Friday, May 22, 2020

Coronavirus: Cape Town partially reopens the city's film permit office, only accepting and processing applications online amidst Covid-19.


by Thinus Ferreira

Cape Town has partially reopened the city's film permit office after it was completely shut down amidst the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in South Africa and will now process applications again.

Walk-in applications at the Cape Town Civic Centre are not be allowed and applications for film permits can only be done online.

Dan Plato, Cape Town executive mayor, in a statement says that the gradual reopening of Cape Town'sfilm industry will result in some economic relief for the city's local economy.

"This is an important industry because not only does it provide entertainment, it is a great financial contributor to the local economy, with an estimated R3.5 billion ($198 million) a year and employs thousands of people, creating job opportunities for our local Cape Town communities."

"Ensuring the safe, regulated return to the film work of this industry will act as a catalyst for the return to work of the broad range of service providers that support this industry."

Cape Town's film permit office has developed standard operating procedures (SOP) which require that productions and production companies screen all staff - whether cast, crew or other workers - daily and keep a record.

Covid-19 awareness and information notices must be displayed around the workspaces and every employee should receive a copy. No more than 50 people are allowed on a set. Production sets should be regularly sanitised and equipment and props should be disinfected.

Face masks and/or face shields must be provided to staff and sanitiser made up of 70% alcohol must be made available to all employees.

JP Smith, member of the mayoral committee for safety and security, says "This document was shared with members of the film industry for comment and they have agreed to abide by the strict guidelines aimed at avoiding the spread of Covid-19".

"It also outlines the basic technical measures the companies have to put in place in the workplace to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to protect their employees."

"We would like to urge all those attached to the film industry, and who will be going out to film locations, to please adhere to the protocols as well as all applicable regulations in terms of hygiene on set and observing physical distancing to ensure the safety of all those on set."

Risk assessments and a Covid-19 mitigation plan for every location needs to be conducted before a film permit is issued. Law enforcement agencies will monitor compliance safety measures and mitigation from Covid-19 from production companies.

Coronavirus: SABC Cape Town office shuttered to undergo a deep-clean after staffer tests positive for Covid-19; personnel to self-isolate for 2-weeks as they work from home.


by Thinus Ferreira

Two weeks after eMedia Investments had to shutter its e.tv Cape Town building in the Zonnebloem district the South Africa public broadcaster has been forced to shut down its Cape Town building in Sea Point for a deep-clean after a SABC staffer tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus.

SABC staffers have been ordered home for quarantine to self-isolate and will work remotely from home says Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson.

"Management has put in place business continuity measures and employees will continue to discharge their responsibilities remotely while in isolation."

Kenneth Makatees, SABC News Western Cape regional editor said that a staff member went for a test on Monday after displaying flu-like symptoms that got worse.

"The employee received her test result on Thursday. As a precautionary measure, SABC protocols have been implemented."

"The SABC office in Sea Point has been closed with immediate effect. All staff members who were still working from the office, will self isolate for 2 weeks and continue to work remotely from home. The SABC building in Sea Point has been closed for deep cleaning to ensure that it is safe when employees return to work," said Kenneth Makatees.

The SABC News bulletin writer Sarel Meintjes, radio news reporter Chris Mabuya and Kenneth Makatees, who took a picture, were the last to leave the SABC News Cape Town newsroom in Sea Point before it was closed for decontamination.

Netflix joins the cancel culture: Video streamer will now automatically delete inactive accounts if you haven’t used it in a year


by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix has joined the cancel culture so to speak: The global video streamer will now automatically cancel subscribers' accounts who haven't used it for a year and who haven't actually watched anything for 12 months.

Netflix announced the fascinating development in its latest company blog post, saying it has started to automatically cancel people's Netflix subscriptions if they haven't been used.

It will be interesting to see whether other video streamers like MultiChoice's Showmax, Apple TV+, VIU, Amazon Prime Video, Vodacom Video Play or any of the other subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) start to follow Netflix's lead in this regard.

"We’re asking everyone who has not watched anything on Netflix for a year since they joined to confirm they want to keep their membership. And we’ll do the same for anyone who has stopped watching for more than two years," says Eddie Wu, Netflix's director of product innovation.

"Members will start seeing these emails or in-app notifications this week. If they don’t confirm that they want to keep subscribing, we’ll automatically cancel their subscription."

Netflix says that if a person changes their mind, they can restart Netflix.

These dormant accounts form part of less than 0.5% of Netflix's total subscriber base globally - a few hundreds thousand accounts.

Netflix says losing the money from these inactive accounts have already been factored into its financial guidance.

So why is Netflix doing this? The streamer likely wants to buy some general goodwill from its entire customer base with some who might feel pressure on their discretionary budget spend during the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"We've always thought it should be easy to sign up and to cancel. So, as always, anyone who cancels their account and then rejoins within 10 months will still have their favourites, profiles, viewing preferences and account details just as they left them. In the meantime, we hope this new approach saves people some hard-earned cash," says Eddie Wu.

TV REVIEW. Netflix's Cape Town-set youth series Blood & Water is a shallow déjà vu but the teens will splash in it.


by Thinus Ferreira

You know what they say about the kiddie pool: The water's warm.

Blood & Water, the 6-episode South African series from Gambit Films releasing during the global Covid-19 interregnum remains at the all-too-familiar and shallow end of the content youth genre pool where it's safer - with some splashy drone-shot visuals and a CW network-type story that its older teen audience will likely be more than fine with.

Following after Queen Sono as Netflix's second commissioned Netflix Original for Africa, Blood & Water is an achievement in existence for South Africa's TV industry but disappointingly never enters a new or deeper side of the pool to break bigger waves.

It doesn't swim out further than where pay-series like ELITE, The Girl from St. Agnes and the well-done Grassroots, from Clive Morris Productions seen on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and Showmax, have already gone before, but it does bring another Cape Town-lensed high schooler drama to an international audience.

Stocked with all-too-familiar TV tropes and aptly done teen-emo mood music to suit, Netflix's Blood & Water borrows a lot for its teen melodrama scripts from the real-life tabloid headlines of the kidnapping of Zephany Nurse.

