Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Voice South Africa on M-Net upgrades live shows for the 3rd season with the spectacular L-ISA immersive sound system bringing an immersive sound art experience to the audience.

The Voice South Africa on M-Net (DStv 101) has upgraded its live shows - starting this Sunday 19 May at 17:30 - with the spectacular L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound system, that will be bringing an immersive sound art experience to the studio audience seated inside the Mosaiek Teatro in Fairlands, Johannesburg.

For DStv subscribers watching The Voice on M-Net, it means that they will be able to watch the show for the first time in true Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound - one of extremely few reality competition shows capable of doing that.

M-Net and The Voice SA revealed the new stage, its audio-visual set-up as well as the new L-ISA sound system from L-Acoustics on Thursday during an exclusive set visit to a select group of media before Sunday's first use of it during the first live broadcast of the third season of the show.

The Voice SA is produced by BlackSwanMedia with director-producer Darren Hayward, based on the international Talpa format.

L-ISA can accommodate up to 96 different audio channels, mix them and send them out in a customised, multi-speaker set-up so that individual sound literally "move" through the physical space as needed - for instance with a performer.

L-ISA brings a massive improvement over ordinary "stereo" and so-called "surround sound" in venues with hugely improved individual sound separation, meaning a better "overall" sound mix with more clarity.

While, traditionally, most live performances have speakers overhead and on the left and right of the stage with all channels from vocals and instruments feeding into these, listeners don't really hear everything clearly or individually. L-ISA creates a true "3D sound environment" by acoustically placing all of the relevant sounds really everywhere.

The Voice South Africa on M-Net is the first time that L-ISA and its sound technology has been used in any version of The Voice, with L-ISA that has also only been used once before in the entire Southern Hemisphere.

The Voice South Africa's sound engineers got specialist training for L-ISA at L-Acoustics' headquarters in France.

Chris de Lancey, director at Multi-Media who brought the L-ISA technology from L-Acoustics to The Voice SA, explains that all of the various sound channels, for the first time ever, instead of through stereo output, can now be placed anywhere within a virtual 3D-space.

"If for instance there is vocals moving from the one side of the stage to the other, we can move that vocal with them. From just listening to them, your ear can now hear where they are. The system can now be set up that wherever you are in the room, you get the full spectrum of the audio coming from the performance."

"L-ISA is new tchnology, and is as far as we are concerned, the future of sound. L-ISA really involved the audience. You can go even further and put speakers on the different walls. You can go even further and put speakers in the roof."

"We discussed with the production company, we mentioned that we have this technology and that we'd committed a large sum of money to buy the L-ISA system, and through negotiations with the production company we decided to invest even more money in order to make The Voice South Africa a first of its kind in the world," said Chris de Lancey.

"L-ISA really is the world's first really immersive audience sound experience."

"Each individual sound object is coming in as an input of its own, and going out as an output of its own. So every element is played out on its own rather than being mixed into a stereo environment. So it's all separated and remain crystal clear."

Darren Hayward, the producer-director of The Voice South Africa explains that "we create a live show with an audience and we broadcast that live show. We don't create a television show that we put an audience into. So even though it doesn't affect the broadcast at all, it actually is important to us that the people inside the audience has the best experience possible."

"Our pillars are from our pre-records, so we use them as a theme coming into the live shows as well. Last year we had big 'V's, so we changed that slightly," said Darren Hayward.

"An important thing this year is that the Red Room is a slightly different concept. In the past we had a Red Room host and this season we wanted to try a different approach, which is a first for The Voice worldwide as well."

"So this will be a 'Red Room Radio Takeover' and every week we will have a different radio station who comes and takes over the Red Room and we get different personalities, so that we have a different presenter every time."

"The Red Room is also a new separate space within the auditorium. Previously the Red Room was at the back and very much behind. So we very much wanted to include the audience in the experience and make it part of the audience area."

"The first radio station is Jacaranda FM with Elana Africa and MiCasa will also perform and debut a new song."

"We have exceptional technicians and people who work behind-the-scenes on The Voice South Africa. Specifically on lighting our lighting designer is at the moment lighting 2019 Eurovision. So he is exceptionally experienced, does a lot of television shows."

"He flew over this week to go do Eurovision and he's back with us next week," says Darren Hayward.

ALSO READ: IN IMAGES. 18 photos of the new stage for the live shows of the 3rd season of The Voice South Africa on M-Net.

