Monday, November 23, 2020

Independent Producers Organisation on SABC retrenchment plan: 'It's disturbing that the ANC ruling party and unions are up in arms against the SABC board over a few hundred SABC jobs but haven't taken issue with thousands in the production sector who have lost jobs'.


by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) says that it rejects calls from trade unions for the dissolution of the SABC board and says that it finds it disturbing that the ANC ruling party and trade unions are now up in arms over job-losses at the public broadcaster but did nothing over the thousands of workers who had lost their jobs in the country's struggling TV and film industry already.

Tensions and public protest action have ramped up last week after the financially struggling South African public broadcaster issued retrenchment letters with SABC top management that wants to get rid of 400 workers at the bloated broadcaster.

The SABC board will again meet with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) this week, while the Bemawu trade union is bringing an interdict application at the Labour Court to halt the retrenchment process.

Politicians and political parties like the ANC and EFF have joined the public protest action of SABC workers, with the ANC and EFF also calling for an end to the SABC's retrenchment process.

Meanwhile, South Africa's battered film and TV industry had already shed thousands of jobs within the industry with many production companies that were forced to shutter as a confluence of the SABC drastically decreasing its local content spend, late and non-payment from the SABC for content that have been delivered because of cash-flow problems, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SABC board have said in 2019 and again this year that if the ANC-led government doesn't want job cuts it will need to commit to give the SABC an additional R1 billion per year. The SABC that just made a net loss of R511 is on track to make another loss of at least R1.2 billion next year.

The SABC roughly requires R270 million per month just to pay salaries with the wage bill that is by far the biggest single expense at the crumbling broadcaster. 

In the 2019/2020 financial year the SABC paid out an average salary of R791 000 per worker - roughly R66 000 per worker per month. This "average" is however skewed because of the multi-million rand remuneration packages of the SABC's top execs, directors and senior management who collective earned over R41 million in the financial year.

"While no-one supports retrenchments, particularly in these punishing economic times, the harsh reality is that without undergoing this process and trimming its bloated wage bill, the SABC will face financial ruin, putting thousands more jobs at risk in the organisation and its suppliers," says Quinton Fredericks, co-chairman of the Independent Producers Organisation, the industry umbrella organisation that represents South Africa's independent producers.

"The SABC board is the first to make any progress in managing the organisation’s cost to income ratio; reducing wasteful and fruitless expenditure, selling off non-essential assets and rooting out corruption," says the IPO.

"Importantly, it is also the first to act on the very direct instruction from Treasury when it received the bailout to reduce its unacceptably large headcount."

"The SABC spends 41 cents of every rand on salaries, whereas its spend on content – which is its core business – is only 22 cents, with local content only receiving 15 cents of that. As the public broadcaster, it is mandated to prioritise local content. By comparison, M-Net spends 15% on staff and 43% on local content. Further, as a percentage of revenue, eMedia  (e.tv) and the BBC spend 11% and 29% respectively on salaries."

"The SABC's wage bill has grown beyond all reason as a result of irregular and unjustified appointments, unwarranted bonuses and consistently above-inflation increases," says Quinton Fredericks.

"Conversely, it has slashed its spend on local content effectively cutting its rates to the production sector and the thousands of freelancers that work in it by an effective and staggering 50% over the last 12 years.

"It is disturbing that South Africa's parliament, the ANC ruling party and unions are up in arms against the SABC board over a few hundred SABC jobs, yet none of them have taken issue at all with the thousands of workers in the production sector who have lost their jobs, and the many small business production companies which have been forced to close down due to the SABC having reduced its spend on local content and, in the not so distant past, simply not paid producers for work that had been delivered to the broadcaster."

"The current SABC board's turnaround strategy is the first glimmer of hope for a sustainable future for the SABC. The measures in that strategy, including the retrenchments, are inevitable if the organisation is to survive, no matter who sits on its board," says Quinton Fredericks.

"Dissolving the SABC board, as the CWU demands, will cost the organisation and the country dearly."

"Replacing this SABC board with amenable disciples will not only lead to its rapid ruin, it also places the editorial independence of the public broadcaster and, in turn, our democracy under severe threat as we saw under the Hlaudi Motsoeneng era".

"An independent, objective broadcaster is a key pillar of a functioning democracy. We cannot allow this to be undermined by unrealistic populist rhetoric ostensibly aimed at saving a few hundred jobs at the cost of thousands of jobs across the production sector, and of a public broadcaster that is able to deliver effectively on the core requirements of its public service mandate," says Quinton Fredericks.