Zephany who was abducted in 1997 from the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, grew up with people she believed were her "parents".

Older people in real-life would already have read over months in the YOU and People SA magazines all the uncanny twists and turns.

In TV form however Blood & Water - executive produced by Bradley Joshua, Nosipho Dumisa, Daryne Joshua, Travis Taute and Simon Beesley, with Nosipho Dumisa also directing, gets a C- with its youth audience that will likely be unperturbed about the roughly inspired copy-and-paste story.

They will probably find the Blood & Water story about a sister looking for her sibling who was abducted 17 ago a novelty.

Looking like a more scripted version of Clifton Shores with some forced acting, added obligatory "edgy" sex scenes and perfunctory profanity, the 16 age restriction makes Blood & Water unsuitable as family viewing - an odd creative decision from Netflix.

It's difficult not to see how Blood & Water doppelgänger-ed a lot of what came before it if you've already seen streamer series like Spain's ELITE on Netflix and then The Girl from St. Agnes from MultiChoice's Showmax that went before it - along with a scenic set design déjà vu from Netflix's The Kissing Booth that was also done in Cape Town and even using the same film locations like Camps Bay and the University of Cape Town.

While the Blood & Water script, acting and set design at moments seem to hint at deeper plot promise, character layers as well as symbolism that will later be explored, it frustratingly never arrive.

Instead, the show leads the audience through a rushed and mostly shallow 6-episode paint-by-numbers story with some pacing issues in the first half that improves in the last few episodes.

"If I didn't think I'd be much happier" - a quote from Sylvia Plath - flashes within the first few seconds of the opening episode. Instead of foreshadowing any deeper bildungsroman theming, character-building or symbolism it is a prescient warning about how to approach Blood & Water as you watch it.

Towards the end when one character says ""It's just high school drama. It will blow over" the meta-remark comes too late.

Under the older and more experienced cast Gail Mabalane shines most convincing as mom Thandeka Khumalo with authentic emoting gravitas. Among the younger cast especially Natasha Thahane excels and stands out as sassy maroon beret prep school social activist Wendy.

Honourary mention goes to Ama Qamata as the ingénue Puleng thrust into the make-believe world of Llandudno where teen house parties apparently come with a bouncer.

A stilted Ryle de Mornay should have spent a lot more time with a dialogue coach. His delivery is flat and unconvincing as this series' obligatory teacher who is having the affair with a student. It's dangerous to cast "sexy teacher" on looks alone.

The acting of a clearly too-old-for-high-school Arno Greeff in the role of bisexual Chris also needs a lot of refinement - one of many one-dimensional characters who are introduced but of whom the backstory, motivations and side-arcs are simply largely left unexplored.


What looks best in Blood & Water is a visually idealised Cape Town achieved through well-done camera drone work and scene-setting editing.

The lighting overall gets high marks with attention to detail and the camera angles that will be used - ranging from difficult to lit club bathroom scenes, to light-falling-through-the-window half-profile illumination.

Script-wise the 6 episodes feel rushed with a lot of character motivation never explained. What seems like it might become new plot points are started but not further developed.

Several unrealistic scenes throughout the 6 episodes, as well as set design mistakes will, again, probably not bother the younger crowd but they do detract from Blood & Water's authenticity.

Besides the poor teachers' cars, private schools like the fictional Parkhurst College actually have rows of SUVs parked outside. South Africa doesn't do American-styled school-staircase media briefings, and not even private schools have flanked banner flags outside the front door.

At no school newspaper or magazine will the kids ever be able to publish anything without strict prior teacher editorial oversight first but it happens in Blood & Water because it's needed to advance the plot and character conflict.

One hopes that after Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, and new-hire Dorothy Ghettuba, who leads African originals at Netflix, toured South Africa as the streamer's latest outpost earlier this year in which they want to produce more original content, that they will be mindful in focusing on commissioning projects that make South Africa and Africa shine in unique stand-out series instead of programming that's more additive in nature.

Netflix Originals for Africa should be "Original" - new stories, on a canvass with Netflix budgets resembling what's given to other regions.

It should be projects that showcase Africa, projects that expand and go further than content that had already been done; projects that tell a story in budget and scope that existing pay-TV in South Africa and Africa can't or won't.

Blood & Water is fine but there already exists enough of this type of story. Netflix that has more than adequate lung-capacity can and should go jump in, and dive deeper, into a bigger story pool.


- The review is based on Blood & Water's first season of 6 episodes.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Muppets and preschool edutainment strand Takalani Sesame returns for its 11th season to SABC2 from 1 June on weekdays.


by Thinus Ferreira

The Muppets and the preschool edutainment Takalani Sesame children's programming block is returning for its 11th season from Monday 1 June on SABC2 at 15:30 on weekdays with some new friends.

The Muppets will welcome some new friends to the neighbourhood for new adventures as they explore the world around them through play, while learning the importance of not giving up when working through a problem.

The 11th season of Takalani Sesame will introduce the 6-year-old Basma and her best friend Jad, the self-declared "cute, furry little monster" Grover, and the clucking, bawking, squawking Chicken.

They will be joined by familiar Takalani Sesame Muppet friends Elmo, the 3-and-a-half year-old red monster with a contagious giggle.

Elmo tries to keep up with the older characters, Zuzu, an imaginative and curious natural leader, Kami, a five-year-old who loves to read and sing, Moshe, the gentle giant who loves to dance and take care of his garden, and Zikwe, who always has a story to tell from his world travels.

Elmo and Zuzu start every episode in their Clubhouse where a child calls in to invite them for a visit to someplace special around South Africa like a skatepark or the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

They decide to use everyday objects to make a gift to bring along, like a drum or maracas and their Takalani Sesame friends drop in at different points to help them build their special item and solve problems along the way.

Each episode ends by going on a fun ride to deliver the item to their new friend, and together they sing along to the Takalani Sesame ubuntu song and showcase some dance moves.


