Friday, August 7, 2020

TV NEWS ROUND-UP. Today's interesting TV stories to read - 7 August 2020.

Here's the latest news about TV that I read and that you should read too:

■ MUST READ: The cringey rush to defend Ellen DeGeneres.
The power dynamics of how and why it's so difficult to hold powerful people accountable when other powerful people shield them and give them platforms.

■ Hollywood has increasingly started to censor itself in order to keep China happy.
Changing scripts, deleting scenes and altering other content as America's film and TV industry fears offending Chinese censors who control the gateway to the country's 1.4 billion consumers.

■ MultiChoice says DStv is providing the best content during the Covid-19 lockdown.

■ Is the real estate reality show Selling Sunset on Netflix real or scripted?
Viewers don't think the glamour and gossip are real.

■ "Stay Tuned": The 1992 film in which a couple is sucked into an alternate reality world where they have to survive the one TV show after another is turned into a TV series.

■ Uganda's Magic1 TV channel says it has nothing to do with the "replica" Magic 1HD that popped up on StarTimes.

■ Grey's Anatomy seen on M-Net (DStv 101) will start production soon on season 17 - with Covid-19 pandemic changes.

■ DStv subscribers in Zambia are unhappy about MultiChoice Zambia's latest price hike of DStv and GOtv.

■ The Good Doctor seen on M-Net (DStv 101) will kick off its 4th season with a Covid-19 coronavirus storyline.
The SHOCKING production stand-off behind the scenes of The Good Doctor in Vancouver where the entire crew got fired: In-fighting between unions over testing for Covid-19 led to pre-production being put on hold.

■ Pumping men's buttocks.
The male characters in the BBC's Harlots are largely reduced to pumping buttocks with hypocritical heads attached.

■ Amazon Prime Video is working in introducing a "random episode" button.

■ Making TV shows during the Covid-19 pandemic requires more money and time.

■ Anti-heroes disrupted TV. Now they're the status quo.

■ How do they track the golf ball on television during a golf broadcast?

■ The BBC received 18 600 complaints from viewers after reporter used the "N"-word racial slur in her news report.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

After launch of Zee Alem in Ethiopia Zee Africa says it's looking at further bespoke regional and language-specific channels for the continent in the future.

by Thinus Ferreira

Zee Africa, a division of Zee Entertainment Enterprises, says that it's growing collection of TV channels across Africa, is finding traction with the continent's viewers and that it's looking at possible expanding with further bespoke regional and language-specific offerings in the future.

Recently Zee Africa added Zee Alem as a new TV channel to its expanding offering on the Africa continent on 22 June 2020. Zee Alehm broadcasts in the Amharic language for Ethiopia.

"The uptake of Zee Amharic gives us the confidence to pursue more such regional opportunities.

We have tested waters in the regional space with programming in Swahili and Zulu languages and found a definite gap for Indian content," says Harish Goyal, CEO of Zee Africa & Asia Pacific.

"Zee Alem is the first channel launched in an African language and with the large amount of positive responses from our viewers, we are exploring new markets for similar launches in the future."

Zee already has two successful mainstream channels, Zee World in English and Zee Magic in French, which cater to Anglophone and Francophone viewers across the African continent.

"We have always strived to be innovative in our approach to new markets, which has opened up new opportunities to grow our local footprint on the continent," says Ratna Siriah, Zee Africa business head for Africa & Indian Ocean Islands.

Currently, there are 9 Zee channels across the continent with 6 bespoke feeds bring viewers a curated collection of the best of Indian content to Africa. 

Various Zee channels groupings are carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service in South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as on StarTimes' in sub-Saharan Africa and its StarSat in South Africa; as well as on Canal+ Afrique in sub-Saharan Africa

BREAKING. ViacomCBS Networks International to launch its new global video streaming service in early-2021 - South Africa and Africa initially excluded just like Disney+.

by Thinus Ferreira

ViacomCBS will launch its as-yet-unnamed new global video streaming service to compete with Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video and others internationally in early 2021 although South Africa and Africa are not included in the initial launch plans.

Similar to Walt Disney Company's decision to skip South Africa and Africa with the initial roll-out of its Disney+ subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service which isn't available on the continent yet, ViacomCBS will roll out in early-2021 starting in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico), Australia and the Nordic countries first.

ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI) revealed more in an investors' presentation about its global new video streaming plans on Thursday during its latest quarterly earnings call with investors.