"The Independent Producers Organsiation recognises that the workers who may be retrenched at the SABC have extensive skills sets in the broadcasting, commissioning and production sector."

"These skills should be harnessed in building the capacity of small and medium black-owned production houses through agencies such as the MICTSeta and the National Skills Fund to reposition and build the capacity of the independent production sector in South Africa. This with a specific focus on developing our local indigenous film and television sector."

The cast and crew of e.tv's canned Rhythm City thought they were called together to be congratulated for their hard work and ratings during Covid-19 - then they were told they're fired during a cold speech.


by Thinus Ferreira

Just before the axe came down on e.tv's canned Rhythm City soap, the cast and crew thought that they were being called together to be congratulated for their hard work and ratings during the Covid-19 pandemic - but then they got fired during a "cold and clinical" speech.

On Friday e.tv shocked South Africa's TV industry when it suddenly announced that after 13 years it's over for its Rhythm City weekday prime time soap produced by Quizzical Pictures. 

On Sunday the City Press newspaper reported that the Rhythm City cast and crew were called together for an e.tv meeting, allegedly under the guise of it being a "meet-and-greet" session, only to be "let down" by the terrible cancellation news.

"The speech was cold and clinical. Everyone just had a look on their faces like: What am I going to do?" Rhythm City insiders at Sasani Studios said.

They thought that the e.tv team was coming to congratulate and to praise them for their perseverance and hard work through the Covid-19 pandemic crisis that even saw the production shut down more than once this year.

"It was a surprise as the show has been doing well. You don't can a successful show," a source said.

e.tv declined to say why it decided to cancel Rhythm City other than to say that it's been axed as "part of a business strategy". Marlon Davids, e.tv managing director, in a statement said that "e.tv continues to look forward to fulfilling its mandate of producing exceptional and relevant local content".

After 13 years Rhythm City, executive produced by Harriet Gavshon, will end with its final episode on 16 July 2021 with e.tv that plans to replace it with another daily drama series.

According to e.tv, Rhythm City's "on-air life cycle" is apparently not good enough for the channel anymore, with e.tv that took the decision to can Rhythm City after having reviewed the show's "on-air life cycle".

e.tv doesn't specifically mention any financial reasons for Rhythm City's cancellation in its surprising press statement, yet it stands to reason that Rhythm City's axing is because the soap is likely no longer profitable for e.tv, or is loss-making, or is no longer making enough money for the commercial free-to-air broadcaster.

A combination of ratings and profitability are the main drivers behind the fate of series and programming on commercial TV channels and Rhythm City is clearly no longer making sense as a "keeper" for e.tv within this matrix.

e.tv that doesn't want to give any specific reasons for Rhythm City's cancellation in its press release for something that is a long-running show, will fuel speculation within South Africa's TV industry and under viewers and fans as to what exactly led to its demise.

Rhythm City, created by Rolie Nikiwe and Neil McCarthy, made its broadcast debut on e.tv on 9 July 2007 and was the replacement for the struggling youth-focused Backstage - it was instantly much more popular and gave e.tv a foot in the door in the production of scripted, local South African prime time content that could pull significant ratings.

Rhythm City peaked at almost 5.2 million viewers in 2020 and has consistently ranked amongst the Top 10 most-watched prime time soap operas in South Africa, with its cancellation catching South Africa's TV industry by surprise.

In October Rhythm City pulled 4.04 million viewers at its monthly highwater mark in its 19:00 timeslot, making it the second most-watched show on the e.tv schedule behind Scandal! with 5.1 million viewers. 

In May this year, Rhythm City won the Best TV Soap award at 2020's 14th South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas).
 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Black Friday: SABC News anchors all wear black to protest against broadcaster's retrenchment plan as concerns over a possible on-air blackout grows.


by Thinus Ferreira

As concerns about a possible on-air SABC blackout and "black-on-air" situation grows, SABC News anchors and reporters on Friday surreptitiously joined their colleagues who were protesting outside through quietly wearing black attire on-air.

On Friday SABC News anchors and field reporters appeared dressed in black behind the anchor desk in Auckland Park and out covering the news - only the second time ever that they joined in making a statement on air through what they're wearing.

Angry SABC staff first organised a silent "Black Friday" clothing protest on 22 July 2016 when they wore black in open revolt against the then SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and in support of their fired so-called "SABC8" news colleagues. 

Yesterday they all donned black clothing on-air again to send a strong and unified silent message.

