Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Yet another video streaming service, Viu, from PCCW Media launches and scoops up digital rights to SABC shows like Uzalo and Skeem Saam getting yanked from YouTube.

Yet another video streaming service, Viu, from PCCW Media, is launching in South Africa, scooping up the digital playback rights to the SABC's most popular locally produced shows like Uzalo and Skeem Saam that are getting yanked from YouTube at the end of the month.

PCCW Media with Viu is giving it a second try in South Africa after the failed ONTAPtv, with the SABC that as part of a 24 month deal with Viu, will remove some of its most popular local shows like Uzalo and Skeem Saam from YouTube at the end of the month and putting it on Viu exclusively.

Viu, offering a hybrid of both free and paid content has launched in South Africa with the app now downloadable, amidst the growing subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming wars.

Viu will try to duke it out in a crowded field with the likes of streaming services like Netflix South Africa, MultiChoice's DStv Now and Showmax, Amazon Prime Video, Cell C black, Acorn TV, TV2GO and others in the increasing battle for digital eyeballs.

Viu, operated by PCCW Media and Vuclip, is the next try after PWWC shuttered its ONTAPtv streamer in South Africa in mid-2018 without so much as a word after it launched in September 2015.

Viu launched in October 2015 in Hong Kong for the Asian market and has since expanded into other countries and is now available in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan, besides South Africa.

Ryan Solovei, Viu country manager for South Africa, says Viu has over 20 million monthly active users, had 1.2 billion video views in 2018, has over 70 Viu original titles, and is now in South Africa.

In a deal between Viu and the South African public broadcaster, some of the SABC archives has been licensed exclusively to Viu, along with shows that are in-production like Uzalo, although the programmes remain the property of the SABC.

The price of the content licensing deal isn't being disclosed by the SABC and Viu.

The digital rights to Uzalo, the most watched show on SABC1 and in South Africa as well as Skeem Saam are moving to Viu as part of a 2-year deal. It means that viewers will no longer be able to watch episodes of these shows on YouTube from 28 February.

From March - Viu's official "launch date", although it's already accessible to consumers - digital playbacks of episodes of the latest seasons of Uzalo and Skeem Saam will only be viewable on the Viu app as a catch-up service.

Besides Uzalo and Skeem Saam Viu also acquired the rights to 18 other shows from the SABC catalogue, including The Docket on SABC3, as well as Yizo-Yizo, Single Galz, Taryn and Sharon, Ngempela, The Sober Companion, When We Were Black and Emoyeni.

The SABC's content will be carried on Viu under the header "SABC Collection".

Viu currently offers over 2000 hours of content. Users can watch free videos on Viu without having to register, but to access premium content users must register and log in. Viu however provides a 30-day free sampling period to watch premium content.

It's not clear whether all of the SABC Collection of content like Uzalo and other shows will remain free to watch on Viu as is currently the case, or move behind the pay subscription.

"The SABC is proud to have partnered with Viu SA in this exciting new initiative," says Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO. "As a broadcaster, it is imperative that we continuously move with the times and ensure that our programmes are available through video-on-demand platforms".

"With its experience in delivering and successfully monetising over-the-top (OTT) and VOD services across the globe, Viu SA will assist the SABC's mandate of ensuring universal access for South Africa's rich, home-grown content. This strongly aligns with our strategic objective to identify new revenue streams and in this particular case, increasing revenue through sub-licensing SABC-owned intellectual property, specifically in the video entertainment space."

Ryan Solovei says Viu SA is "proud to partner with the SABC to provide a digital platform for the broadcaster's incredible shows. We believe in the power of South African stories and we look forward to increasing access to these stories to as many people as possible through our digital platform".

Monday, February 18, 2019

Johannesburg auditions for Idols' 15th season on Mzansi Magic lures contestants queuing and sleeping from the night before, ready to sing in Pokemon slippers.

Saturday's Johannesburg auditions for the 15th season of Idols on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) that took place at the Ellis Park Arena saw contestants travel from other provinces, arriving and queuing from the night before, ready for their moment in the spotlight in front of the judges - even wearing Pokemon slippers.

Ipeleng Ngake (16) was first in line on Saturday with the Grade 9 pupil who got to Ellis Park at 05:00 on Friday morning - the day before the auditions - driving all the way from Bloemhof in the North West province.

Ipeleng Ngake auditioned for the first time, singing Ed Sheeran's "Thinking out Loud".

"I love to sing and I couldn't wait to turn 16 so that I can enter the competition," she said.

Idols, a Fremantle format show produced by [SIC] Entertainment with co-executive producers Gavin Wratten and ProVerb (Tebogo Thekisho who is also the presenter), is fresh off another record-breaking season, fueling ongoing surging interest from ordinary South Africans in the 15th season set for broadcast on Mzansi Magic later this year.

Gcobani Matiyase (25) from Alexandra also queued on Saturday, also for his first time to audition for Idols. The sales consultant also joined the long line from 19:00 the previous night, with his friend, and slept in the line to sing Rihanna's "Take a Bow" for the Idols judges the next day.

Pilusa (right), also known as "Nkupi The Entertainer" was Superman when he auditioned in the 14th season of Idols

He returned on Saturday as "The Diva", dressed in Pokemon slippers. Pilusa (25) from Seshego is a student and entertainer.

Morgan Trevelyan (26) on Saturday did her 7th audition for Idols.

The mother of a 3-year old from Randburg is a DJ and owns a T-Shirt printing company. 

"I have never made it any further in the competition, and with my love for music, I would like to get to the top 16," said Morgan Trevelyan

She sang "The Cup Song" from the film Pitch Perfect for the Idols judges.

Producers Stained Glass TV crows over performance of its local primetime shows Uzalo and eHostela done from KwaZulu-Natal.

The Stained Glass TV production company is crowing over the performance of its two primetime drama series, Uzalo and eHostela.

Uzalo, currently in its 5th season and the most-watched show on South African television and on SABC1, received 7 nominations for 2019's upcoming 13th South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) taking place on 2 March at Sun City.