"Now more than ever, young children and their caregivers need quality early learning at home and the Takalani Sesame Muppets are here to help,"says Innocent Nkata, Sesame Workshop South Africa managing director.

"The new season blends the playfulness and humour that Takalani Sesame has always been known for with the fundamental lessons that children need to thrive, including cognitive, creative problem solving and socio-emotional skills, while nurturing the foundational values of ubuntu."

"At a time when many children are out of school Takalani Sesame will bring the power of  learning through play to children and caregivers across South Africa."

M-Net West Africa renews Big Brother Nigeria for a 5th season in 2020 amidst Covid-19; 'global best practices and preventative measures will be followed' to produce the camera-house show during coronavirus pandemic.


by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net West Africa has renewed its camera house reality competition show Big Brother Nigeria for a 5th season in 2020 that will again be produced from Lagos, Nigeria for a second consecutive time with MultiChoice and M-Net that say the pay-TV service will follow "global best practices, precautions and preventive measures" to produce the season amidst the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic still present in the country and Africa.

MultiChoice will once again broadcast Big Brother Naija in Nigeria on DStv, as well as on its satellite pay-TV service across sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija was the first to be produced from inside Nigeria with the previous three seasons that were done from Johannesburg, South Africa.

The upcoming fifth season of Big Brother Naija will hold online auditions in which people have to send in a 2-minute video, instead of physical auditions and queuing at various venues across Nigeria following M-Net's disorganisation with the 4th season's audition process at stadiums, as well as the dangers of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus that is present in Nigeria as well as across Africa.

John Ugbe, MultiChoice Nigeria CEO, says "Big Brother Naija has been widely regarded as one of Africa’s biggest entertainment exports, being the biggest showcase of Nigeria’s diversity outside of core Nollywood".

"This fifth season promises to be more adventurous, exciting and entertaining, and will undoubtedly be the biggest thing on African television in 2020."

"As the new edition draws near, fans and viewers can get ready for the excitement and entertainment that this season will bring as they enjoy weeks of unending drama, intrigue, romance, Friday night games, the famous Saturday night parties and an overall battle of wits as the housemates vie for the ultimate prize."

"The timing of the show is also particularly important, given the dominance of the Covid-19 pandemic; auditions for the fifth edition will now be held online and viewers and stakeholders alike can rest assured knowing that global best practices, precautions and preventive measures will be followed throughout the show," says John Ugbe.

INTERVIEW. The most important woman of The Bachelor SA on M-Net speaks: Marc Buckner’s mom Jenny on her son, his passions and trekking with him through the jungles of Thailand.


by Thinus Ferreira

Besides the beautiful women in the show, there’s another extremely important woman in the life of Marc Buckner, the hunky bachelor of the second season of The Bachelor South Africa on M-Net: His mom, Jenny.

With the remaining two women who will now get the opportunity to meet Marc’s parents in the penultimate episode, we asked Jenny about her well-travelled son – someone she probably knows better than anyone else – about what Marc’s looking for, how her son was growing up, and what she thought when he wanted to become The bachelor in the show.


What did you think of Marc's willingness to become the bachelor and try and find love in a TV show like The Bachelor SA?
Jenny: Initially I was very apprehensive.
One has to be extremely brave to put yourself out there and to put your life out there. But after giving it much thought, I thought, maybe, who knows?  Maybe this is Marc's opportunity to find the woman of his dreams.
So his dad and I both eventually sat down and said well, this is Marc's journey, this is Marc's decision and we will support him and whoever he chooses - if he chooses someone.


What are the things that Marc is looking for in someone to love?
Jenny: Someone sharing the same interests.
He would like someone to travel with and also somebody who's true to themselves because Marc is very true to himself. And a happy, trusting person and mature.


What do you think helped with Marc's maturity - all the travelling or what did you instil in him as a parent?
Jenny: Marc has been mature for his age from a very young age.
He's spent so many years overseas but would be back for every family commitment because Marc's very family-orientated as well. But he has travelled the world extensively since he was very young and I think that contributes to that.
He's had a very good role model in his grandfather as well. He's very similar to his late grandfather as well, they both had a love and passion for property, for investing, for building. They used to sit for hours on the phone chatting about things and just in general about life.

He's your only child right. Can you talk a bit about how he was as a boy?
Jenny: Intelligent. Witty. He would spend most of his childhood years either in water or in the mountains - always with animals. He's a huge animal lover, the whole family is.
And growing up as a teenager I think he came more into himself, and in connection with dating [she laughs] I think he left that till quite late in life. He was too busy exploring and climbing mountains!


At what age did the male modelling work come about and how were you involved as a mother and guardian? How did it start and what advice did you give him and what did you think when he entered that industry?
Jenny: He started off with the modelling when he was very young - I think he was about 17 as he also did travelling. Then again, we gave him all the support that we could. It was a wonderful opportunity with all of the destinations that he was able to travel to. And of course anything Marc made financially, went straight into investing. Marc has been like that since he was about 12 years of age. We gave him all the support we could because he's an individual and if that's his choice we must support him.

What is Marc's best characteristic and what does Marc do that you don't like at all?
Jenny: His best I would say is that he is true to himself and he has been like that all his life.
 If there is something Marc does not agree on that goes against his grain he will stand his ground. That for me is the most fantastic quality that he has.
He will tell you himself that something that irritates me is that Marc is so spontaneous.
If he wants to do something - I think you know I've travelled with him - I've experienced travelling through the jungles of Thailand with Marc, and he will just say to me "okay, we're going to do this", "can't you do that?" and "don't worry, I'm there to support you I will never let anything happen to you" and he's just extremely spontaneous and sometimes that does scare me a little bit. [laughs]


Did you give him any advice before The Bachelor SA started about women and the process of dating on TV?
Jenny: No, never, never. I've never interfered in any of Marc's relationships. I believe Marc knows exactly where he's going, he's an adult.

With what has your son surprised you the most so far in his life?
Jenny: The way he has turned out the way he has. Such an awesome, wonderful human being who I am very, very proud of.