It's CBS All Access streaming service in the United States is already available in Australia - which will relaunch under the new brand, and similarly, Paramount+ is already available in parts of South America and Eastern Europe and will also just switch over.

ViacomCBS Networks International will roll out its streaming services in other international territories over time after it launches in Australia, South America and the Nordics.

New upcoming series like the Halo science-fiction drama based on the video game, will be placed on this new streaming service, similar to what Disney has done with Star Wars The Mandalorian on Disney+.

A clue as to part of the reason why VCNI will not initially launch in South Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa comes from VCNI that said in countries where its streamer will launch, it will honour existing licensing and distribution deals with broadcasters and pay-TV operators.

A drama series like Billions will for instance not be available on the streamer in countries like Australia. Similarly, in South Africa, a lot of content - from Billions and The Good Fight acquired by MultiChoice and M-Net (DStv 101) simply won't be available, which would make for a truncated offering and user experience if such a service were to launch in South Africa.

VCNI says that its global video streamer will target "audiences of all ages with a competitively priced and super-sized selection of 'must-see' exclusives, premieres and box sets from ViacomCBS’ much-loved entertainment brands".

Pierluigi Gazzolo, president, streaming for VCNI, says "With more than 200 million new streaming subscriptions due to come online internationally by 2025, we're very confident we can build a meaningful subscriber base in the next few years".

"ViacomCBS is one of a very small handful of elite content companies with broad enough content pipelines and deep enough content libraries to lead in all segments of the video entertainment market."

China's StarTimes pay-TV operator launches its latest decoder through its StarSat brand in South Africa - and it has a lime green base trim.

by Thinus Ferreira

China's StarTimes pay-TV operator has launched it's latest new decoder - complete with a lime green trim as an added flourish - in South Africa through its StarSat branded branch.

The introduction of StarTimes' latest decoder version comes weeks before rival MultiChoice is set to take the wrapping off to unveil its latest DStv Explora decoder version that for the first time will offer access to a carousel of folded-in video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

StarSat's new SAT3-decoder - the third decoder that StarTimes and StarSat has put into the market since it took over and rebranded from the original TopTV decoder - comes with a spiffy lime green trim at the base of the black decoder.

The black remote control that has an orange power button, as well as the decoder are both StarTimes branded.

The new SAT3-decoder is Full HD compatible, allows for PVR recording, and has gone on sale for a retail price of R599.

Helen Zhang, head of marketing, tells TVwithThinus that "As part of StarSat's commitment to enable every African family to access digital TV, afford digital TV, and watch good digital TV, StarSat introduced the brand new SAT3-decoder after selling Combo3 for over 3 years in the South Africa market".

"The introduction of an upgraded decoder is to bring a better viewing experience to our subscribers by applying the latest technology."

"Compared to the Combo3, SAT3 has a smarter look, an improved remote control, and inbuild CA to avoid smartcard-going-missing problems, while it keeps HEVC compatability, a friendly user-interface (UI) design, PVR ready function, and most importantly, the same affordable price."

"All these upgrades are based on a survey and communication with StarSat subscribers. We really hope StarSat subscribers will enjoy Bundesliga, La Liga, Dreamworks, and many more new TV channels and content with the brand new SAT3-decoder."

StarSat says in the HS215-HGB decoder’s functional description that it is the "latest designed decoder model to receive digital satellite TV signal" and also support DVB broadcasting services as a DTH HD decoder model with ATV OUT".

The square black StarTimes decoder with curved corners comes with 3 triangular buttons on top - an on/off power button, as well as an up and down button. It supports DVB-S2/DVB-S, satellite TV(DTH) service, supports H.265 standard and is compatible with H.264.

The decoder also supports 1080p/1080i/720p/576i/480i HD and SD picture resolution, personal video recording, an electronic programme guide (EPG) for 7 days, a parental control function and has a multi-lingual menu in English, French, Portuguese, Swahili and Chinese menu.

At the back StarSat's new SAT3-decoder has an LNB IN satellite TV RF signal input, an ATV output (AV remodulated analog TV output), AV (CVBS video and audio -left and right - output), the HDMI v1.4b video output connection, a CA card backupmini-smartcard slot, the DC 12V power input, and on the side a USB 2.0 Type-A slot.

StarTimes recently expanded its StarTimes GO online store available in the rest of Africa, to StarSat in South Africa.

The online store now makes it possible for South African pay-TV viewers to buy StarTimes branded flat-screen TV sets, decoders, as well as TV set and decoder combo-deals, online for home delivery and installation.

