season in February 2017, since the fixed episode order, budget and contract couldn't be altered this year so late into the second season.

Uzalo remains the most watched TV show in all of South African television - as well as the most watched soap, and most watched show on SABC1 - with a top viewership in November of 8.13 million viewers (23.8 AR, 67 share).

Joining the cast is Luthuli Dlamini - known in the South African TV biz and television soap industry for infamous disappear acts from shows like Generations and e.tv's Scandal! - in the role of a lawyer.

Also playing to type (cast) is Glen Gabela, taking over and reviving the role of the first season character of Pastor Mdletshe from the fired Bheki Mkhwane who left Uzalo under a cloud.

Glen Gabela who was seen as Judge Jacob Mweli in Mzansi Magic's (DStv 161) Doubt this year previously played Pastor Solomon in SABC2's Hopeville and Pastor Titus in Mzansi Magic's Remix.

Joseph Mascolo, archvillain Stefano DiMera on the soap Days of Our Lives, dead at 87 from Alzheimers.


Stefano DiMera is dead - for real this time. Joseph Mascolo who played the archvillain Stefano DiMera on the soap Days of Our Lives has died from Alzheimers. He was 87.

"It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our dear friend and beloved member of the Days of our Lives' family, Joseph Mascolo," says Ken Corday, executive producer in a statement.

"The smile on Joe's face is something we'd all come to find comfort in, and he will be sorely missed. His larger than life presence, kind heart, and unwavering positivity has impacted us all for decades, and will live on in the memories of his many fans. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time."

A street in the town of Ocilla, Georgia in America is named after him for his efforts to build a group home for mentally impaired people.

Joseph Mascolo joined Days of Our Lives in 1982.

His character, a European businessman and criminal mastermind terrorised the residents of the fictional town of Salem and suffered several fake deaths over the decades - only to keep returning.

He "died" his last time in the show earlier this year in episodes shown in the United States with South African viewers who will have to wait a few years to still see it on SABC3 that's a few seasons behind.

America's Soap Opera Digest magazine named him the all-time best villain.

He also made appearances on soaps like Santa Barbara that was broadcast on the SABC's former TV1 channel, and when he temporarily left Days of Our Lives in 2001, he joined The Bold and the Beautiful shown on SABC1 in the role of Massimo Marone. In 2006 he returned to Days.

"Joseph was a big 'ol bear with a puppy dog heart," said Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, Joseph's wife of 11 years, in a statement. "I'm so blessed to have had these many years with him. I will miss him every day."

Joseph Mascolo is survived by his Patricia, his son Peter, his step-daughter Laura, his sister Marie and her husband Ronald LaVoie, along with five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

BREAKING. High Rollers local drama on SABC3 going to court seeking an urgent court interdict to prevent premature SABC cancellation.


High Rollers on SABC3 is now seeking an urgent court interdict to prevent the SABC from abruptly cancelling the local prime time TV drama months before its third season contract is supposed to end and that will leave 103 cast and crew suddenly jobless just before Christmas.

Rous House Productions (RHP) producing the casino-set drama series is now taking the SABC to court in a dramatic showdown after an unsuccessful meeting between the production company's executives and the SABC on Monday.

SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng repeatedly this year said how he's boosting and supporting 90% local content and working for better a better work environment and job security for struggling local artists but last month the South African public broadcaster suddenly told the show it will pull the plug within a month just before Christmas.

The SABC said it is "not in a position to discuss its contractual obligations with production houses and content providers with third parties, including the media".

SABC3 viewers and the South African TV industry have slammed the SABC for the shortsighted and "bisarre" decision – especially since the SABC renewed the show in May for a third season and increased the episode order from 3 to 5 days per week.

TVwithThinus also learnt that the SABC plans to cull the SABC3 broadcast schedule of High Rollers remaining episodes, trimming the show back to only three episodes per week in 2017.

Meanwhile RHP executives – including the writing and directing executive producer brothers Luke and Joshua Rous – have been fighting to save the show and the livelihood of actors and crew who will be out on the street within weeks without intervention.

"RHP has no other choice but to approach the courts with an application for an urgent interdict to stop the SABC from cancelling High Rollers," says Luke and Joshua Rous.

"This application was served on SABC on 7 December and a court date has been set to hear the urgent case within the next week."

"At the same time RHP is submitting an application to the broadcasting regulator, Icasa, to intervene on an urgent basis and set aside the SABC's decision to cancel the High Rollers contract."


Irresponsible SABC decision
"Not only is this the worst possible time of the year for this to happen, but is also in contradiction to SABC's decision to increase local content to 80% on SABC3," says Luke and Joshua Rous.

"RHP feels that the SABC's decision to cancel High Rollers within just 30 business days is in bad faith".