Meanwhile viewership of eHostela on Mzansi Magic has reached 1.16 million viewers, the second most watched show on MultiChoice's DStv. 

"We're thrilled about how this year is shaping up so far," says Mmamitse Thibedi, executive producer at Stained Glass TV

"As a KwaZulu-Natal based production house, it's been a real privilege to tell the fascinating stories of this part of the country. We've been able to enlist incredible talent from the province – both production and cast – and it shows in the final product."

"Both Uzalo and eHostela have consistently drawn healthy audiences and with 7 Safta nominations for Uzalo, it's clear that the industry also agrees that we're on the right track.

Uzalo has been nominated for Best Actress (Dawn Thandeka King) and Best supporting actor (Khaya Dladla), as well as Best achievement in sound, Best achievement in editing, Best achievement in wardrobe, and best achievement in make-up.

"eHostela, which has enlisted the services of fresh acting talent and some of the industry's most accomplished production professionals, has been rewarded by loyal audiences who have consistently shown up from its first episode on 6 January 2019," says Mmamitse Thibedi.

"The viewership in excess of 1 million viewers, is a true testament to the fact that Stained Glass' commitment to telling authentic South Africa's stories is the most direct paths to viewers hearts and minds."

eNCA and e.tv's current affairs programme, Checkpoint, nominated for 2 awards for 2019's 13th South African Film and Television Awards; nominations affirm the team's work says executive producer.

The weekly current affair programme Checkpoint on eNCA (DStv 403) and broadcast on e.tv has been nominated for two awards in the Best current affairs programme category for 2019's upcoming 13th South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) with the show's executive producer saying the nominations affirm the work done by the team.

2019's Saftas are set to take place on 2 March at Sun City.

Checkpoint that started in April 2014 was nominated for the insert "Isikebhe" and "Dr Sello of Ikageng".

"IsiKebhe" investigated an anti-stock theft organisation that had gone rogue and that had become a feared vigilante group, doling out brutal community punishment in rural parts of the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The "Dr Sello of Ikageng" insert uncovered horrific abuses at the hands of a medical practitioner near Potchefstroom.

"We don't do our work for awards but being acknowledged by the industry always highlights the dedication of the Checkpoint team," says Nkepile Mabuse, Checkpoint executive producer.

"It is most gratifying when those who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes also get to bask in the glory of achievement.

New episodes of Checkpoint are broadcast on Tuesdays on eNCA at 20:30 with repeats on Sundays at 19:00.

SABC3 to reunite loved ones in new show, Miles Apart, Miles Together, flying South Africans back home in reality series set for later in 2019.

SABC3 is adding a new 13-episode reality show, Miles Apart, Miles Together for broadcast later in 2019, that will reunite South Africans with loved ones living far away.

Miles Apart, Miles Together (MAMT) will revolve around heart rendering stories of South African loved ones being reunited with family members who have moved abroad, flying South Africans back home to surprise people they love.

"They now wake up every day without their loved ones, separated by distance and time. This big change has put thousands of kilometres between lovers, family, friends and parents allowing some the opportunity to only see each other once or twice a year at best."

"Births and birthdays are missed, anniversaries, weddings and other pivotal events that we know they would have loved to attend. This is also true for those who remain behind who can't engage with their loved ones who are overseas, especially when intimate and personal family events take place," says SABC3.

"Now South Africans can surprise someone by bringing a loved-one from overseas," says the channel.

Yes my precious, new Lord of the Rings map starts to provide tantalising clues to not just where - but when - Amazon Prime Video's fantasy drama series will be set.

Tantalising new clues are emerging not just about the setting, but the time period, of not just where but when the big-budget Lord of the Rings fantasy drama series of Amazon Prime Video will take place.

Amazon Prime Video has provided a map - literally - for where the series will be set that will likely follow the conclusion of Game of Thrones seen on M-Net as the next big, premium, must-watch global fantasy TV series.

After Amazon Prime Video published the Lord of the Rings map of Middle-Earth to indicate the upcoming setting, experts in Tolkien-lore were lightning-quick to point out that the map shows Middle-Earth after the War of Wrath, "since Beleriand isn't on it".

Like an Earth map showing Czechoslovakia, or Greenland without ice as a desert, can be used to place it in a specific era in the planet's history or future, the Middle-Earth map strongly indicates that the Amazon series will take place in the Second or Third Age.

The tweet also mentioned the three rings for Elves. They were made by Celebrimbor for Galadriel and Gil-Galad and were later worn by Cirdan, Elrond and Gandalf.

Could it be that the series will show the story of how the rings were forged and got to be, as happened partially into the Second Age, or Sauron before his fall into darkness?

What is known so far is that the series will be set before the events depicted in the Lord of the Rings films.

Lord of the Rings will be produced by Amazon Studios, in co-operation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment and is rumoured to start around 2021. The cost will come in at $1 billion for at least 5 seasons.

Delay of ANC-led government and parliament's portfolio committee in appointing new SABC board a gross dereliction of duty, 'acts of treason', says Media Monitoring Africa.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has slammed the delay by South Africa's government and parliament's portfolio committee on communications to appoint new SABC board members for the vacancies that have exited for months, as a gross dereliction of duty, a violation of their oath of office, and "acts of treason".

The beleaguered and unstable SABC - commercially insolvent according to the Auditor-General - continues to limp along months before the 9 May date for national elections in South Africa, with a gutted and inquorate SABC board following several resignations.

There's also been no word on when or if the SABC will get the new R3 billion bailout if needs to avoid complete financial collapse.

The lack of any actual visible progress to radically stabilise the SABC in terms of its finances, governance and management - with no real transparent communication as to what exactly is happening and not happening has led South Africa's TV and film industry to believe that the SABC is deliberately being kept unstable by the ANC-led government because of the looming national elections.

South Africa's 11th minister of communications in 11 years, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, and the chairperson of parliament's portfolio committee on communications, Hlengiwe Mkhize, seem to be missing-in-action as public servants as far as their task of stabilising the SABC is concerned.