The Bachelor SA II is on Thursdays on M-Net (DStv 101) at 19:00

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

American soap The Bold and the Beautiful renewed for seasons 34 and 35 that will take it to at least mid-2022.


by Thinus Ferreira

The longrunning American daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful has been renewed for another two seasons with seasons 34 and 35.

The two season renewal will take The Bold and the Beautiful, seen on on Vodacom Video Play and EVA (DStv 141), to at least mid-2022.

The soap's Los Angeles production is currently shut down but could restart production in June depending on Californian regulations.

"For over three decades, The Bold and the Beautiful has been a cornerstone of the CBS daytime lineup," says Amy Reisenbach, executive vice president for current programmes at CBS Entertainment, in a statement announcing the two-season renewal.

"The show has been a creative and ratings success due to the supremely talented cast, writers and producers that Brad Bell has assembled."

"Of course, none of this would have been possible without The Bold and the Beautiful's dedicated fans, whose passion for these characters and stories is unsurpassed. We are delighted to be able to continue to offer them a daily look into the romances and rivalries between the Forrester, Logan and Spencer families."

Bradley Bell, executive producer, says "I am thrilled to dive into years 34 and 35 of The Bold and the Beautiful. We are grateful to Amy Reisenbach and everyone at CBS for their incredible commitment to the series. Of course, many thanks to our loyal fans who motivate us every day with their unending passion and enthusiasm."

The Bold and the Beautiful remains the most-watched American produced daytime serialised drama in the world and is set in Los Angeles where it tells a story set inside the world of high fashion, glamour, romance, passion and family.

The Bold and the Beautiful's series' current cast includes Matthew Atkinson, Kiara Barnes, Katrina Bowden, Darin Brooks, Scott Clifton, Don Diamont, Jennifer Gareis, Courtney Hope, Thorsten Kaye, Katherine Kelly Lang, John McCook, Alley Mills, Annika Noelle, Denise Richards, Lawrence Saint-Victor, Henry Joseph Samiri, Rena Sofer, Aaron D. Spears, Heather Tom, Jeremy Ray Valdez and Jacqueline MacInnes Wood.

Coronavirus: M-Net local soaps The River, Gomora and Isibaya will roll out new episodes from Monday 25 May on 1Magic and Mzansi Magic as their stream-viewing numbers on DStv Catch Up and DStv Now surge during March and April.


by Thinus Ferreira

More local South African primetime soaps that ran out of available episodes are set to return with the pay-TV drama series The River, Gomora and Isibaya that will all show new episodes on MultiChoice's DStv from this coming Monday 25 May.

All three M-Net commissioned series went off the air two weeks ago due to the weeks-long production break that saw all South Africa's TV shows shutter and studios lock their gates because of the Covid-19 national lockdown period to try and curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

While broadcasters and pay-TV schedulers had some stocked episodes in the kitty it wasn't enough and eventually left DStv subscribers with hastily padded schedules on 1Magic (DStv 103) and Mzansi Magic (DStv 161), while on public television SABC1's Uzalo produced by Stained Glass TV also ran out of episodes.

All of these and the country's other locally-produced soaps on the SABC, e.tv and DStv have since returned to studio lots for filming but Uzalo done from Durban will only broadcast new episodes from 15 June on SABC1.

M-Net's general entertainment division told TVwithThinus on Tuesday that The River, produced by Tshedza Pictures will be back with new episodes from Monday 25 May on M-Net's 1Magic channel.

Isibaya, produced by The Bomb Shelter and Gomora, produced by Seriti Films, which are both shown on M-Net's Mzansi Magic channel, will also be back with new episodes from 25 May, said publicist Gaaratwe Mokhethi.


Stream-viewing surge on DStv Catch Up and DStv Now
All of the shows - Uzalo, Gomora, The River and Isibaya - along with multiple others have seen their TV ratings surge in March and April in record viewership increases across the board for the SABC, e.tv and DStv as viewers stuck at home and with an end to Eskom loadshedding have flocked to their screens.

Besides just linear TV ratings these series have also showed remarkable growth in delayed viewing done through DStv decoders and stream viewing through MultiChoice's DStv Now video-on-demand service.

In March the top 5 DStv Catch Up shows watched as delayed viewing through DStv decoders had Mzansi Magic taking the top 4 spots with local content with The Queen at number one with 512 000 average views, Isibaya with 458 000 average views, Mnakwethu with 448 000 average views, Kwa Mam'Mkhize with 415 000 average views and the American procedural drama series 9-1-1 on M-Net (DStv 101) in the 5th place with 340 000 average views.

In April this surged with The Queen climbing to 526 000 average views in delayed viewing on DStv Catch Up through DStv decoders, Gomora rushing to second place with 478 000 average views, Madam & Mercy jumping to the 3rd spot with  396 000 average views, Lockdown in 4th place with 370 000 average views, and Mnakwethu at 364 000 average views.

Meanwhile M-Net's second season of The Bachelor South Africa with Marc Buchner, produced by Rapid Blue has been punching far above its weight.

Although on the top bouquet tier of DStv Premium, limiting access to the majority of DStv subscribers, The Bachelor SA was the 4th most stream-watched show on DStv Now during March with 63 000 average viewers. The others were The Queen in top position (88 000 views), followed by Isibaya (83 000 views) and Mnakwethu (62 000) all on Mzansi Magic, and The River (60 000 views) on 1Magic.

In April DStv Now stream-viewing surged as Gomora (98 000 views) climbed to first place as the most-viewed show, followed by The River (92 000 views), The Queen (80 000 views), The Bachelor (77 000 views) and Isibaya (69 000 views).

The SABC says its SABC Encore channel on DStv wasn't axed over its failure to pay artists residuals but that MultiChoice in 2018 already decided to can the channel in 2020.


by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster's SABC Encore channel on MultiChoice's DStv is going dark at the end of the month but its demise doesn't have to do with the SABC's alleged failure to properly pay artists residuals and repeat fees - the satellite pay-TV service already decided to kill off SABC Encore two years ago when it pulled the plug in 2018 during the last channel carriage renewal.