IN IMAGES. 18 photos of the new stage for the live shows of the 3rd season of The Voice South Africa on M-Net.

On Thursday night M-Net (DStv 101) and The Voice South Africa revealed to a select group of media, the new stage, it's latest audio-visual set-up, as well as a brand-new state-of-the-art sound system installed inside the auditorium for the live performances and live broadcast part of the third season.

The show once again upgraded the look and sound of its stage set-up for the third season of The Voice SA - produced by BlackSwanMedia and based on the international Talpa format with director-producer Darren Hayward.

The studio audience now attending the live shows of The Voice SA will experience the spectacular and revolutionary L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology from L-Acoustics.

L-ISA is an immersive sound art system that creates a panoramic, multidimensional sound experience that delivers incredible, clear, natural audio through localised sound sources, speaker set-up and object-based sound mixing.

DStv subscribers will see the new stage of The Voice South Africa at the Mosaiek Teatro in Fairlands, Johannesburg, for the first time on Sunday 19 May with the start of the first live broadcast and first live performances in The Voice SA.

Sixteen singers will now be competing over the course of the next few weeks for viewers' votes.

On Sunday, doing battle against each other in the first Live Show will be talent who have been "rescued" by fans - Carmen Basson (20) from Kroonstad, Katlego Makgotlwe (23) from Vosloorus, Soné Joubert (27) from Gordon’s Bay, and Ashur Petersen (26) from Cape Town.

The other contestants who have already made it through are Krista Jonas (29) from Cape Town, Yahto Kraft (18) from Alberton, Sbu Dludlu (34) from Duduza, and The PJ Twins (20) from Bonteheuwel who are all in Lira's team.

Amy Tjasnik (26) from Cape Town, Durban sound engineer Ross Charles (26), the Pretoria duo Aura, and the 28-year-old Bitcoin entrepreneur and musician from Port Elizabeth, Eon Claude le Roux are in Riky's team.

Lelo Ramasimong (33) from Johannesburg, 26-year-old industrial designer Elisha James from Pretoria, Pretoria singer and actor Francois Viljoen (30), and Siki Jo-An Qwazi (25) from Port Elizabeth are in Riana's team.

Daniel Jay (23) from Port Elizabeth, the singing waitress Tasché Burger (18) from Brackenfell, Cape Town payroll officer Anslin Gysman (22) from Filipi, and the 39-year-old pub singer Chezelle Shahadat from Johannesburg are in Francois van Coke's team.

While alleged sexual harassment is described as 'a real problem' within SuperSport, insiders allege that Robert Marawa was fired for personally upsetting South Africa's soccer bosses - report.

While alleged sexual harassment is described as "a real problem" within SuperSport according to insiders, Robert Marawa was not fired by SuperSport this past week because he tried to stand up for staffers but because SuperSport allegedly got rid of him to appease South African football bosses who don't like his coverage.

SuperSport abruptly fired the veteran sports broadcaster this week as the face of Thursday Night Live with Marawa on SuperSport 4 (DStv 204) who was missing in action from his sports commentary show on Thursday night.

Co-host Thato Moeng anchored the show on her own and repeatedly kept saying it's "the last show" with no explanation regarding Robert Marawa's disappearance.

SuperSport said that getting rid of the veteran and beloved sports presenter is part of a refresh of its local presenters' line-up and said in a statement that "this restructure includes us not pursuing our contractual relationship with Robert Marawa".

Robert Marawa who referred to people inside SuperSport as the "mafia" in a tweet on social media alleged that he was fired due to allegations of sexual harassment within SuperSport ranks that he spoke up about.

SuperSport didn't respond to a media enquiry from TVwithThinus in the week seeking comment about these allegations.

On Friday SuperSport was asked in a media enquiry for its response to allegations about a TV director sexually harassing women, whether SuperSport is investigating these claims, why specifically Robert Marawa was fired and when SuperSport will announce which other on-air talent will no longer be working for SuperSport. SuperSport's spokesperson Clinton van der Berg didn't respond.

Many DStv subscribers and SuperSport viewers have been reacting in anger, saying on social media that they have, are and will be cancelling their DStv subscriptions with MultiChoice.

After he was fired, Robert Marawa in a radio interview on Friday slammed SuperSport, SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane, and broadcasting executives "who don't know the business", and asked SuperSport to be honest with the people, saying "Why lie to people?".