Hlengiwe Mkhizeinitially set out early-January 2019 for the process of interviews with potential SABC board candidates to start.

By mid-February nothing has happened, months after the SABC board became inquorate.

"The latest action by the portfolio committee to delay the appointment of new SABC board members, not only flies in the face of their promises to expedite the process, it constitutes a gross dereliction of duty and a violation of their oath of public office," says MMA non-profit organisation and public pressure group in a statement.

"In seeking to deepen the governance crisis at the SABC, they are deliberately seeking to destabilise our public broadcaster and our democracy."

"Their actions lead to two routes: one, we have an inquorate SABC board as we approach elections, and an SABC in financial crisis."

"Two, they seek to force the remainder of the SABC board to resign so they can appoint appoint an interim SABC board of lackeys and stooges."

"Both events have a similar outcome for our public broadcaster – its collapse as a public broadcaster, and a return to a state broadcaster. The only real difference between the options is the time it takes."

"As such, and having known full well of the impending crises, these latest actions could be seen not just as a gross violation of their public oath of office, but as acts of treason," says Media Monitoring Africa.

"That public representatives can act in this manner spits in the face of all who fought for freedom in South Africa. MMA is currently exploring all legal avenues and forms of recourse to help avert an elections crisis. All South Africans should be utterly revolted at this betrayal of our democracy."

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in a weird one-size-fits-all holding statement on Saturday said "the minister is concerned about corporate governance, given the status of the SABC board, and is consulting relevant stakeholders, including National Treasury, on the best legal approach, given the current state of affairs" following her first meeting with the government bailout team working on a possible SABC bailout deal.

Netflix cancels Marvel TV's last two remaining drama series, Jessica Jones and The Punisher, on its streaming service.

Netflix has dumped Marvel TV's last two remaining superhero series on the global streaming service and has cancelled both Jessica Jones and The Punisher.

Netflix's abrupt cancellation follows the cancellations of Iron Fist,  Daredevil,  Luke Cage and the combo-series The Defenders.

An already-produced third season of Jessica Jones will still roll out on Netflix but no date has yet been announced.

"Marvel's The Punisher will not return for a third season on Netflix," Netflix says in a statement.

"Showrunner Steve Lightfoot, the terrific crew, and an exceptional cast including star Jon Bernthal, delivered an acclaimed and compelling series for fans, and we are proud to showcase their work on Netflix for years to come."

"In addition, in reviewing our Marvel programming, we have decided that the upcoming third season will also be the final season for Marvel's Jessica Jones. We are grateful to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, star Krysten Ritter and the entire cast and crew for three incredible seasons of this groundbreaking series".

"We are grateful to Marvel for five years of our fruitful partnership and thank the passionate fans who have followed these series from the beginning."

Netflix initially went big with the announcement of its partnership tie-up in 2013 but the relationship soured as Marvel's owner, Disney, started to work on plans for its own video streaming service, Disney+ that will be launching later in 2019.

Disney plans to use and create Marvel characters for its own service.

After Netflix's announcement, Marvel TV boss Jeph Loeb published a letter online at Marvel.com saying that Netflix "may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters but you know Marvel better than that".

"As Matthew Murdock's Dad once said, 'The measure of a man is not how he gets knocked to the mat, it's how he gets back up. To be continued."

REVISITED. Viewers have fallen in love with The Bachelor South Africa after M-Net made the entire first episode available for free on YouTube and the hilarious - and quite insightful - comments will give you life.

South African and international viewers have fallen head over heels in love with The Bachelor South Africa unable to resist after M-Net (DStv 101) made the first episode available for free online - complete with comments that are hilarious, often insightful, and over-the-top entertaining in their own right.

A stunning number of viewers have seen and sampled the first episode of The Bachelor SA as a free-watch, with the YouTube number counter continuing to explode upwards as people in droves click and view the long-form, premium-produced content after its debut this past Thursday evening on M-Net at 19:00.

ALSO READ: Viewers flock to The Bachelor South Africa ... on YouTube, saying it looks like Top Billing and begging M-Net to make all the episodes available for free.

In a remarkable departure, M-Net - in a first for the 32-year old pay-TV broadcaster - decided to give a premium chunk of one of its new pay-TV series away for free by placing the entire 1 hour and 8 minutes debut episode of its latest, locally produced show on YouTube. It worked.

Counter-intuitively, by giving the episode away for free, the successful result of the content marketing experiment with The Bachelor SA has been a massive win for MultiChoice's most premium, flagship channel on DStv.

The surprising move could very well lead to a possible permanent strategy shift inside M-Net that could see the debut episodes of all or several more of M-Net series in future be placed online for free and that foreseeably could help drive possible DStv Premium uptake and aid in show sampling and raising show title awareness under the public.

While the local version of The Bachelor SA with bachelor Lee Thompson - produced by Rapid Blue according to the dating show format of Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP) - rack up YouTube views, the comments on their own, mostly from a female audience, are additional entertainment gold.

"Wow, the picture quality's out of this world and the Western Cape is something else. This show will not only entertain us but also promote travel and tourism," said Mamapho Langa.

"Gina looks like Megan Markle. Hopefully she snags this prince Harry," said Rose Greenstone.

"You guys are smart for putting the first episode on YouTube," remarked Siba Jack-Pamal with Z.Mute saying: "I'm even ready to subscribe".

"Guys, let's share DStv Now usernames and passwords. Let's do it for the nation," suggested Mmala Mokone, while Lesedi Khumalo said: "I really like this guy he seems sincere".

"Hey these ladies are off the hook, they are all beautiful stunning and intelligent, I love the diversity and different backgrounds, so proud to be a South African woman," remarked Adele Davids. Olwethu Yekela said: "I absolutely the diversity, and how laid back this guy is".

"He likes tall women, so the shorter women must prepare their hearts for rejection. He is gorgeous though!" said Patience Mabaso. "Does he not have a tattoo? Wow, I am looking for one; rare, rare," observed Nothando Dnhlovu.