SABC workers are protesting about the embattled and overstaffed South African public broadcaster's retrenchment plan in which 400 workers will likely lose their jobs. 













Some political parties like the ANC and EFF have joined trade unions and protesting SABC workers on Friday who picketed outside SABC buildings across South Africa.

Politicians and their populist rhetoric have provided no solutions for the SABC's deepening financial quagmire except politicising an already difficult issue and saying they don't want workers to lose their jobs. 

Various factions are now trying to distil the SABC battle over job cuts into a politicised battle between the SABC board - painted as "bad" - and SABC workers who are "good". In reality, the issues and the problems at the SABC are extremely complex and the challenges around the need for retrenchments much more multi-faceted. 

The SABC board have said in 2019 and again this year that if the ANC-led government doesn't want job cuts it will need to commit to give the SABC an additional R1 billion per year. The SABC that just made a net loss of R511 is on track to make another loss of at least R1.2 billion next year.

Meanwhile, staff say that SABC top management executives took a lazy, uninformed and unworkable cookie-cutter approach in deciding on cuts within the proposed new SABC structure.

As part of their controversial restructuring SABC execs have scrapped SABC News TV current affairs shows on SABC2 like Zwa Maramani in Tshivenda and Ngula Ya Vutivi in Xitsonga. For now, Fokus in Afrikaans on SABC2, Cutting Edge in Nguni on SABC1 and Special Assignment in English on SABC3 will remain on-air.

Hannes du Buisson, Bemawu spokesperson, said that "some of the complaints from staff are people saying 'My position on the system is as an administrator. The SABC scrapped my position but I'm the only one at the SABC that must pay certain content licensing fees."

The trade unions said that if the SABC fires permanent staff and then replace them again with freelancers and independent contractors that the personnel cost won't go away but that the cost of paying for labour would just end up somewhere else on the balance sheet.



Black-on-air concerns
Meanwhile concerns are growing around a possible blackout of the SABC's TV channels and radio stations - a situation known as "black-on-air", in particular the SABC News (DStv 404) TV channel.

Interestingly, it is both SABC executives, the SABC board and ordinary SABC staff's interest for SABC News to remain on-air without any blackout.

SABC News as a TV news channel - similar to eNCA, Newzroom Afrika and the now-defunct ANN7 and SABC Encore - was commissioned by MultiChoice and is made exclusively for the pay-TV provider who pays for it. 

The contract, worth millions of rand funnelled to SABC coffers, comes with clauses that include penalties for non-performance and non-delivery - like on-air blackouts.  

If there is to be any blackout of SABC News on DStv because of a strike or possible sabotage, the SABC that is already struggling financially, could lose even more money if MultiChoice enacts any penalty clauses over content disruption and decides to withhold or pay the SABC less.

To prevent a SABC blackout if staff strike or sabotage the channel feed or operations, Ian Plaatjes, SABC chief operating officer, told parliament's portfolio committee on Thursday that "a robust contingency plan" exists especially around SABC News.

He said that it was necessary to relook the plan since people getting retrenched were part of the original plan."Some of the names on there were people who might be affected and we just had to double-check that as well," he said.

Late on Friday the SABC issued a statement saying the broadcaster "is fully aware of a plan to create a 'blackout' on our platforms. We can confirm that there are contingency plans in place that will kick in immediately should this self-induced crisis be precipitated. There will be consequence management against any employee who is involved in the planned blackout".

The SABC said that it "has a statutory duty and public mandate to provide uninterrupted radio and television services for millions of South Africans" and that it "wants to assure the public that we remain committed to delivering our public mandate of informing, educating and entertaining South Africans, irrespective of any planned misconduct or ill-discipline".

Friday, November 20, 2020

e.tv cancels Rhythm City after 13 years, Quizzical Pictures produced daily soap opera to end in July 2021 as part of unexplained 'business strategy' and will be replaced by another daily drama series.


by Thinus Ferreira

e.tv has cancelled its long-running local weekday soap Rhythm City produced by Quizzical Pictures despite it being one of the red letter broadcaster's most-popular and most-watched shows, giving no explanation for it other than to say it has been done as "part of a business strategy".

After 13 years Rhythm City, executive produced by Harriet Gavshon, will end with its final episode on 16 July 2021 with e.tv that plans to replace it with another daily drama series.

According to e.tv, Rhythm City's "on-air life cycle" isn't good enough for the channel anymore, with e.tv that took the decision to can Rhythm City after having reviewed the show's "on-air life cycle".

e.tv doesn't specifically mention any financial reasons for Rhythm City's cancellation in its surprising press statement, yet it stands to reason that Rhythm City's axing is because the soap is likely no longer profitable for e.tv, or is loss-making, or is no longer making enough money for the commercial free-to-air broadcaster.