Executive producer Meren Reddy says "This news is devastating to us especially after all the hard work we have put in to increase our output from broadcasting 3 episodes a week to 5 episodes a week only 3 months ago."

Executive producer Luke Rous says "hundreds of people have been affected by this irresponsible and unjust decision."

Executive producer Joshua Rous says "it has been the privilege of a lifetime for us to lead this committed and passionate team, which has formed our High Rollers family. RHP has been overwhelmed by the public support for High Rollers and we appreciate the outpouring of love for the show."

An online petition at change.org entitled "Stop the SABC from Cancelling High Rollers" has so far amassed more than a thousand signatures from the South African public and TV industry.

What MultiChoice learnt from looking at an Appeltiser can - and how it will soon bring a change to your DStv decoder because of it.


MultiChoice recently, in a surprising way, found consumer insight from a very unlikely source - the back of an Appletiser can - with the pay-TV platform that will soon bring a change to improve something in the interface of the electronic programme guide (EPG) on its DStv decoders because of it.

MultiChoice is in the process of reducing repeat programming across its channels offering, to add new content and to shift schedules, as well as addressing the perceptions that DStv subscribers have around rebroadcasts of old content that they say they've seen before.

Part of the process is consumer research that MultiChoice conducted to gain insight into the viewing behaviour and the perceptions of DStv subscribers around repeats, content and scheduling, as well as their reactions to anything that relates to rebroadcasts and how it affects them.

While the consumer research yielded MultiChoice a treasure trove of information that the operator used and is using to change and improve the DStv customer experience when it comes to content discovery, it also delivered the unexpected and the surprising.

One of these surprises will soon change something on DStv PVRs and DStv Explora decoders across Africa in an example of how consumer perception not only creates their reality, but can actually change real-world reality.


The Series Record icon on DStv - the function to instruct a decoder to record all of the episodes of a season of a specific show - will soon be changing, thanks to an Appletiser can.

It means a design change for the circular arrows with the letter "R" inside.

"Perhaps our biggest insight from the research, and a thing that we didn't know, the Series Record arrow - consumers thought that that was an indication that it was a repeat," Aletta Alberts, the general manager: content for MultiChoice, told TVwithThinus.

"So basically every single thing that they saw on their DStv decoder [they thought] was a repeat. So we're relooking that."

"We have designed a new icon and we're testing it with consumers at the moment and then it will go into the pipeline for a replacement on the actual boxes on the next software release."

"That was a very, very big thing. Somebody was saying they were drinking Appletiser and they were looking at the tin and there was a recycle icon and it was the same."

"That's what happens when you leave information design to engineers," Aletta Alberts joked.


Increased personalised recommendations
"It's quite interesting, the way that we did the research was first of all we did it in different groups. Then there were some groups that we isolated and we said 'Okay, the people who already complained [about repeats], we want you to go and watch X, Y and Z. So we made their viewing repertoire bigger."

"They watched it for two weeks and came back and it was completely different because they found the content," said Aletta Alberts.

"Unfortunately people are just viewing 5 or 6 channels and they stay in those channels. So we need to try and help people. It's really a content discovery job."

"As the world becomes more sophisticated, everybody is interested in personalisation. I think that's a big thing for us to get to a level of personalisation, being able to recommend to you, because we understand what you like, versus just a generic approach for a households because we assume everybody is watching the same thing."


No to repeats ... but maybe just do Dallas
"And lets just be quite candid about it, piracy is a very, very, very big issue and people download stuff and then they don't know where they've seen it and then they come to the TV channels and go 'Oh, I've seen it before," said Aletta Alberts.

Jan du Plessis, director: M-Net channels, said "a very interesting complaint we've had in the past two weeks or so which floored all of us" was "a person was watching Express from the US on a Sunday night and viewed it on DStv Catch Up".

"Then, that same week, before the second episode would go on Express from the US, watched it, saw it on M-Net Edge (DStv 102), and then complained and wrote to us and said 'You are just repeating stuff and you never give us fresh content'."

Aletta Alberts said "so you sometimes get a contradiction. So in the research group you'd have people say you show repeats and be very vocal about it, and then say 'But can you not show Ray Donovan again? Where can I see it?"

"And things like Dallas, saying 'can we just see that again?' which is quite interesting. If you think about a channel like SABC Encore. It's quite interesting to see the ratings on there, to see what people are actually watching."

"Sometimes its more like that nostalgic feel, something that they want to see again. But then at the same time, people are very vocal about repeats."