"Jozaan is probably an only child. She has that vibe to her," said Sasha, while Helene Elisab20 commented: "Jozaan your bum is so flat like my TV's screen please try to fix it girl".

"Is it just me or someone else has noticed the swelling on Natasha's (scientist) neck? She needs to have it checked out," said Betty Achieng.

"Wait... The twins got the same surname as the dude? Wouldn't marry or date someone with the same surname as me," said Rofhiwa Tshikonelo.

"I'm rooting for Michelle R. She represents many of us hard working, mature, educated, independent & beautiful South African women out there - black, white, Indian, coloured. Love her," wrote Dineo Mokgosi.

"Not crazy about women competing over a man, entertaining though, since this is the business of entertainment. Top Billing style type of production, well done," said Joy.

Science fiction drama series, The Expanse, switches streaming services from Netflix to Amazon Prime Video before debut of the new 4th season later in 2019.

The science fiction drama series, The Expanse, has switched streaming services, from Netflix to Amazon Prime Video.

All three seasons of the science fiction drama series, The Expanse, is now available on Amazon Prime Video, with a 4th season that will debut later in 2019 on the global video streaming service after Amazon took over the show after it's cancellation by NBCUniversal's Syfy channel.

Outside of the Syfy channel, The Expanse's first three seasons were available on Netflix South Africa and on Netflix in other countries, until after it's cancellation and pickup by Amazon Prime Video. Instead of staying on Netflix, The Expanse has now switched streamers.

Based on novels by James S. A. Corey, The Expanse is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning political science fiction series set hundreds of years in the future where humans have colonised the solar system with The United Nations controlling Earth and an independent military power inhabiting Mars.

Desperate for air and water, the series begins with Earth and Mars on the verge of war over the resources found in the Asteroid Belt. With few options for survival, allies struggle to fight over the future of humanity.

Season 4 of The Expanse, now an Amazon Prime Original series, will launch later this year.

The Expanse cast includes Thomas Jane, Shohreh Asgdashloo, Steve Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Frankie Adams, Shawn Doyle, Chad L. Coleman, Florence Faivre and Cara Gee.

The Expanse is produced by Alcon Television Group with Naren Shankar as showrunner.

The four South African personalities revealed who will be taking part in Come Dine with Me South Africa's 5th season special episode on BBC Brit in March.

The 5th season of Come Dine with Me South Africa on BBC Brit (Dstv 120) will start on Monday 11 March at 20:00 with an episode featuring local South African personalities Candice Modiselle, Lucky Du PlessisChristall Kay and Gert-Johan Coetzee.

The four will compete, similar to viewers in the rest of the episodes to win money for their chosen charities.

The new season of Come Dine with Me SA has a further 12 episodes filmed in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

Production company Rapid Blue produces the ITV Studios Global Entertainment format for BBC Studios, with the South African version that also features the voice-over narration of Dave Lamb.

Actress and presenter Candice Modiselle says "Come Dine with Me SA was arguably one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences. I've always been a fan of the show and was humbled to be invited".

The Real Housewives of Johannesburg reality star Christall Kay says "I had a really good time at everyone's evenings and am confident that people will be impressed with my night in particular as I eat out a lot and know what makes a good dinner party".

Fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee says "I planned my evening to perfection and can't wait to see what people think of my couture evening as it was, in my opinion, cooked and styled to perfection and all in aid of a good cause".

Radio DJ Lucky Du Plessis says "It was a fantastic 4 days taking part and it was a good laugh meeting my fellow dinner party contestants. Now I just can't wait to see what everyone thinks of the episode".

Netflix's first locally-acquired South African series, Shadow, stars Pallance Dladla and Amanda Du Pont.

Shadow, the first locally-acquired South African TV series, is set to become available on Netflix South Africa from Friday 8 March with Pallance Dladla and Amanda Du Pont in a crime drama spanning a variety of set-pieces giving a feel for the African continent.

While Queen Sono, a spy drama series with Pearl Thusi, produced by Diprente with Kagiso Lediga as director is Netflix's first commissioned African and South African original drama series, Shadow is Netflix's first locally-acquired drama series.

Following the unjust murder of a young girl, Johannesburg detective and former task force specialist, Shadrach "Shadow" Khumalo, portrayed by Pallance Dladla, quits his job to become a fixer for people who, like him, have been failed by the criminal justice system.

With the help of his former partner, Shadow cuts a swathe through the city’s underworld taking full advantage of a rare condition that affects his central nervous system: he is impervious to physical pain.

Amanda Du Pont plays Ashley, Shadow's love interest in Shadow that has 8 hourlong episodes.

Shadow is produced by Motion Story Productions, with Gareth Crocker as director.

TV NEWS ROUND-UP. Today's interesting TV stories to read from TVwithThinus - 18 February 2019.

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

■ How the Comcast voice remote takes customer-convenience to the next level.
How long before MultiChoice follows the American pay-TV operator with a DStv voice remote that listens to your commands like an Alexa? With the remarkable remote control, young and old can just say "Watch Paw Patrol", or "Play sports".

■ Chicago police now believe that Jussie Smollett from Empire on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201) paid two former brothers suspects Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo from Nigeria - one who has appeared on Empire, to attack him and that Jussie Smollett orchestrated and planned his own attack.
■ Police say Jussie Smollett paid Empire on FOX extras $3 500 to stage the attack on him.

■ Ola played a prison inmate during the second season of Empire, while Abel (the other brother's nickname) says he also worked on Empire. And both brothers through their lawyer now admit that they know Jussie Smollett.
■ Jussie Smollett says in a statement he's "victimised by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators".
■ Jussie Smollett still hasn't talked to the police again after new "developments".
■ Empire is killing off a major character - FOX insists it isn't Jussie Smollett.

■ SABC senior managers, executive producers and a radio station manager the first to face disciplinary hearings after being implicated in the SABC sexual harassment inquiry report.

■ Zambia's government and Zambia's hypocritical Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) is banning gays while promoting incent and infidelity after forcing MultiChoice Zambia and Zambezi Magic to censor Lusaka Hustle.