A combination of ratings and profitability are the main drivers behind the fate of series and programming on commercial TV channels and Rhythm City is clearly no longer making sense as a "keeper" for e.tv within this matrix.

e.tv that doesn't want to give any specific reasons for Rhythm City's cancellation in its press release, for something that is a long-running show, will fuel speculation within the industry and under viewers and fans as to what exactly led to its demise.

Rhythm City, created by Rolie Nikiwe and Neil McCarthy, made its broadcast debut on e.tv on 9 July 2007 and was the replacement for the struggling youth-focused Backstage - it was instantly much more popular and gave e.tv a foot in the door in the production of scripted, local South African prime time content that could pull significant ratings.

Rhythm City peaked at almost 5.2 million viewers in 2020 and has consistently ranked amongst the Top 10 most-watched prime time soap operas in South Africa, with its cancellation catching South Africa's TV industry by surprise.

e.tv's Rhythm City cancellation will push multiple on-screen talent and crew working behind the scenes at Sasani Studios back into the jobless market looking for their next work opportunity in the maelstrom of the gig economy of South Africa's struggling film and TV industry.

Marlon Davids, e.tv managing director, says that "e.tv continues to look forward to fulfilling its mandate of producing exceptional and relevant local content, and the production has successfully achieved its part of the obligation throughout the past 13 years".

"Rhythm City has secured its place in e.tv's history books, and a legacy mark has been made. We want to extend our gratitude to the entire production staff, crew, and cast for their incomparable craft."

e.tv says that the channel "would like to unequivocally thank the show's production team Quizzical Pictures, for their unwavering dedication and passion that has gone into the hard work of producing the multi-award-winning drama".

e.tv says the final few months of Rhythm City will "have a strong focus on finalising prominent plot lines, some of which, like the introduction of Suffocates long lost adoptive son Pule, will take fan favourites back into time, to when it all started".

AXED. As part of its controversial restructuring SABC top execs scrap SABC News TV current affairs shows on SABC2 like Zwa Maramani in Tshivenda and Ngula ya Vutivi in Xitsonga.


by Thinus Ferreira

In their "secretive" restructuring plan of the financially struggling South African public broadcaster the SABC's top executives have decided to do away and axe SABC News current affairs shows like Zwa Maramani in Tshivenda and Ngula ya Vutivi in Xitsonga on SABC2.

The culling of Zwa Maramani and Ngula ya Vutivi forms part of broad swathes of content, programming and staff getting axed and reorganised into a new structure at the embattled SABC that just made another R511 million loss for the 2019/2020 financial year and that is on track to make a massive R1.2 billion loss.

SABC staffers say the new structure of which they haven't properly been informed of, is undoable and unworkable with the number of people left, with SABC executives who want to retrench 400 workers. 

At the SABC radio division, multiple radio stations have seen the majority of staff receive retrenchment letters, for instance leaving only 2 people at the Afrikaans radio station RSG not getting letters including the station manager Magdaleen Kruger and the secretary, 12 out of the 14 getting letters at Umhlobo Wenene FM in the Eastern Cape, and all but 4 people likely getting retrenched at Channel Africa that is the SABC's pan-African radio station.

The SABC is also axing as part of the 400 staffers the broadcaster's corps of TV channel publicists who communicate about its content with the jobs to be centralised under a marketing manager and at most 3 brand managers.

At a media briefing the Communication Workers Union (CWU) who are against the broadcaster's retrenchment plan, said that the SABC plans to completely scrap current affairs shows in indigenous languages like Tshivenda and Xitsonga.   

"This means that the SABC now has officially abandoned its core mandate as a public broadcaster in the heart of their corporate plan," said Aubrey Tshabalala, CWU secretary-general.

"In the TV SABC News division Zwa Maramani, which is Tshivenda, and Ngula ya Vutivi which is Xitsonga have been done away with. The reasons are purely based on commercial reasons."

"This is the serious reversal of all the gains made during a political breakthrough in 1994. This move is not in the interest of building a nation that is living in harmony, united in diversity."

Meanwhile SABC News TV current affairs shows in English, Afrikaans and Nguni will remain.

"The SABC has current affairs show that will remain - Fokus in Afrikaans on SABC2 with the same stuff, Cutting Edge in Nguni on SABC1 with the same stuff and Special Assignment in English on SABC3. They have been kept on-air in the new structure."