MultiChoice boss Calvo Mawela sees pay jump of 125% to R27.5 million after pay-TV employment transfer to Dubai.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela has had a total pay increase over the last financial year of 125% with the total remuneration of the pay-TV operator's boss that climbed from $708 000 in 2019 to $1.59 million (R27.53 million).

According to MultiChoice's latest consolidated annual report for the financial year until the end of March 2020 Calvo Mawela was paid an annual salary of $570 000, a pension of $67 000, benefits totalling $227 000, and short and medium-term incentive (STI) of 726 000. This STI includes a bonus payment.

Calvo Mawela, like MultiChoice executive chairperson Imtiaz Patel, are paid in dollar according to the MultiChoice Group's Dubai-based contracts that work according to Dubai's cost-of-living metrics.

Calvo Mawela's employment "transferred" to Dubai from South Africa since he has to look after MultiChoice South Africa as well as MultiChoice Africa business.

"Being based in Dubai enables Calvo to be closer to the MultiChoice Africa management team and to have more accessible travel into the rest of Africa and with the added focus on returning the rest of Africa business to profitability," MultiChoice said.

"With the move to Dubai, Calvo Mawela's remuneration was aligned with the policy as applicable in Dubai and is reflected in dollars."

Imtiaz Patel's total MultiChoice remuneration increased 6.16% from $1.46 million to $1.55 million.

Tim Jacobs, MultiChoice chief financial officer, saw his total remuneration increase 21% from R8.45 million to R10.22 million.

Advocate Kgomotso Moroka, chairperson of the remuneration committee, said that the global video entertainment industry was becoming more competitive, especially with the growth of global subscription video-on-demand streaming services.

"Therefore, it is critically important that we adopt principles that allow us to attract and proactively retain our top talent."

"In addition, given the growth potential for our business, we also need to ensure our reward practices are aligned with the delivery of desired results and value creation over time."

Former SABC science editor and Brandkluis presenter Marinus Wijnbeek dead at 80.

by Thinus Ferreira

Marinus Wijnbeek, former science editor at South Africa's public broadcaster and presenter of the Afrikaans science series Brandkluis in the 1970's has died. He was 80.

Marinus Wijnbeek died in the Netherlands on Sunday, where he was born, and where he immigrated to in 1996 after leaving South Africa.

His wife, Annatjie confirmed his death on Facebook in a post.

Marinus Wijnbeek was a well-known scientist, journalist and SABC TV presenter when television started in South Africa. He was a university lecturer for 9 years before he joined the SABC as science editor.

In 1979 the SABC started broadcasting the science magazine show Brandkluis (Fire Safe) for 4 seasons on the then TV1 in which Marinus Wijnbeek as presenter unpacked various science subjects, from electronics and algorithms to colour, numbers, energy and even the Fibonacci sequence.

Several Brandkluis episodes are available on YouTube.

Marinus Wijnbeek was born on 28 August 1939 in The Hague, but emigrated with his parents to South Africa in 1949 when he was 10. He attained a B.Sc degree in chemistry and physics and later other degrees.

TV NEWS ROUND-UP. Today's interesting TV stories to read - 6 August 2020.

Here's the latest news about TV that I read and that you should read too:

■ How the conspiracy theorist David Icke "confused" Gareth Cliff who eNCA (DStv 403) was happy to put on its TV news channel for likes over lives.
Gareth Cliff's for-profit misinformation show on eNCA makes money from sensationalist pandering.

■ The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and dramatic cost-cutting at NBCUniversal and Comcast have claimed another victim (subscription required):
Comcast, NBC News and Sky News (DStv 402) will no longer create the NBC Sky World News channel to take on CNN International (DStv 401). The more than 50 staff who were hired were told on Wednesday it's over because the "business model has become unviable".

■ Discovery Inc. is close to announcing its own video streaming service it plans to launch.
New direct-to-consumer service will "encompass all its brands and characters, will work with distribution partners and may or may or may not include advertising", will be "a new SUV" with "large, fresh content".

■ MultiChoice Nigeria once again dragged to court in Nigeria.
This time over the pay-TV operator's alleged refusal to renew a subscription after payment.

■ The global Covid-19 pandemic is creating a class divide as wealthier people sit home and watch more TV, while lower-income people go out to work (subscription required).

■ SHOCKING! See the moment that the Beirut blast hit the BBC bureau in that city while an interview took place.

■ Disney shocks cinema owners in the United Kingdom with its decision to release Mulan on Disney+ first.