■ Is Netflix forcing you to binge-watch shows?

■ The Bachelor's Colton Underwood says he was grabbed inappropriately at an event and that he didn't sign up to be a piece of meat or a zoo animal.

■ Woman throws policeman with TV set.

■ When did reality TV become ... nice?

■ The dead girl trope: Netflix's love of female victims.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

In late scheduling change Al Jazeera schedules Al Jazeera film, Maria Ressa: War on Truth, this week for its Witness documentary strand following the Filipino journalist and Rappler editor's arrest this week.

In a late scheduling change, Al Jazeera (DStv 406 / StarSat 257 / Cell C black 503) will now broadcast Maria Ressa: War on Truth tonight in its Witness strand timeslot on Monday morning, 18 February 00:30, following the Filipino journalist and Rappler editor's shocking arrest this week.

The special Maria Ressa: War on Truth will repeat in the week on Al Jazeera on Monday 18 February at 11:30, 19 February at 05:30, 20 February at 18:30 and 21 February at 07:30 (all times South Africa).

"It's the battle of our age. Facebook and other social media giants are being manipulated by governments and corporations, weakening democracies," says Al Jazeera of the documentary special.

"No country epitomises the consequences of this battle more so than the Philippines. No individual personifies the struggle against it more so than Maria Ressa."

Maria Ressa is the editor of Rappler, a digital news outlet that flourished under Facebook, and she now says is being crushed by it as the government uses it to shut down its critics.

She runs what she calls the "Shark Tank", one of the largest independent databases of Facebook accounts and comments that is tracking 15 million accounts propagating disinformation on social media and that are used to control debate globally. 

"While she lobbies social media giants to become more accountable abroad, she’s facing legal battles at home, with her government trying to jail her, shut her outlet down and silence dissent.

Al Jazeera follows Maria Ressa while she fights at the frontlines of what she calls "the war on truth and to prevent democracies from failing not only in her country but also worldwide".

Filipino journalist Maria Ressa’s arrest on 13 February 2019 sparked condemnation around the world.

In this new Al Jazeera Witness film, the documentary gains intimate access to Maria and follow her fight on the frontlines of what she calls the "war on truth" Maria takes viewers into Rappler, the digital-only news platform she co-founded in 2012 that flourishes by sharing much of its content via Facebook.

Maria Ressa also travels to Paris, France, where she speaks at the inaugural congregation of the Information and Democracy Commission, spearheaded by Reporters Without Borders, and attended by French President Emmanuel Macron.

In 2016 Maria Ressa started to notice a rise in accounts extolling the virtues of the government, or a particular policy around the time of its announcement. She also saw dissenters being trolled. 

This prompted her and her team to create possibly the largest data set outside of Facebook, called the "Shark Tank" to monitor these accounts. What she found alarmed her.

She presented her findings to Facebook ahead of American president Donald Trump’s election in the United States.

Facebook ignored her - until after the election. Then Facebook requested the data again and used it to shut down 30 000 fake accounts ahead of the French elections in 2017. She says without this information, Emmanuel Macron may not have been elected. What’s more, the US elections may have turned out differently, if used sooner.

Maria Ressa says autocratic rulers can view social media with suspicion because it allows dissenters to mobilise quickly, but now they realise they can use it to manipulate debate and undermine democracy.

South Africa's communications minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, finally meets with the government bailout team working to try and get another billion rand bailout for the SABC.

South Africa's latest minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the 11th communications minister in 11 years, on Saturday finally met with the government bailout team working on trying to get another bailout of billions of rand in the form of a government-guaranteed bank loan for the financially devastated SABC.

 On Twitter Stella-Ndabeni Abrahams said "today we met with the team that is working on the government bailout for SABC in preparation for presentation to the cabinet committee".

The beleaguered South African public broadcaster is hovering on the brink of financial collapse and has repeatedly been asking for another government bailout in the form of another government-guaranteed bank loan - similar to the last SABC bailout in 2011 - for months since the latter part of 2018.

The SABC told parliament that it needs roughly R3 billion.

In a statement, Stella-Ndabeni Abrahams said the team sought to provide her "with a progress update as she prepares to pursue cabinet approval for the allocation of a SABC government bailout".

The team comprises of senior officials from the department of communications, National Treasury and the SABC.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that "she appreciated the progress made and reiterated to the team that restoring the SABC’s financial sustainability is of vital importance as this will enable it to deliver on its public service mandate to inform, educate and entertain".

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that she notes "the corporate governance issues emanating from an inquorate SABC board" and that "she will, in terms of her shareholder responsibilities, continue engaging parliament to bring finality to this matter".

ITV commissions Belgravia as a limited drama series, set in 19th century upper echelon London, from Julian Fellowes and Carnival Films.

ITV has commissioned a 6-episode adaptation of Julian Fellowes' Belgravia, with filming that will start in the autumn of 2019.

Belgravia is a story of secrets and dishonour amongst the upper echelon of London society in the 19th century.

When the Trenchards accept an invitation to the now legendary ball hosted by the Duchess of Richmond on the fateful evening of the Battle of Waterloo, it sets in motion a series of events that will have consequences for decades to come as secrets unravel behind the porticoed doors of London's grandest postcode.

Belgravia will be produced by Carnival Films, producers of the global hit Downton Abbey, and is distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution.

Belgravia reunites the creative team behind Downton Abbey with Julian Fellowes adapting his bestselling novel for the screen and Carnival Films' Gareth Neame executive producing alongside Nigel Marchant, Liz Trubridge and Julian Fellowes.

John Alexander will direct the limited series with Colin Wratten producing, with casting that is currently underway.

"We're delighted to be reuniting with Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame and Carnival Films to produce Belgravia," says Polly Hill, ITV's head of drama, in a statement.

"It's a tale of scandal and intrigue set in 1840s London with some wonderful characters spanning two generations at its heart."

Gareth Neame says "It's fantastic to be working again with Julian, a master storyteller. In Belgravia he has painted a wonderful backdrop of 19th century society against which intrigue and dynastic power struggles will play out".