ALSO READ: MultiChoice and M-Net executives reveal some of the pop-up channels, new content and scheduling changes coming to DStv in 2017.
ALSO READ: MultiChoice content boss Aletta Alberts on how DStv is working on reducing repeats: "We are improving our product dramatically".
ALSO READ: The 101 in 2017: DStv and M-Net boosting efforts around content discovery and 'seasonality' in TV viewing behaviour.

SABC schedule disruption coming in January on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as entertainment shows are moved for Afcon 2017 soccer.


SABC schedule disruption is once again waiting on viewers in January 2017 when the public broadcaster will disrupt its prime time programming across all three of its terrestrial TV channels, moving lucrative money-making entertainment programming to different channels and times to broadcast soccer.

In what the SABC calls "major changes", the schedules of SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 will be upended in prime time so that the SABC can broadcast African Cup of Nations 2017 (Afcon) soccer matches from 14 January on SABC1 from 18:00 until midnight.

The SABC says "SABC TV has come up with several schedule changes affecting prime time slots" from next month.

In previous years for Afcon coverage, the SABC moved Generations from SABC1 to SABC2 but the prime time weekday soap at 20:00 will now move to SABC3 at 19:30 from 16 January, replacing another local soap, High Rollers that won't be shown for weeks and only return on 6 February.

The SABC1 sister soap, Uzalo at 20:30 will move to SABC2 at 20:30, and the youth drama series Skeem Saam at 18:30 will shift to SABC2 at 18:30.

The SABC's Generations move to SABC3 will take the show  - the SABC's and South Africa's second most watched programme - away from millions of viewers who won't be able to watch it even if they want to, since SABC3 is its channel with the smallest signal distribution footprint, received by the smallest number of households in the country.

The SABC's shift-over of its programming from SABC1 to SABC2 and SABC3 to clear the channel's schedule for soccer - a move the public broadcaster refers to as a "transversal approach" - will likely have a negative impact the SABC's TV ratings during January.

The SABC2 schedule will change with the Setswana/Sotho news bulletin moving earlier from its existing 18:30 timeslot to 18:00 on weekdays, followed by Skeem Saam at 18:30.

The Afrikaans weekday soap 7de Laan on SABC2 will remain in its 19:00 timeslot, with the Afrikaans news bulletin at 19:03 on weekdays also remaining unchanged.

On Mondays SABC2 is dumping NCIS (after many years the SABC still refer to it as "Navy NCIS" although the "N" in the acronym stands for Navy already) and replacing it with Nhlala ya Rixaka. NCIS will return at a later date in a new as yet unannounced timeslot.

On Tuesdays SABC is dumping the Afrikaans drama timeslot at 20:00 and replacing it with Ngula ya Vutivi. The SABC says Afrikaans drama will "take a break to return on a new slot in February".

Zandile Nkonyeni, head publicist for the SABC's TV channels, says the SABC's "transversal schedule strategy has been adopted involving the 3 SABC TV channels to ensure that the interests of our audiences are adequately accomodated during the Afcon 2017 tournament".

According to Zandile Nkonyeni, "normal programming on all channels will resume once the Afcon games are over".

"The channel will reveal a refreshed schedule in February 2017 with an exciting line-up of brand new titles," says Zandile Nkonyeni.

It's unclear as yet which channel she's referring to, although SABC3 has faced the biggest ratings challenge the past 5 months as its flurry of new content rushed to air, all flopped.

During its Afcon 2017 coverage the SABC will broadcast 28 Afcon 2017 matches live and 4 delayed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

MultiChoice in 2017 starting a massive 'seasonality' push around watching TV series; M-Net starting new 'The 101' show to help with content discovery.


From 2017 MultiChoice will start a huge push to educate the South African market and viewers about TV seasons and to get DStv subscribers in the habit of  "seasonality" - watching TV series as a season when new episodes roll out - while M-Net will start a new show, The 101 at the end of January to help viewers on a weekly basis with how shows, episodes and movies across the various M-Net channels are changing.

MultiChoice says the pan-African pay-TV operator is aware that repeats are a problem for its pay-TV subscribers and is working on making changes to its channels offering to bring viewers more fresh content and fewer repeats.

One of the things MultiChoice is going to do from 2017, is to provide more help to subscribers to navigate through the often overwhelming TV content clutter where subscribers often get lost - not knowing when what is on, and where and what new content there is.

In the TV biz the issue of "content discovery" is becoming a growing and worldwide problem for pay-TV operators and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services as TV shows and channels proliferate across platforms.

MultiChoice and M-Net say they want to make it easier for subscribers to know what's on, what's new and where to watch it, through helping educate viewers about TV "seasonality" and informing them weekly about where they can find what content.

While the American TV biz works according to a "fall" and a "summer" season - the two periods during which the bulk of new shows start and new seasons of existing shows roll out with months of repeats in-between and even the fall season taking a mid-season break - South African viewers for decades haven't watched TV like that.