MultiChoice is getting rid of ITV's ITV Choice (DStv 123), AMC Networks International's Sundance TV (DStv 108) and SABC Encore (DStv 156) at the end of May with all three channels being removed after TV Mall was also taken away at the end of April from DStv subscribers in the latest DStv bouquet content culling.

The SABC has said that performers are being paid residuals for the rebroadcast of shows from the SABC archives on the rerun channel that has been packaged with library series for and carried on MultiChoice's DStv.

Yet artists and actor organisations have been vocal and insistent that they haven't been paid or shared in any of the millions of rand that MultiChoice has been paying the SABC for SABC Encore over the past half a decade.

SABC Encore launched in mid-May 2015 on DStv with big fanfare from the SABC and a bizarre SABC Encore launch event where the then SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng ranted that "MultiChoice must pay" and that the "SABC is coming for pay-TV".

It's not yet clear whether SABC Encore will continue to run as a TV channel despite its removal from MultiChoice DStv and whether it might become a stand-alone digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel only.

MultiChoice says that its contract "with the SABC for SABC Encore will not be renewed – as agreed by both respective parties, as per their contract which included a non-renewal option."

On Tuesday night Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, told parliament's portfolio committee on communications that the SABC already knew in 2018 that SABC Encore would not survive on DStv past 2020 and get axed.

The SABC is however looking to possibly continue SABC Encore as a channel on possible other platforms.

"The reason for SABC Encore being cancelled has nothing to do with royalties but it's because DStv indicated in the new agreement that we signed in 2018 that they would not extend it beyond a further 2 years which expires this year," Madoda Mxakwe said.

"We are exploring other venues in terms of continuing with that channel."

SABC now spends almost double on paying staff than on content - 40 cents out of every rand compared to 28; says its revenue is already R1.5 billion under budget because of debilitating impact of Covid-19 as advertisers withdraw ad spend.


by Thinus Ferreira

With the SABC spending almost double on the salaries of its bloated staff complement than on content - 40 cents out of every rand to pay personnel compared to 28 cents per rand on content - the SABC is already R1.5 billion under budget in terms of revenue because of Covid-19 with SABC TV Licence income that has significantly dropped in April since the collections team wasn't working.

Before Covid-19, SABC bigwigs have also started meeting with organisation and ad agency execs and buyers to understand their frustrations, and planned a series of local content commissioning briefing roadshows which have now been scrapped but that the SABC will try and do online.

SABC board chairperson Bongimusa Makhathini and SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe gave parliament's portfolio committee an update on its corporate plan for 2020/2021 on Tuesday night which the public broadcaster said will have to be revised because of the debilitating impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

On the R3.2 billion bailout money that the SABC got Bongimusa Makhathini said that "as we stand today we don't owe anybody, we've settled all the debt other than Sentech where we've made some arrangements with them".

"The bailout money has not been used for salaries or to pay salaries because payment of salaries funded from operational revenues that we generate."

The SABC's corporate plan for 2020/2021 has revenue budgeted to increase by 17%, advertising revenue by 14%, content exploitation by 30%, SABC TV licence fees by 25%, channel carriage fees by 23% and sponsorships by 1%.

The SABC plans "aggressive investment in content" and says that signal distribution costs through Sentech, as well as the massive payroll because of staff salaries "remain major expenditure drivers that require optimisation".

Before Covid-19 hit, the SABC expected an operating loss of R430 million for the 2020/2021 financial year - a number than might likely be higher because of the loss of advertising income this year.

On how Covid-19 has impacted the SABC, the broadcaster said "we had to displace our normal programming to make way and to create space for government to communicate and to ensure that the general public get the updates that come from minister and government in general."

"In us doing that we had to displace our normal programming which meant we had lost advertising revenue and we could not do what we normally do to generate what we expected to generate. As a result of that we anticipate that we're going to have a shortfall of roughly R1.5 billion to R1.6 billion. This is as a result of us giving our airtime as the SABC to increase public awareness."

"When we talk about that R1.5 billion shortfall, it is as a result of us playing our role as a public broadcaster in making sure that we increase the levels of awareness when it comes to the issue of Covid-19."

"With Covid-19 a lot has changed in the world of business and as the SABC we also need to embark on a process to look at fit-for-purpose structure and make sure that our operational model talks to the realities that we face as the SABC today."

Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, said "very key for us is the need to increase audience ratings and this links to the fact that part of the money that we've received from the bailout is towards the acquisition of compelling and fresh content. The other key issue is the need to move into the digital space as far as broadcasting is concerned.

"One of the ways we try and ensure that we drive revenue is to have a diversified system of revenue streams and there's a lot in as far as TV channel carriage deals are concerned, as well as deals and partnerships with various telecommunication operators so that they could be able to carry some of our premium content."

"In television the focus is to grow audiences through the acquisition of fresh, compelling content which is linked to why in the first place we got the bailout. The focus there is on increasing audience ratings as this will help us to improve our revenue generation efforts."

He said Covid-19 will lead to the SABC having to reassess some of the budget assumptions for the corporate plan.


Huge drop in advertising income
"There is a huge drop in our revenues due to this pandemic and this is also amplified by the fact that 85% of our revenue is generated from advertisers and those advertisers have cut their budgets for this year which puts us in a very difficult position. This has impacted our revenue projections for this fiscal," said Madoda Mxakwe.

"Many of our clients have withdrawn their advertising spend, either to redirect those funds to assist within their efforts to curb this virus or because they're concerned about the return on their investments as they're not able to trade during this period."

"The projected losses in terms of revenue already stands at about R1.5 billion and this is a very conservative number."

"The shutdown of production houses also delayed the plans for us to get the required fresh content in order to increase our audiences as well as revenue. But the good news is that our products are now open and obviously strictly adhering to the regulations."


Local content co-production, virtual content briefings
"Currently local content commissioning comprises 90% of the annual SABC spend on television content and just during this year we will be exploring options of co-productions to both improve the quality and to reduce the production cost of content," said Ian Plaatjies, SABC COO.