"We are delighted to be partnering with ITV once again .. for this fantastic event series."

AMC Networks announces start of production for new and returning series in 2019, including The Terror: Infamy, Lodge 49 and Dispatches from Elsewhere.

AMC Networks has announced the start of production for new and returning series in 2019, including the second seasons of The Terror entitled The Terror: Infamy on Sundance TV (DStv 108) and Lodge 49.

Production on the second season of The Terror: Infamy seen on AMC's Sundance TV began production on 14 January in Vancouver, Canada.

Set during World War II, the haunting and suspenseful 10-episode season will revolve around a series of bizarre deaths that haunt a Japanese-American community, and a young man's journey to understand and combat the malevolent entity responsible.

George Takei from Star Trek fame serves as a consultant, as well as series regular, while Derek Mio stars as Chester Nakamura.

Season two of The Terror is co-created and executive produced by Alexander Woo who is also the showrunner, and Max Borenstein. The Terror: Infamy is an AMC Studios production.

Lodge 49, with AMC Studios Content Distribution managing worldwide sales, began filming its 10-episode second season on 22 January in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.

The comedy-drama series is a light-hearted, modern fable set in Long Beach, California about a disarmingly optimistic local ex-surfer, Dud (Wyatt Russell), who's drifting after the death of his father and collapse of the family business.

The recently-commissioned hourlong anthology series, Dispatches from Elsewhere, created by and starring Jason Segel will start production in Philadelphia in the United States in July 2019.

Dispatches From Elsewhere is about a group of ordinary people who stumble onto a puzzle hiding just behind the veil of everyday life.

They will come to find that the mystery winds far deeper than they ever imagined. Jason Segel will executive produce with Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Garrett Basch

South Africa's Bonang Matheba joins National Geographic's new ad-funded, global series Activate, highlighting global efforts to change the lives of people living in extreme poverty.

South Africa's Bonang Matheba has joined National Geographic's (DStv 181 / StarSat 220 / Cell C black 261) new ad-funded, global documentary series, Activate, that will highlight global efforts to change the lives of people living in extreme poverty.

Activate, sponsored by Proctor & Gamble, is a 6-episode documentary series, co-produced by RadicalMedia that will broadcast later in 2019 on National Geographic worldwide in 172 countries and will take viewers behind-the-scenes of major advocacy campaigns across the world trying to drive change for the world's poorest people.

Film crews are already out in the field - in South Africa, the Philippines, Nigeria and Peru - to film content for Activate that will feature Bonang Matheba, Usher and Pharrell Williams, Gayle King, Hugh Jackman and others. 

Each episode of Activate will delve into a different issue connected to the root causes of extreme poverty, with episode topics that will focus on clean drinking water and sanitation, racial bias and criminalisation of poverty, girls' education, responsible sourcing, plastic waste and disaster relief.

Together with the documentary series, the National Geographic magazine's September 2019 issue will include a 12-page sponsored print section for Activate.

"At National Geographic, we want to tell stories that matter and we're excited to work with partners like P&G and Global Citizen that share our values and want to tell those stories with us," says Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Global Television Networks.

"Through this multiplatform partnership, we will leverage our collective influence, audience and scale to raise awareness and drive action on some of the world's toughest challenges. Each episode of Activate will serve as a rallying cry, focusing on real solutions and avenues for their implementation - a strategic attempt we hope will move audiences around the globe from 'intent' to 'action."

Jon Doran, managing director and executive producer at RadicalMedia, says "We are proud to be partners in telling the story behind the passionate work being done to better the lives of others and hope to inspire a new crop of citizens who want to join the fight".

National Geographic commissions new scripted drama series, The Right Stuff, retelling the starting chapter of America's space race.

National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220 / Cell C black 261) has commissioned a new series, The Right Stuff, an adaptation of Tom Wolfe's best-seller that recounts the pioneering chapter of the United States's historic "space race".

Leonardo DiCaprio from his Appian Way and Jennifer Davisson from Warner Horizon Scripted Television are executive producers; alongside Mark Lafferty as executive producer and showrunner.

Production on The Right Stuff will begin later in 2019.

National Geographic says The Right Stuff "takes a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal".

The first season of The Right Stuff which uses the book as its starting point takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1958 when the Soviets are dominating the space race.

The American public is in fear of a nation in decline, so the American government conceives of a solution - NASA's Project Mercury - creating the country's premier astronauts from a handful of the military's adrenaline-junkie test pilots.

Seven individuals, known as the Mercury Seven, are plucked from obscurity and soon forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act. Within the heart of this historical drama that's populated by deeply human characters, two archrivals - John Glenn and Alan Shepard - jockey to be the first in space.

Subsequent seasons of The Right Stuff will carry through to the epochal Apollo space programme, where humankind saw one of its greatest achievements - man setting foot on the moon - and missions beyond.

"The behind-the-scenes stories of the astronauts in Tom Wolfe's bestseller The Right Stuff are engaging, provocative and timeless," says Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president, global scripted content and documentary films, at National Geographic.

"The book's narrative aligns perfectly with the qualities that we look for in scripted projects: fact-based, wildly entertaining and pushing the limits of human achievement."

"The Right Stuff is about a moment when the country looked in the same direction to achieve the stuff of fantasy, and on a timeline that was nearly impossible," says Mark Lafferty.

"The story is a reminder of what we're capable of, but it also shows how much we've changed and diversified over time. National Geographic is the perfect home to showcase the ambitious and colourful characters at the centre of this pioneering era."

Viacom's 'New Nickelodeon' charting a new course to serve all kids with a wide-range of new content, including Lego City, SpongeBob spin-offs, and a scripted boarding school music series.

Viacom's "New Nickelodeon" (DStv 305) says the children's channel is charting a new course to serve all kids - who are now "their own programmers" in a connected world - with its biggest and most wide-ranging new content slate ever, including a SpongeBob SquarePants spin-off.