With more and more DStv channels however showing episodes extremely close to the American broadcasting date - like FOX and M-Net with its "Express from the US"- South African and African viewers don't understand why episodes of an existing series suddenly "dry up" for a few weeks.

The 101 on what's coming
Jan du Plessis, director: M-Net channels, told TVwithThinus that the pay-TV broadcaster will start The 101 (working title) on Sunday 29 January 2017 at 16:30 to help viewers navigate through what is being shown on the various M-Net channels on DStv.

The new locally-produced half-hour show on M-Net on DStv channel 101, will help to guide viewers through their upcoming TV watching week.

The 101 will tell viewers what new shows and movies there are and what they're about, what Express from the US series titles will have episode pre-emptions, last-minute schedule changes, the times and dates where shows and episodes are moving to, and help with general TV content discovery education.

"There is a much bigger process going on behind-the-scenes to help with content discovery," said Jan du Plessis and DStv subscribers will start to see this from early in 2017.

Speaking about pre-emptions and shows going on hiatus, Jan du Plessis said "it's one of the difficult areas. On the one hand people are asking for more 'Express from the US' and live from the US. And maybe at some point there's too many."

"You hit a stage where you have so many pre-emptions now over December and January where shows are sometimes breaking for up to 9 or 10 weeks at a time, that you actually don't have anything to put in there."

"We would absolutely love to claim that the fact that there are absolutely no repeats in prime time, but the question is what do you fill with for 10 shows, 10 weeks, when they all break. There isn't this bank or shop down the road where you can buy fillers or specials; they just don't make that many anymore."


"One American network TV shows it's a massive, massive problem. On the one hand you want to show people the fresh, new Grey's Anatomy as it happens."

"But then 5 weeks later there's a pre-emption or an American election and all hell breaks loose because people just don't understand why they don't have the fresh new episodes at night".

"What we are working on - I hate to use the word education, but just information. We are planning a show that will launch on 29 January at 16:30 on M-Net 101 that is essentially going to look at the next 7 days on what I call the 'blue' M-Net channels."

"Essentially what the show will do in 24 minutes, is to show you what pre-emptions, what new things, what exciting things, will happen on the M-Net channels in the next 7 days. We're going to wrap it in, hopefully, a comedy, entertaining jacket."

"We're hoping to make the show also available on YouTube, on everywhere - so that you can subscribe to it, you can get it and watch it anywhere if you want to see and plan and get into that habit of setting your decoder and planning your viewing for the next 7 days," said Jan du Plessis.

"As a curation communication show, it will help everyone with the content discovery process - it's trying to highlight interesting new things and changes. We also have an insert in it where we actually are going to show people how certain functions on their PVRs or DStv Explora decoders work."

"We've actually shot a small pilot with one insert where a celebrity goes to the call centre and then answers questions. What we want to do is then have a celebrity and the presenter to actually go to a subscriber's house who's had an issue with a PVR or an issue generally, and solve it."

Friday and Saturday programming boosted
M-Net is also putting new impetus behind scheduling premium programming for doldrum days - Fridays and Saturdays - that's already yielding dividends in terms of improved M-Net ratings.

"Recently we've launched The X Factor UK on Friday and Saturday nights on M-Net and this weekend we catch up and we will be live with the finals. The ratings have shot up. It's incredible what's happened with this show on a Friday and a Saturday night," said Jan du Plessis.

"Traditionally there's this impression that a Friday and Saturday night there's just fewer TV audiences available, but actually if you put the right show there, the audience is there. The plan will continue to boost Friday and Saturday".

"On Friday we confirmed that The Voice US season 11 with Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys will be stripped into that slot following The X Factor UK and it will finish the Friday and Saturday on the Sunday before The Voice SA season 2 starts".


Creating 'seasonality'
"Early 2017 we will also talk about how we're going to help consumers to catch up on seasons before we start a new season of a show. We're really looking at starting to get 'seasonality' going for our consumers," said Aletta Alberts, the general manager: content for MultiChoice.

"Seasonality here has not really ever been a habit. It's not like in the US where viewers understand seasonality completely."

"We're going to try our hardest to make sure that we create seasonality, but doing that to help with content discover so that the viewer knows 'Now the new seasons are coming and I must watch out for them'."


ALSO READ: MultiChoice and M-Net executives reveal some of the pop-up channels, new content and scheduling changes coming to DStv in 2017.
ALSO READ: MultiChoice content boss Aletta Alberts on how DStv is working on reducing repeats: "We are improving our product dramatically".
ALSO READ: What MultiChoice learnt from an Appletiser can- and how it will bring a change to DStv decoders.