"It is important to indicate that this structure was not presented to the commissioner at the CCMA during the SABC's section 189 retrenchment processes."


Thursday, November 19, 2020

SABC COO claims SABC News newsroom has been ‘unlawfully captured’, says use of eNCA during blackout was just a joke while shocked staffers are speaking out about chillingly cold retrenchment letters telling them they're terminated.


by Thinus Ferreira

The SABC's top management is furious over the broadcast on SABC News of senior reporter Chriselda Lewis who took executives to task during a heated staff meeting inside the SABC's Auckland Park newsroom with Ian Plaatjes, SABC COO, who shockingly told parliament on Wednesday night that SABC news staff have "unlawfully captured" the public broadcaster's newsroom.

Meanwhile SABC staff are speaking out about the "chillingly cold" retrenchment letters they've received, telling them they're terminated.

The SABC is once again embroiled in palace intrigue and internal upheaval after the SABC's senior management went ahead with issuing section 189 letters as part of a retrenchment process to get rid of 400 workers at the financially struggling broadcaster.

The SABC board will now convene for an urgent and special meeting on Thursday to discuss the fractured retrenchment at the beleaguered public broadcaster.

On Tuesday SABC staff threatened a blackout of the broadcaster's SABC News (DStv 404) channel within 48 hours, after which Ian Plaatjes in a private meeting told Phathishwa Magopeni as the SABC News boss, that the SABC should consider using the channel feed of the rival commercial TV news channel eNCA (DStv 403).

With tensions and anxiety high over the retrenchment process, Ian Plaatjes told parliament on Wednesday night that he was just making a joke. "It was in jest. And in fact, the meeting that I had with the SABC News boss was to ensure that we do develop a robust plan to prevent a blackout situation".

"The fact that we've been threatened that within 48 hours we would have a blackout - we are talking about SABC News (DStv 404) that the news people have threatened with a blackout - which is why I had the meeting with Phathiswa Magopeni."

"The incident we saw yesterday [Tuesday] is that the SABC News team unlawfully captured the news platform and we certainly need to have mitigating actions to prevent that," Ian Plaatjes told parliament's portfolio committee on communications."

Mary Papayya, SABC board member asked "Who must be held accountable for what the South African public saw - the SABC making the news headlines when it should be the other way round - keeping the people informed with news and current affairs?", referring to the emotional Chrisela Lewis moment where the veteran journalist spoke truth to power that got airplay on not just the SABC but multiple other channels like eNCA and Newzroom Afrika.

Speaking about the dire situation of the SABC, board member Michael Markovitz said "We are the ones who effectively arrived on the scene of a car crash and are being blamed for the car crash. And I think that's unfair. We've all put up our hands to be public servants and to try and solve these problems".

"The SABC made a loss of R500 million. We are projected to make another loss of R1.2 billion. At what point does a director who's carrying personal liability not put up their hand and say 'If we don't take the tough decisions, are we going to be declared delinquent down the line?"


Chilling cold SABC retrenchment letters
Meanwhile bewildered SABC staff are wondering what exactly is going on or what the future holds for them with retrenchment letters that have been handed out and SABC top management that told staff in an internal memo on Wednesday that the section 189 process is continuing.

Besides the TV division, SABC radio staff were told they're out of jobs by the end of the year. 

At Umhlobo Wenene FM serving the Eastern Cape, 12 out of 14 staff received letters. The exact same scenario happened at the SABC's other 11 radio stations like Channel Africa, the SABC's pan-African radio station where everyone except 4 workers received letters.

At the SABC's RSG Afrikaans radio station where two of the 16 positions are vacant, everybody got retrenchment letters except for 2: RSG station manager Magdaleen Kruger and the secretary.

Magdaleen Kruger on radio said that there's been no consultation between the SABC's top management and the broadcaster's radio stations. "Nobody sat and talked and asked 'Are these the positions that could go and are these the new jobs that are needed?' There are jobs that are not required but which are in the new organogram".

"We are trying as SABC radio stations to get a discussion with the SABC's head of radio and the SABC's top management so that we can talk to them about the problems that we have because they're placing us in a difficult position."

"At RSG the 5 permanent presenters - Martelize Brink, Johan Rademan, Fritz Klaaste, Jacqui January and Haidee Muller - all got letters, chilling, cold letters just saying your service is herewith terminated from 1 December," said Magdaleen Kruger.

"As we sit here, if the situation remains, after 1 January 2021 I don't know what we'll do to keep RSG on air." 