■ Ellen DeGeneres turned kindness into a brand. Now that brand is bringing her down.

■ The revealing and disturbing story of America told through 20 years of reality dating shows.
Find out the exact moment American culture went off the rails.

■ Research: Some children enjoy watching TV more than others.
A clip of Disney's Fantasia shown on repeat to 10-month-old babies in a study determined that children's temperament drives the amount of television they want to watch.

■ Remember when we could all touch each other. Well, TV does.

■ That already-iconic "Ta-Dum" "sound-logo" of Netflix almost included a goat's bleating.
And how the "Ta-Dum" you hear now was actually created (hint: wedding ring and a cabinet).

■ How American reality TV can confront its very real racism problem.

■ Amazon Prime Video is gaining subscribers thanks to Covid-19 quarantine.

■ 12 tricks and tips to get more out of your Netflix subscription.

■ The non-TV story of the day: A Must-Watch video with a prediction about the upcoming 2020 American election.
From Alan Lichtman who has never been wrong and explains why in a fascinating 7-minute video.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

CANCE!LLATION SHOCKE!R. E! News on E! Entertainment cancelled after 29 years; Pop of the Morning and In the Room also axed as remaining E! studio shows move back to Los Angeles in cost-cutting move.

by Thinus Ferreira

After 29 years E! News on E! Entertainment (DStv 124) has been cancelled just 8 months after the show's production and studio was moved in January this year from Los Angeles to New York.

The entertainment news show that has been a veritable TV institution for decades, is over.

Along with E! News, Pop Of the Morning, as well as Jason Kennedy's celebrity interview show, In the Room have also been cancelled. E! is also moving all remaining studio production back to Los Angeles.

Variety on Tuesday night first reported E! News' cancellation, citing NBCUniversal that runs E! as a pay-TV channel that is "looking to streamline its programming and restructure internally to create more efficiencies".

The dramatic impact of the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic also played a role with E! News and other E! shows that went off the air in mid-March 2020 for months, similar to what happened in South Africa and in the TV industries in several other countries. E! News only recently returned to the E! schedule.

Lilliana Vazquez and Scott Tweedie have been the E! News co-anchors since January 2020 after Giuliana Rancic and Jason Kenny left E! News in late-2019 after producer Tammy Filler who joined E! as new news operations boss decided to move E!'s studio news shows to New York from 2020.

South African viewers got their first glimpse of the orange-and-white E! News Daily as it was then known, when M-Net (DStv 101) and in the late 90's acquired the show and would programme individual insert strips or episodes as filler programming, while it had Jules Asner and Steve Kmetko as the co-hosts - with a  goldfish.

E! News Daily morphed into the red-letter E! News Live with John Burke. From 2006 E! News Live became E! News with Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana DePandi (later Rancic) who took over as the new co-anchors.

In interviews over the years, Giuliana spoke several times of how E! News was on the verge of cancellation at E! in 2005 when she agreed to become the managing editor of the show, with a tight deadline from E! bosses to lift ratings for the show that faced the axe. She managed to save it.

After Ryan Seacrest left as co-anchor, Giuliana Rancic first had Terrence Jenkins, and then Jason Kennedy as co-hosts.

Catt Sadler stood in as co-anchor when Giuliana was away or on leave, but in December 2017 Catt Sadler announced that she had left, slamming E! over allegations of gender discrimination and unequal pay for women.

When Giuliana Rancic left E! News in mid-2015, Maria Menounos took over as co-host, but after 3 years Giuliana was back next to Jason as the co-hosts since September 2018. Both said goodbye when the show's production and studio moved from Los Angeles to New York from January 2020.

Lilliana Vazquez and Scott Tweedie have anchoring E! News since January for the past 8 months.

Longtime E! News viewers will remember Ted Casablanca who did Hollywood gossip and "blind items" in his "The Awful Truth" segment, as well as Kristin dos Santos, E!'s resident TV expert who brought viewers news about television.

E! News correspondents who rose to fame through the show over the years range from Samantha Harris and Ken Baker, to Zuri Hall, Marc Malkin, Nina Parker and Melanie Bromley.

ALSO READ: TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. As E! marks 15 years in South Africa as a TV channel on DStv, here are 15 things that E! brought into my life that I'm thankful for.

TV NEWS ROUND-UP. Today's interesting TV stories to read - 5 August 2020.

Here's the latest news about TV that I read and that you should read too:

■ "Feasting on the adulation of others" - we're all Norma Desmond now.