"We will also conduct content briefing roadshows - in fact that was planned for April and May 2020. We will have to now resort to doing that virtually. In these sessions, we will be sharing our content intents and strategies with the local industry and we will be exploring synergies with them."

"The SABC wants to respond swiftly to the needs of our audience and we have demonstrated this by launching a new learning channel on the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform in record-breaking time."

"This was in response to Covid-19 and in collaboration with the department of basic education. The SABC has set up an education studio and enabled online teaching."


Meeting with SA's C-suite execs to understand their SABC frustrations
"The CEO and myself are meeting with C-suite of various organisations and ad agencies to understand their needs and frustrations with doing business with the SABC in the past," said Ian Plaatjies.

"For April and June we have waived our advertising cancellation fees. We have repackaged our content and have developed enticing value propositions around carriage and content deals the first of which was actually signed today [19 May 2020]."

"From a sporting perspective it has been a loss-making business up until now but we are developing new creative ways of rapidly turning this line of business around, for example not paying excessive prices for sporting rights and we have already demonstrated that this year."


SABC salary spend is almost double that of content
"Effectively 40 cents in every rand that we generate goes towards permanent and independent contractor cost. A second major investment is our content investment - about 28 cents in every rand," said Yolanda Van Biljon, SABC CFO.

"Our news mandate costs us R740 million per year, sports rights and related production costs come to R336 million a year - both these mandated costs go largely unfunded and despite the various initiatives to reduce it, remain problematic to monetise and often times we remain compelled to broadcast sport of national interest."

Without Covid-19 the SABC expected an operating loss of R430 million for the 2020/2021 financial year and "the main contributors would have remained the unfunded mandates of sports, news and selected bloated expenditure items".

"Clearly the world as we've known it has undergone material changes," she said. "Revenue is expected to be 25% down or upwards of R1.6 billion and we believe it is very conservative, and yet our expenditure is only down by about 10%."


Auckland Park headquarters relook
About property and selling off non-core assets, Yolanda van Biljon said that the SABC has sold its London house and will still sell the farm the broadcaster owns.

"It's fair to say that events in the last two months have made us rethink in general around how we approach bricks-and-mortar and whether it's worth it. As such there are discussions that have started - in fact in February already around something like the Auckland Park precinct but it is very much in its infancy at this time."


SABC TV Licence fee income plunges in April
"On SABC TV Licences in April our revenue took a significant knock, firstly because we were unable to function the team that does the collection is under Level 5. But the population because of the uncertainties and pressure on their liquidity were unable to necessarily meet their obligations."


Has stopped fighting
"On litigation, it's worth mentioning that the number for all legal fees, the number is more or less for the past financial year R22 million. It is a nearly 50% reduction on the previous financial year. So at least it is progress in that respect," said Yolanda van Biljon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Medical drama series The Resident seen on FOX renewed for a 4th season and comedy series Last Man Standing seen on M-Net renewed for a 9th season.


by Thinus Ferreira

The American medical drama series The Resident with Matt Czuchry and Emily VanCamp seen on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131) has been renewed for a 4th season while the comedy series Last Man Standing with Tim Allen seen on M-Net (DStv 101) has been renewed for a 9th season.

Because of the Covid-19 coronavirus that shut down Hollywood the third season of The Resident was cut short with 3 episodes and the 8th season of Last Man Standing was cut short by one episode.

Both The Resident and Last Man Standing are produced by 20th Century Fox Television.

"The Resident and Last Man Standing are such important parts of FOX and we're so pleased they will be returning next season," says Michael Thorn, FOX Entertainment president, in a statement.

"We want to thank all of the writers, actors, directors, producers and talented crews for both of these shows, and, of course, our friends and producing partners at 20th Century Fox Television."

MultiChoice is axing the SABC Encore and Sundance TV film channel as well from the end of May after carriage contracts with the SABC and AMC Networks International are not renewed.


by Thinus Ferreira

At the end of this month DStv subscribers are losing the SABC Encore (DStv 156) rerun channel from the South African public broadcaster after 5 years and the Sundance TV (DStv 108) film channel from AMC Networks International after 3 years after MultiChoice decided not to renew the respective channel carriage contracts.

SABC Encore, a rerun channel programmed with old library stock from the SABC archives, was originally part of a 2-channel deal that later became hugely controversial between MultiChoice and the South African public broadcaster over alleged digital TV policy influence peddling.

The SABC agreed to launch a new SABC News (DStv 404) channel exclusively on DStv to replace the shuttered SABC News International, but with SABC Encore tacked on as a second TV channel only if the SABC in a signed contract supported MultiChoice's policy stance regarding broader digital terrestrial television (DTT) encryption in the country.

SABC Encore launched in mid-May 2015 on DStv with big fanfare from the SABC and a bizarre SABC Encore launch event where the then SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng ranted that "MultiChoice must pay" and that the "SABC is coming for pay-TV".

It's not yet clear whether SABC Encore will continue to run as a TV channel despite its removal from MultiChoice DStv and whether it might become a stand-alone digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel only.

The SABC hasn't yet responded to a media enquiry that was made on Tuesday morning but the response will be added here once received. See UPDATE below.

Sundance TV launched with fanfare in mid-May 2017 on DStv as a replacement for the removed AMC channel, but remained a niche film channel destination with low viewership.

AMCNI UK hasn't yet responded with an answer to a media enquiry that was made on Tuesday morning but the response will be added here once received. See UPDATE below.

MultiChoice was likewise asked on Tuesday morning about the channel terminations of SABC Encore and Sundance TV on its DStv platform but hasn't yet responded. See UPDATE below.

With less than a month's notice, on the DStv i-plate electronic programme guide (EPG), DStv subscribers are now told that "Dear viewer. Please note that Sundance TV will no longer be on air from 1 June 2020. You can find movies on M-Net 101, M-Net Movies channels, Catch Up and DStv Now. Thank you."

About the axing of SABC Encore the MultiChoice EPG now says "Dear viewer, please note that SABC Encore will stop airing on 31 May 2020. Thank you for watching."