She explained that all of the SABC radio stations were called together, "something was thrown on the screen of this is how the new structure would look, no feedback, you can write to us. But that was the last. There was no discussion, no interaction radio station per radio station."

"Every SABC radio station is different. We're 11 radio stations with 11 cultures and 11 languages. It now looks as if they took a one-fits-all that heavily leans on the commercial station mold. So, the radio stations who gave feedback like RSG did twice, have been ignored. It's as if it was just a motion they went through."

"So that's our big problem: It doesn't help that we go into a new SABC structure and the new structure isn't really workable. It needs a bit of tweaking. We're trying to get management to listen to our radio stations so that we can show them the problem points and the challenges - can't we find solutions?" 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

This is the reason why MultiChoice hasn't yet announced that it is adding Amazon Prime Video as a video streamer to its new DStv Explora Ultra decoder.


by Thinus Ferreira

After rolling out access to Netflix South Africa through its new DStv Explora Ultra decoder from this week, MultiChoice will soon announce yet another video streamer addition - very likely Amazon Prime Video - and here's the reason why the pay-TV operator hasn't made this official announcement yet.

In June this year, MultiChoice slipped up when it included and revealed that both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are the first two international subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services that it plans to add to its new carousel of video streaming services.

MultiChoice included Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in its public 2019/2020 financial results presentation, only to quickly redo its presentation a day later to delete the Netflix and Amazon Prime Video references and imaging across its pages and then refusing to say anything about it.

Last week on Thursday MultiChoice finally officially announced its best kept open secret for months and said that DStv subscribers will be able to get access to Netflix SA through the new DStv Explora Ultra decoder that will go on sale from this week at R2 499.

MultiChoice timed the announcement of its partnership with Netflix through its new decoder, for Thursday morning to be on the same day as it released its financial results for the 6 months until the end of September 2020 on Thursday afternoon. In that way MultiChoice could have something new and buzzworthy to talk about with local and international investors on its investors' call on Friday on the day after the release of its latest set of numbers.  

So what happened to Amazon Prime Video on DStv?

Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice CEO, on Friday's investors' call, said that MultiChoice wants to give individual new video streamers and DStv each their own period of time to first publicise and market that individual new over-the-top (OTT) video addition.

In terms of attention management, MultiChoice, that is transitioning to the role of an aggregating video mall with different types of video shops housed inside it, wants to give the time to shine a spotlight on each of the video streaming windows that will start to populate its storefront, in order to maximise both the possible consumer awareness under potential customers, as well as possible media coverage.

"The only thing that we need to make sure of is that we give time for particular products to, a particular player to come in and get integrated and for the market to know that it is available, and get the marketing going. Then the other products will then also follow," Calvo Mawela said.

"But I can assure you that they're imminent. There will be others that are going to follow, we just need to make sure that there is opportunity in the market to make people aware of the product as they come in. So it will happen very, very soon," Calvo Mawela said.

Both ViacomCBS with its new Paramount+ streaming service and WarnerMedia with its HBO Max plan to roll them out internationally from 2021 and are potential shiny new streaming apps to pop up in future on the DStv Explora Ultra's user interface, although neither has said anything yet specifically about a potential launch date for South Africa or the African market as a territory.

Likewise The Walt Disney Company has rolled out its hugely popular Disney+ SVOD in Canada, North America, South America, the UK and Europe already, as well as New Zealand and Australia that are comparable TV markets to South Africa. Disney has so far been silent in response to media enquiries about when, or if, it plans to bring Disney+ to South Africa.

Caught in a vicious vortex, the SABC's TV channels are doing worse and worse – especially SABC3.


by Thinus Ferreira

The struggling South African public broadcaster's TV channels are doing worse and worse - especially SABC3 - caught in a seemingly inescapable vicious vortex where a lack of money to buy quality international content and to make attractive local content leads to repeats, that leads to lower ratings, that leads to lower ad revenue, which means less money to make content.

The SABC's latest financial report for 2019/2020 tabled in parliament on Tuesday noted that the embattled broadcaster once again made a net loss - this time R511 million - and once again makes for gloomy reading, especially as far as its beleaguered TV division is concerned.

While constantly touting various "turnaround plans" the past 4 years, and constantly repeating the phrase of the need to make "compelling content", the SABC fails to actually get around to commissioning and scheduling such TV content.

Instead, the SABC has cancelled a litany of legacy shows - now too expensive to make - that used to bring in viewers, and have been replacing them with low-budget fare that fails to lure audiences who jump to pay-TV and subscribe to available video streaming services like Netflix SA and MultiChoice's Showmax.