■ Are you able to guess what FOX News (StarSat 261) in the United States and Netflix have in common?

■ South African mine worker turned Los Angeles reality TV director Reinhardt Vermeulen:
"When I was working underground in the mines, I never in a million years would have thought that I would be here today."

■ Exiting MSNBC (StarSat 263) producer writes a scathing letter: America's TV ratings model for news channels "Blocks diversity of thought and content", "incentive is to amplify fringe voices and events", calls TV news "a cancer".

■ Staffers working for China's CGTN (DStv 409 / StarSat 266) say the TV channel struggles to be effective because it's trying to do too much at once and lacks the ability to discern the type of news and presentation of stories that appeal to international audiences.

■ "Television can be a brutal business."
Fired Australian TV news anchor speaks (subscription required).

■ Brown voices matter - but not to New Zealand's TVNZ.

■ See how the damage looks and the wreckage of the Beirut bureau of CNN International (DStv 401) after Tuesday's blast.

■ Ghana's Cyber Crime Unit arrest the managers of 2 Ghana TV stations - AB TV and Amen TV - over fraud.
News anchor Selikem Acolatse leaves Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) after 13 years.

■ Look at these 5 reality TV mansions: Which Real Housewives home would you buy?

■ Sunrise Surprise: A naked man interrupts the shot of WABC reporter in New York City.

■ Who's the Boss? reboot sequel planned at Sony Pictures Television with Tony Danza and Alyssa Milano.
Sequel will take place 30 years after the events of the original with Samantha Micelli now living as a single mother in the house the original series was set in.

■ MultiChoice adds Radio Luanda Antena Comercial (LAC) to DStv in Angola.

■ Judge Judy is back in court, promises to eat a contract with cream cheese if it can be produced in a new dispute.

■ Ellen Pompeio says she would probably have left Grey's Anatomy seen on M-Net (DStv 101) after the 6th season but decided to go after money and stability and not chase film roles and a career.

■ The MUST READ non-TV story of the day: Our society's largest attempt to communicate across the abyss of time:
How to warn humans - or those who come after us - about our bunker storage of our nuclear waste - with a message that could survive 10 000 years.

After 3 delays because of Covid-19 Disney will now release its live-action Mulan in September on its Disney+ streaming service globally and in cinemas in countries where Disney+ doesn't exist.

by Thinus Ferreira

After postponing and pushing out its cinema roll-out three times because of the global Covid-19 pandemic The Walt Disney Company on Tuesday as part of its latest quarterly earnings report announced that it will finally release its live-action Mulan film in September - but with a catch.

Similar to what other American studios have done with their big-budget films, and what has been happening in South Africa with new locally-produced films as well - where films from Greyhound on Apple TV+ to Griekwastad on DStv BoxOffice sidestep cinemas and now go to premium video-on-demand - Disney is placing Mulan on its Disney+ video streaming service.

Mulan will become available on Disney+ in September in countries where Disney+ is available like the United States, Canada and Western Europe, while Mulan will run in cinemas in countries like South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa where Disney has not made Disney+ available.

In the quarterly earnings results call with investors Bob Chapek, Disney CEO, said "unfortunately we've had to delay the release of Disney's highly-anticipated tentpole film, Mulan, a number of times due to the impact of Covid on theatres".

"In order to meet the need of consumers, during this unpredictable period, we thought it was important to find alternative ways to bring this exceptional, family-friendly film to them in a timely manner."

"We're announcing today that in Disney+ markets, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of countries in Western Europe, we will be offering Disney+ subscribers the epic adventure Mulan on Disney+ on a premiere access basis, beginning 4 September," said Bob Chapek.

"The price point will be $29.99 (R517.84) in the United States, and will vary slightly in other countries. Simultaneously, we will be releasing the film theatrically in certain markets where currently we have no announced launch plans for Disney+ and where theatres are open."

"We see this an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theatres, while also further enhancing the value of a Disney+ subscription with this great content."

In it's quarterly results Disney revealed that it's global Disney+ subscriber base has now grown to 60.5 million users. This makes Disney+ the second largest video streaming service behind just Netflix's nearly 193 million.

Disney took a revenue hit because of its theme parks that were closed, and a $4.9 billion write-down on the value of its international TV channels because of the loss of advertising because of Covid-19.

Disney took over more than 200 TV channels worldwide after purchasing 21st Century Fox, including FOX Sports that were rebranded to ESPN and recently added to China's StarTimes and StarSat as well as MultiChoice's DStv in South Africa and across Africa.