MultiChoice's removal of SABC Encore and Sundance TV follows after the axing of the British entertainment channel from ITV, ITV Choice that is also going dark on DStv at the end of May after 5 years.


UPDATE Tuesday 19 May 2020 - 17:37: The SABC tells TVwithThinus that "The SABC can confirm that SABC Encore, which was launched on the DStv platform channel 156 on 11 May 2015, is coming to an end at the end of this month".

"The corporation is at this stage exploring more avenues to ensure that our audiences continue to enjoy the broadcast of SABC’s premium vintage programmes on alternative platforms."


UPDATE Tuesday 19 May 2020 - 1845: MultiChoice in a response says that "The MultiChoice Group can confirm that SABC Encore and AMC Networks' Sundance TV will no longer be available on the DStv platform from 1 June 2020".

"MultiChoice’s contract with the SABC for SABC Encore will not be renewed – as agreed by both respective parties, as per their contract which included a non-renewal option. Sundance TV will no longer be broadcast by MultiChoice as the contract between MultiChoice and the channel providers AMC Networks has come to an end."


UPDATE Wednesday 20 May 2020 - 10:09: AMC Networks International UK says "AMC Networks International UK can confirm that SundanceTV will no longer be available on the DStv platform from 1 June".


Coronavirus: e.tv makes South African television history with the country's first done-from-home TV news bulletin broadcast as anchor Annika Larsen tells viewers 'We feel that you're family, and so you're welcome into our living room'.


by Thinus Ferreira

e.tv made South African television history on Monday evening when the free-to-air commercial TV channel - forced through the abrupt shutdown of its Cape Town building and studio last week because of Covid-19 - did the country's first TV news bulletin broadcast done from home with anchor Annika Larsen who welcomed viewers to her home just as her dogs interrupted and started barking in the background.

On Monday night - after days of web-conferencing, technical set-up and strategising - the etv News bulletin on e.tv was broadcast from news anchor Annika Larsen's dining room table inside her Cape Town house as South Africa's first-ever, freely viewable done-from-home TV news bulletin broadcast on the country's airwaves.

This footnote to South African television history endearingly included a dog that first barked and later made a quick appearance on-screen during the bulletin.

On Wednesday last week eMedia Investments' Cape Town building in the Zonnebloem suburb was shuttered for a deep-clean after the untimely death of cameraman Lungile Tom who worked for etv News, eNCA (DStv 403) and eNuus. Over 70 staffers were forced into self-isolation for 14-days and quarantined at home.

While e.tv's broadcasts temporarily shifted to simulcast the eNCA channel feed on e.tv during news timeslots, the etv News team started working on a technical plan to have the nightly bulletins originate from a makeshift home "studio".


As her dogs started barking on Monday night, Annika Larsen sitting at her dining room table welcomed viewers framed by her white credenza and a fashionable blue old rotary dial phone visible in the background, saying "As you can see, we're doing things a little differently right now".

"I'm coming to you from my living room, you can hear my dogs are barking outside and going berserk at something, which is just horrendous, but welcome to my home; my dining room".

"You are watching etv News but things are going to be rather different tonight. We, like many South Africans at etv News and Sport, have been affected by Covid-19 which is just a stark reminder that no-one is immune to this pandemic," said Annika Larsen.

"Tragically last week we lost a staff member to Covid-19 and our studios in Cape Town which is where we broadcast from had to be closed to be disinfected. So we've been thinking - scratching our heads for the past few days on how we can still bring the news to you."

"We've had producers, IT departments, cameramen, everybody all at home including the technical team. But we came up with a plan: We're going to bring you the news from home. As you can see, we're doing it tonight from my living room."

"This is a first, not just for us, but probably for South African broadcasting too, and things aren't as smooth as they always seem. You can hear dogs barking in the background, we might have some sort of technical glitch - we're really going to need you to be patient with us," said Annika Larsen.

"We feel that you're family, and so you're welcome into our living room. And with that, let's go to your top story."

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Coronavirus: Newzroom Afrika staffers test positive for Covid-19, prompts more changes at the TV news channel's Linden newsroom including cordoning off sections, one-way corridors and an end to desk swapping.


by Thinus Ferreira

Newzroom Afrika (DStv 405) staffers have been diagnosed positive for the Covid-19 virus and have been quarantined at home while the TV news channel is once again reconfiguring its Johannesburg newsroom, including cordoning off sections through which staffers will no longer be able to walk and making corridors one-way walk-throughs.

The Newzroom Afrika Covid-19 cases in Cape Town underscores how vulnerable South Africa's media workers and reporters are as they continue to try and cover the impact of the unfolding humanitarian, health, economic and societal tragedy as the novel coronavirus spreads in the country and across Africa.

The Newzroom Afrika staffers who've tested positive and who are now in self-isolation come days after the tragic and shocking death on Wednesday morning of Lungile Tom (45) - the etv News, eNuus and eNCA (DStv 403) cameraman who worked at eMedia Investments' Cape Town office - where the building was shuttered for a deep-clean and more than 70 staffers sent home for self-isolation and 14-days quarantine.

Lungile Tom is the first-known South African journalist to die from Covid-19, after the SABC News reporter Ulrich Hendriks based in Kimberley who tested positive for Covid-19 and saw the SABC shutter its office in the Northern Cape province, recovered in April.

The Newzroom Afrika reporter Athi Mtongana revealed that she has tested positive for Covid-19 and shared a Bible-verse on her Twitter account on social media, referencing Isaiah 53: "My results have come back positive. I will recover, no Corona virus formed against us shall prosper. Isaiah 53 'by Christ's wounds we are healed".

Newzroom Afrika that just celebrated its first anniversary since the TV news channel that was commissioned by MultiChoice in 2019 from co-founders Thabile Ngwato and Thokozani Nkosi went on-air on 2 May 2019, didn't respond to an emailed media enquiry on Sunday morning but a response will be added when or if received.

About the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic in South Africa Thabile Ngwato said on the TV news channel's first birthday that "on the business side we have been really prepared".