During the financial year, the SABC's TV audience share during prime time has shrunk from 47.5% to just 42.4%.

Very little has come of the broadcaster's numerous plans to revitalise SABC1, SABC2 and especially SABC3 and to stem the tide of sagging ratings, its detrimental so-called "transversal" strategy of spreading repeats and rebroadcasts of shows across its channels and to infuse schedules with new, big hit shows that attract broad audiences.

The SABC in its financial report says that its "repeat strategy, particularly on SABC2 and SABC3 further diminished viewer numbers, which in turn had a direct impact on revenue".

The SABC notes that it focused on yet another "complete turnaround of SABC2 and SABC3" but that the "planned development and growth of non-performing and struggling timeslot could not be implemented". Instead, the SABC decided to just try and stop the bleeding as much as possible with "stringent channel budget management and cost-containment activities that were implemented".

SABC3 as the broadcaster's only commercial TV channel remains under huge pressure and severely troubled. With falling ratings, SABC3 was budgeted to make R408 million in advertising revenue. It made only R251 million. That is also less than the R313 million in ad revenue that SABC3 made during the previous financial year.

Besides TV, things are not looking good at the SABC Radio division where revenue is also plummeting according to the SABC's latest financial report.

In another very bad trend, SABC radio advertising revenue from the SABC's 5 commercial radio stations fell R48 million during the 2019/2020 financial year, fell by R46 million at its African language stations combined, and fell a combined R19 million at its so-called "Fortune 4" stations of Radio 2000, LotusFM, SAfm and RSG.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

SABC retrenchment plan to eliminate the broadcaster's corps of TV channel publicists who communicate about its content, job to be centralised under a marketing manager and few brand managers.

 
by Thinus Ferreira

As part of the South African public broadcaster's retrenchment process to do away with 400 staffers the bloated SABC plans to do away with the crucially important roles and positions of TV publicists for its various TV channels with SABC executives who think that these roles can be centralised under its corporate communications division sources have told TVwithThinus.

The overstaffed SABC has started what is known as a "section 189" process and plans to axe 400 staffers from its workforce with the wage bill that remains the biggest single expenditure as part of the financially struggling broadcaster's operating expenses.

While SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as TV channels have had separate publicity units and positions at the public broadcaster for decades, TVwithThinus has learnt that as part of the new structure the SABC management has decided to eliminate and get rid of these, centralising the various TV channel's individual programming publicity efforts under the corporate communications office, currently headed up by SABC corporate communications chief Gugu Ntuli.

Within the new downsized SABC structure - when it comes to maintaining and building media relations with the press and communicating information about content on the broadcaster's various TV channels - there is apparently only space for a single SABC marketing manager and at most probably 3 brand managers.

These few remaining positions will allegedly very likely end up being filled by staffers from the SABC's existing corporate communications division.

If executed this way, it spells danger and bodes badly not just for the existing SABC publicists who might possibly lose their jobs but also for the existing media relationship and future relationship between the SABC and the press - a relationship that is crucially important and mutually beneficial to the broadcaster as well as the media covering the SABC and its content for viewers.

On Monday TVwithThinus asked the SABC whether it's planning to do away with all of the publicity positions at the various SABC channels to replace it with a few overall "brand representatives", and if so, how the SABC plans to communicate information about its TV channels to stakeholders like the media in such a case. 

The SABC didn't respond to the media enquiry.

With the explosive growth in pay-TV services like MultiChoice's DStv and China'sStarTimes and its StarSat; along with the expanding number of local and international pay-TV channels with a local PR presence in South Africa, in addition to the fast-growing video streamers like Netflix, Showmax and others also making use of in-house publicist or PR companies, it has become extremely important for broadcasters like the SABC and e.tv to communicate even better, more and in more ways - not less - about its content and programming.

Similar to the SABC that has scaled back on its original local content production - that is ironically crucial to retain existing audiences and to acquire more viewers - the broadcaster now also apparently plans to wholesale eliminate the important role of the publicists who are tasked to communicate about that content to the media.

The MultiChoice-Netflix Upside Down explained: You can now watch or add Netflix through DStv - this is exactly how it works.


by Thinus Ferreira

It's not as difficult to do as trying to kill a demogorgon. MultiChoice's new DStv Explora Ultra decoder is the first set-top box that gives DStv subscribers the option to sign in with their existing Netflix account to watch Netflix through the DStv decoder, or to sign up for Netflix for the first time - and this is exactly how getting or watching Netflix through DStv now works:

There are basically two main ways you can now watch Netflix content through the DStv Explora Ultra decoder: Firstly, you can do so either with your already-existing Netflix account you're already paying in which case you just log in on the app with nothing that changes for you.