Brian Robbins, Nickelodeon president, says in a statement that Nickelodeon is unveiling a new content slate created for "today's kids who are multicultural, family-focused, and in control of their entertainment choices across platforms"

"With a foundation of supercharging its globally powerful original franchises like SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and PAW Patrol, and welcoming new, acquired properties into its ecosystem, Nickelodeon's new slate represents a renewing of its commitment to serve all kids, through a multicultural lens; bringing in talent kids love from other platforms and formats; and opening up its demo to capture kid and parent co-viewing, to satisfy this generation's demand for shared family time."

"We have a laser focus on who kids are today, and what they want, so we are making a wider variety of shows and series for them, and we're working with brand-new kinds of talent and producers," says Brian Robbins.

"We have a new creative team in place and a renewed energy that we're harnessing to bring the buzz back to Nick."

Nickelodeon's new direction was developed against the network's defining research insights into today's kids, who, according to Nickelodeon "are the most diverse generation ever", who cite shared experiences with their parents and family as their top priority; and who are "in near-total control of their entertainment choices, enabled by any one of the 12 connected devices found in today's average household"

"Kids today are their own programmers, so we have been working very fast to transfer our expertise as television content makers to all the new places and platforms kids are going to," says Brian Robbins

"Our vision for a new Nickelodeon is to fill up every screen, of every size, to make an impact on as many consumers as we can and to be at the forefront of conversation for today's kids and families."

"Everything we're making will have different formats, for all platforms, so we can travel the audience back and forth from one to the other while being home base for all the shows, the biggest franchises, the characters and talent they love."

Some of Nickelodeon's new content slate includes The Casagrandes, the spin-off from the animation series, The Loud House that will follow 11-year-old Ronnie Anne after she moves to the city with her older brother Bobby and her mom, where they now live with their big, loving and chaotic multigenerational Mexican-American family, the Casagrandes.

Santiago of the Seas (formerly The Swashbuckling Adventures of Capitán Calavera) is an animated series follows the adventures of 8-year-old Santiago Montes, a brave and kind-hearted pirate.

Nickelodeon is also working on an as-yet-untitled Simon Fuller and Ryan Tedder produced scripted music series set in a boarding performing arts high school, with original music in every episode. 

Nickelodeon is commemorating the 20th anniversary of SpongeBob Squarepants with the "Best Year Ever," a tribute that will include an original one-hour special, SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout, that will premiere later in 2019.

Additionally, plans are in place to expand the SpongeBob SquarePants universe with spinoffs focused on the core characters into formats such as new series, specials and feature-length movies. The anniversary will culminate with the release of the new SpongeBob film, It's A Wonderful Sponge, from Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies. 

The second season of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will start on Nickelodeon later this year, and follow the Turtles as they continue to hone their ninja skills, uncover new, powerful weapons and encounter a world beneath the streets of New York City.

The franchise is also being expanded with an original, feature-length animated movie being produced by Nickelodeon Studios for Netflix. 

Paddington (working title) with actor Ben Whishaw is coming to Nickelodeon as a new animation series, following a younger Paddington and his adventures in London with the Brown family and their friends.

Lego City is a new animated comedy, created and produced by LEGO Group, that depicts the funny, smart, and dynamic slices of life within the sprawling and diverse LEGO CITY community. 

Lego City will start later in 2019 and will follow the intertwining paths of the city's everyday heroes as they work together to stop a mysterious master criminal who begins to wreak havoc on their town. 

ZEEL's Zee World channel celebrates 4 years in Africa with phenomenal viewership growth for its Bollywood content, first locally-produced content to be broadcast from April 2019.

The Indian-focused channel Zee World (DStv 166) is celebrating its four-year anniversary this month celebrating phenomenal viewership growth, with the first locally-produced content set for broadcast from April 2019.

Zee World's 4th anniversary is an important milestone according to ZEE Entertainment Enterprise Ltd. (ZEEL) with Zee World that has seen tremendous growth for its African viewership.

Zee World achieved its highest rating ever in South Africa and Africa in September 2018 which grew more than 200% since the channel's launch in February 2015 as African viewers tune in to the dedicated Bollywood content broadcast across the continent.

The journey of Zee World from 2015 to 2019 has shown a steep upward growth in ratings and revenues alike, says ZEEL.

Zee World launched with 4 fresh hours, Mondays to Fridays in 2015 and then added an additional 5th hour in 2016, along with showing 5 series 7 days a week since 2018.

The latest innovation for Zee World is its first locally produced content that will be broadcast from April 2019 on the channel.

Zee World now available in high definition (HD) to MultiChoice's DStv subscribers in Southern Africa.

The Broadcast Research Council of South Africa's (BRCSA) recent results of its brands and services survey (January to June 2018) listed Zee World amongst the "channels that are rapidly gaining traction in South Africa".

According to ZEEL, Zee World continues to remain among the top 3 channels in South Africa and the number one most watched channel in key markets in West & East Africa including Nigeria and other Southern African Development Community countries in Africa.

"Zee World is undoubtedly a success story; our continuous growth shows that we have captured a very important and loyal viewership," says Harish Goyal, CEO Africa & Asia Pacific.

"We will build on this by consistently providing innovative and engaging programming to our viewers."

Billions seen on M-Net releases new teaser and official poster for season 4 as Bobby and Chuck team up together for an uneasy alliance to destroy their rivals.

The Showtime drama series Billions, seen on M-Net (DStv 101) and Showmax, has released a new teaser trailer and official poster for the upcoming 4th season as Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades - former enemies - team up together in an uneasy alliance to destroy their rivals.

While season 3 of Billions started in April 2018 on M-Net after it started in March 2018 in the United States, it's not yet clear when season 4 of Billions will be starting on M-Net, or whether it will be shifting to also become a "Showmax first" title.

The fourth season of Billions will start in America on 17 March.

In the fourth season, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), the chief counselor to each, have come together to form an uneasy but highly effective alliance, aimed at the eradication of all their rivals, including Grigor Andolov (guest star John Malkovich), Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) and Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat (guest star Clancy Brown).