"As things started to escalate we really worked on a business-continuity plan, that would make sure that we continue to operate and continue to provide our viewers with the content that they need. Especially now."

"We work from a solid plan on the business side. From the content side we make sure that we are live, that we are direct all the time."

Katy Katopodis, Newzroom Africa news director in an internal communique to staffers that TVwithThinus has seen, confirmed that Cape Town colleagues have tested positive for Covid-19, that channel management is checking on them, and that Newzroom Afrika is once again making newsroom changes to try and prevent further Covid-19 cases.

Newzroom Afrika is once again reconfiguring its Johannesburg newsroom set-up that will include cordoning off certain sections ending walk-thoughs, ensuring alternative open desk space between seats, designated desks and an end to desk and seat swapping, and corridors becoming one-way walk-throughs.

Here is the email from Katy Katopodis to Newzroom Afrika staffers:

"Hi all,

As you may all know, some CT colleagues have tested positive for Covid-19.

I have spoken to them and they are resting as much as possible and taking good care of themselves. I am confident that they will be fine and they will get through this difficult time.

We are all here for them. We support them and should they need anything, together with Rebecca in HR we will assist. We will also keep checking on them.  Our thoughts and prayers are with our CT team and we wish them a speedy recovery.

At the same time we are also working on yet another reconfiguration of the newsroom. We will change the desks so that everyone is sitting on every alternate desk.

We will also cordon off certain sections in the newsroom that we cannot walk through. We will have designated desks for people so that we don’t keep swapping. We are also changing the flow of the building - making the corridors one way.

Those who can work from home / remotely have been identified. Wearing masks in the office is non-negotiable and we must please keep them on at all times. We must also ensure that we sanitize and wash hands constantly.

We are also working closely with Morishe and Jayosh to look for even more innovative ways to protect the mics and sanitize the equipment. I hope to have more clarity by tomorrow.

Please don’t hesitate to speak to me, Malebo, Bongiwe or Zain or any of your line managers if you have any questions or concerns.

Our health and safety is our TOP PRIORITY and we must all pull together to ensure that we are safe.

Our health is critical at this time.
Be safe everyone.

Thanks"

Friday, May 15, 2020

'HIT IT.' Star Trek Strange New Worlds picked up as series with Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck as Captain Pike, Number One and Spock.


by Thinus Ferreira

Yet another new Star Trek series has been ordered to a first season pick-up, this time Star Trek: Strange New Worlds with Anson Mount as Captain Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as science officer all reprising their season 2 Star Trek: Discovery roles for the new spin-off.

ViacomCBS' video streaming service CBS All Access that will be rebranded within months, has ordered Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to series, set a decade before Captain Kirk commanded the USS Enterprise.

No starting date nor episode count has been announced for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

"Fans fell in love with Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck's portrayals of these iconic characters when they were first introduced on Star Trek: Discovery last season," says Julie McNamara, executive vice president and head of programming at CBS All Access, in a statement announcing the new series.

"This new series will be a perfect complement to the franchise, bringing a whole new perspective and series of adventures to Star Trek."

Anson Mount in a video message says "We're going to get to work on a classic Star Trek show that deals with optimism and the future".



Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be produced by CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment and is the third live-action Star Trek series following Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix that will have a third season later this year and the recent Star Trek: Picard.on Amazon Prime Video that has been renewed for a second season.

An animation series, Lower Decks is being produced for Nickelodeon.

The series premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was written by Akiva Goldsman with the story by Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet. All 3 of them will serve as executive producers, alongside Henry Alonso Myers, Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth.

"This is a dream come true, literally," says Akiva Goldsman. "I have imagined myself on the bridge of the Enterprise since the early 1970s."

Alex Kurtzman says "When we said we heard the fans' outpouring of love for Pike, Number One and Spock when they boarded Star Trek: Discovery last season, we meant it. These iconic characters have a deep history in Star Trek canon, yet so much of their stories have yet to be told."

"With Akiva and Henry at the helm, the Enterprise, its crew and its fans are in for an extraordinary journey to new frontiers in the Star Trek universe."

Coronavirus: America's CW network delays start of its new season to 2021, will impact MultiChoice in Africa with channels like M-Net, 1Magic and M-Net City getting multiple shows now months later.


by Thinus Ferreira

As if it weren't already difficult enough to build and manage, M-Net schedulers will face a day job steadily getting more difficult due to TV and film content supply chain interruption with the latest being the CW network in the United States that has postponed the September new-season start of its series to 2021.

This will have a serious knock-on effect for MultiChoice's M-Net (DStv 101), M-Net City (DStv 115) and 1Magic (DStv 103) channels on DStv.

The CW network in the United States on Thursday announced that because of the Covid-19 shutdown of Hollywood, it will delay the start of all new seasons of existing and upcoming new TV series that were supposed to start from late August and September 2020 to 2021 - except for the final season's episodes of Supernatural.

For its 4th quarter of 2020 the CW will fill its schedule with acquired series and alternative programming.

"For original scripted series we do not have an exact return of production yet," said Mark Pedowitz, CW CEO and chairman, on Thursday in a statement

"We are going with this strategy to give producers and studios ample time to get back up and running in the best and safest way possible. Strategy and protocols are still being developed. What other broadcasters do is up to them."

"As we manage the current crisis, we've developed a methodical programming strategy for this year and well in to next that we believe works for The CW, our advertisers, affiliates and audience while keeping the health and safety of our productions and creative partners front of mind."


With multiple CW shows airing in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa on the M-Net and M-Net City channels, the push-out means that African viewers will also wait longer than usual to see new episodes and new seasons.

New shows include Walker, the new version of Walker, Texas Ranger will Jared Padalecki, and the new Superman & Lois series.

Existing series that will take longer to make a new season showing include The Vampire Diaries spin-off Legacies seen on M-Net City, The Flash seen on M-Net, Charmed seen on M-Net Cityand Showmax, and Batwoman seen on M-Net City.

The same goes for All American seen on 1Magic and M-Net City, Black Lightning seen on 1Magic, Riverdale seen on M-Net and M-Net City, and Nancy Drew seen on M-Net.