Secondly, you can sign up for a new Netflix account through the DStv Explora Ultra decoder, where you can choose to add the payment for it in rand to your monthly DStv bill.

In the case where you already have a Netflix account you don't pay anything more or extra to watch Netflix through the DStv Explora Ultra decoder besides what you're already directly paying to Netflix. If you already have a Netflix account, just open Netflix, sign in and start stream watching.

In the second case where you're signing up for Netflix through DStv - since MultiChoice is literally adding Netflix in what the biz calls an "add-in" - you will be able to also unsubscribe from Netflix and cancel it again at any time, irrespective and independently from your DStv bill. You're not forced to get Netflix and you're not forced to keep Netflix once you've signed up for it.

If you don't already have a Netflix account, the only way to add a Netflix account through MultiChoice to your DStv account, is through the DStv Explora Ultra decoder. 

You press the new white apps button on the DStv remote control, select Netflix and sign up. Payment will automatically be added to your DStv account using your existing payment method.

If you have had a Netflix membership before but it expired, MultiChoice now makes it possible to restart your membership through the DStv Explora Ultra. You go to the Netflix app, select "Join now" with your existing login and password and then "add" your expired Netflix account to your DStv account.

Not that it matters or makes a difference to you, but if you're asking or wondering - MultiChoice makes a commissioning fee from Netflix for every DStv customer who signs up or that it signs up through the DStv Explora Ultra - although it doesn't cost the actual DStv subscriber more to sign up this way. 

If you're wondering, yes it is also possible to make payment with a Netflix voucher if Netflix has been added to your DStv account - you will however have to input and make this payment with Netflix by going to add the voucher details on the netflix website into your account.

Of course once you've signed up for Netflix through a DStv Explora Ultra, you will be able to watch Netflix through your decoder - but you will now also be able to watch Netflix through a smartphone or laptop or other supported devices since the Netflix account belongs to you.



Some stranger things
Remember that Netflix is and remains a separate company and MultiChoice is and remains a separate company. 

Like the shops in Starcourt Mall, MultiChoice is just letting Netflix be a little shop with horror and other series inside its bigger shopping centre. Therefore, you can't get a refund from MultiChoice (the mall) if you haven't used a whole month of Netflix (the specific shop).

At the moment, you can add one Netflix membership per DStv subscription per DStv Explora Ultra - for instance: if you have one DStv Explora Ultra decoder on your DStv account, you can add one Netflix membership to it.

If you have two DStv Explora Ultra decoders linked in XtraView on your account you can still just add one Netflix membership to your overall DStv account. If you have two DStv Explora decoders on your account but they are not linked in XtraView - for instance one is yours and one is your mom's - you can add 2 Netflix memberships to your DStv account.

So, what happens when your DStv subscription becomes inactive because of non-payment or because you've disconnected it? Well, your Netflix will actually continue - meaning you will still be able to watch it, but only until your next Netflix renewal date, meaning it will disconnect when you're supposed to pay for it again.

If you want to continue using Netflix, you will need to go to Netflix to restart your membership.

Also, if you later want to keep Netflix but want to stop paying for it through your DStv account, you will need to change your method of payment through Netflix at netflix.com/account - the same if you decide you want to cancel Netflix.

So what happens when you pay for Netflix through your DStv account and now you sell your DStv Explora Ultra? It will sound complicated but it isn't really. 

Since your DStv subscription on the DStv Explora Ultra would first need to be cancelled, your Netflix will automatically be disconnected on your next Netflix renewal date. Then, if you want to continue using Netflix, you will need to go to the Netflix website, select another payment method and restart your Netflix membership.

Something else to keep in mind: Your DStv and Netflix subscription dates could fall on the same dates but they could very well be and very likely will actually be different dates. Netflix does not cater for pro rata payments. 

The date that you sign up for Netflix is when the binge-watching starts, so this date automatically becomes your Netflix renewal date. A DStv subscriber who have added Netflix to their existing bill to pay one amount in rand, will however only be making one payment to MultiChoice, with that payment date being the DStv payment date.

Who you gonna call if Netflix is blocked, ghostbusters? If your payment is through DStv, you contact MultiChoice. If you pay Netflix directly, you will need to contact Netflix.