"Ambition and betrayal have long been at the heart of Billions, and this season all the characters find out exactly how high a price they'll have to pay to satisfy those needs," says Showtime in the fourth season's new logline.

Billions is created and executive produced by showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien and was also created by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Cast revealed as production starts on Disney's new original series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, for the Disney+ streaming service.

The cast has been revealed as production has started on Disney's new original series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series for Disney's Disney+ streaming service that is set to launch in late-2019.

It's not yet clear whether Disney+ will launch globally, and if so include South Africa, or only be for the United States.

Depending on that, is not know yet whether High School Musical: The Musical: The Series would be shown on the Disney Channel (DStv 303) if The Walt Disney Company's Disney+ isn't made available in South Africa.

The 10-episode High School Musical: The Musical: The Series picks up nearly 15 years after the original Disney movie, set at the real-life location where it all began, East High.

The High School Musical: The Musical: The Series cast includes Joshua Bassett, Olivia Rodrigo, Kate Reinders, Sofia Wylie, Matt Cornett, Dara Reneé, Julia Lester, Frankie A. Rodriguez, Larry Saperstein and Mark St. Cyr.

Production is now underway in Salt Lake City, Utah developed and executive produced by Tim Federle alongside showrunner and executive producer Oliver Goldstick. Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush from the original High School Musical trilogy are also executive producers.

Television and music video director Tamra Davis who've worked on FOX's Empire is directing the first 3 episodes. The choreographer is Zach Woodlee.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series follows a group of students as they countdown to the opening night of their school's first-ever production of "High School Musical".

Showmances blossom; friendships are tested while new ones are made; rivalries flare and lives are changed forever as the young people discover the transformative power that only a high school drama club can provide.

Brand-new songs and acoustic "rehearsal room" reinterpretations of songs from the original "High School Musical" will provide the soundtrack for the unlikely group of theatre kids who learn "we're all in this together" when it comes to pulling off an against-all-odds opening night.

"The challenge we handed the creative team was Herculean. How do you recapture the joy and the magic of the original 'High School Musical' movie ... and simultaneously reimagine it completely?" says Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide, in a statement.

"That's like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded. And Tim and Oliver - and this amazingly talented and diverse cast and crew - have done exactly that!"

Agnes Chu, senior vice president of content for Disney+, says "We are truly excited about this extremely talented cast and the fresh and contemporary take on this globally-beloved franchise".

"From the music and dance to the characters and hilarious meta references, there is something here for fans of the originals, as well as people who are new to East High. It's going to be an unforgettable viewing experience".

Netflix acquires global rights to The Red Sea Diving Resort, filmed in South Africa, for release later in 2019 with Chris Evans and Ben Kingsley.

Netflix has acquired the global rights (excluding China) for Gideon Raff's The Red Sea Diving Resort with Chris Evans and Sir Ben Kingsley that will be released worldwide on the video streaming service later in 2019.

The Red Sea Diving Resort was filmed in South Africa.

The film with Chris EvansHaley Bennett, Alessandro Nivola and Sir Ben Kingsley is the incredible story of a group of Mossad agents and brave Ethiopians who in the early 1980s used a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of refugees to Israel.

Chris Evans plays Ari Kidron, the Mossad agent who leads the mission together with courageous local Kabede Bimro, played by Michael Kenneth Williams. The cast also includes Michiel Huisman, Chris Chalk and Greg Kinnear.

The Red Sea Diving Resort is a BRON Studios, Emjag, G.Raff Productions film in association with Creative Wealth Media. Netflix will release the film later this year.

Staffers on The Wendy Williams Show reportedly moving on 'like she doesn't exist', Wendy and husband Kevin Hunter '100 percent not involved' in talk show changes.

Production staffers on The Wendy Williams Show on BET (DStv 129) have reportedly completely moved on "like she doesn't exist" as the ailing Wendy abruptly took off weeks for medical treatment, with Wendy and her husband Kevin Hunter who are apparently "100 percent not involved" any longer with the show.

The Debmar-Mercury show is now making use of terrific stand-in hosts like Sherri Shepherd and Jerry O'Connell.

Wendy Williams abruptly announced in mid-January that she would be extending her absence from The Wendy Williams show after two previous new dates that got pushed out again and again, citing medical complications from her Graves' disease diagnosis.

There is currently no return date for when Wendy might return to her talk show currently in its 10th season with doubts growing as to whether she will now ever return.

RadarOnline reports that Wendy Williams staffers are allegedly not even bothering anymore to keep the sick Wendy in the loop anymore, with many saying they wish Wendy never returns ever again as the permanent host of the troubled talk show.

Sources on set say the production crew have moved on "as if she doesn't exist".

"At first, they were keeping her and Kevin in the loop, getting their approval on replacement hosts and guests. Now they are not even CC-ing them."

Wendy Williams is "100% not involved" in the talk show that carries her name right now, and the much more relaxed production team "feels like they're on vacation with all the guest hosts" after they have forgotten what a fun work environment could be like.

Us Weekly meanwhile reported that "every decision is now being made with zero conversations with Wendy".

Viacom's BET that broadcasts The Wendy Williams Show is itself hilariously reporting on the salacious gossip of its own star, saying "everyone is laughing and smiling and working together" without Wendy.

BET says "at first the staff was worried about losing their jobs," according to an on-set insider.

"Now it looks like the show can survive without Wendy, and a lot of people don't want her to return."

"There were so many unwritten rules with working with Wendy. You couldn't contact her directly. Only certain staff members could talk with her."

Kevin Hunter, Wendy's husband was apparently a nightmare. "No-one was allowed to disagree with him. It was a nightmare work environment," said a source. "You never knew what mood Wendy or Kevin were going to be in."

Meanwhile, angry Wendy staffers say "We've kept her secrets for years and dealt with them - but enough is enough".

"'The truth is, it's become a s**t show behind the scenes and at any given moment, as we've already seen twice this year already, the working plans tend to change day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute."

"So everyone is holding out hope, and many are already seeking jobs elsewhere."