On Sunday City Press reported that according to insiders SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane allegedly "was just carrying out that directive" to fire Robert Marawa in accordance with the wishes of South African football bigwigs who have taken personal offence over some of Robert Marawa's coverage and commentary on SuperSport.

"I can tell you that one of the reasons Robert’s contract was not renewed is that the sporting federations are unhappy with the way he portrays them publicly,” said a SuperSport insider quoted in the City Press report.

Another insider alleged that "sexual harassment is a real problem" at SuperSport and that Robert Marawa challenged Giden Khobane in 2018 to "take action and protect his female colleagues at the office, but instead he got angry and defensive because it involved his two henchmen".

Clinton van der Berg is quoted in the City Press article stating that sexual harassment was unrelated to SuperSport's decision to fire Robert Marawa in the week.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Robert Marawa after his shocking firing slams broadcasting execs who 'don't know the business', tells SuperSport to be honest with the people: 'Why lie to people?'

Robert Marawa (46) is speaking out after the sports presenter was abruptly axed from SuperSport, slamming broadcasting executives who "don't know the business" and telling SuperSport to be honest with DStv subscribers, asking: "Why lie to people?"

SuperSport terminated Robert Marawa's on-air job as the face of Thursday Night Live with Marawa on SuperSport 4 (DStv 204) who was missing in action from his sports commentary show on Thursday night, with co-host Thato Moeng who anchored the show on her own and repeatedly kept saying it's "the last show" with no explanation regarding Robert Marawa's disappearance.

SuperSport said that getting rid of the veteran and beloved sports presenter is part of a refresh of its local presenters' line-up and said in a statement that "this restructure includes us not pursuing our contractual relationship with Robert Marawa".

Robert Marawa who referred to people inside SuperSport as the "mafia" in a tweet on social media alleged that he was fired due to allegations of sexual harassment within SuperSport ranks that he spoke up about. SuperSport didn't respond to a media enquiry seeking comment about these allegations.

Many DStv subscribers and SuperSport viewers have been reacting in anger, saying on social media that they have, are and will be cancelling their DStv subscriptions with MultiChoice.

In an interview on the SABC's Radio 2000 on Friday with DJ Phat Joe, Robert Marawa without mentioning any names, said "remember that a lot of the people who get employed to do the work don't know what broadcasting is".

"They get given a title to be whatever they are supposed to be but they don't know the business."

Talking about SuperSport putting out a tweet saying he had been fired earlier in the week, Robert Marawa said "tell me when earlier in the week is because the only time we sat down to talk was Wednesday at 3:30pm when the meeting was supposed to happen".

"I went in to work already half-dressed for Thursday Night Live for which I was on the running order. I have the running order. I'm due to be on the show on Thursday night. I'm on the schedule to do Champions League on 1 June. So why lie to people?"

"Remember this is a pay-per-view organisation. People are paying for a product. I didn't ask to be there. SuperSport asked me to come and join them when I did straight after the Germany World Cup - 12, 13 years ago."

"So all that it was, was 'Listen your contract has lapsed end of April. I am not going to renew your contract because I have the powers as the SuperSport CEO [Gideon Khobane] not to renew your contract'. No reasons given. Sure, no problem. 'We've transgressed a couple of things legally.' So, no problem. Cool. That is it," said Robert Marawa.

"I don't have a right to a job but you know, when your magazine shows are rated audience ratings wise - and audiences ratings are not things that are thumb-suck, they are verified - as being the top, you can't move from that to 'oh we just decided to refresh a couple of faces'. So be honest with the people."

"Like sure, they don't want me there, which is fine," said Robert Marawa. "I'm a sports broadcaster, my life doesn't depend or rely on their opinions about me. It's about me elevating my game to the next level. So they can do whatever they want with their platform."

He said "as a broadcaster allow me the latitude to do what I do. People just feel the need to control- especially all of these people elevated into positions where they know nothing about broadcasting but they feel the need to tell Phat Joe something or another. And for them, they are in heaven. That means the world."

"But as for you and I to try and change the landscape, to try and make people aware that there's credibility, there's enjoyment in this field that we are in."

On Friday SuperSport was asked in a media enquiry for its response to allegations about a TV director sexually harassing women, whether SuperSport is investigating these claims, why specifically Robert Marawa was fired and when SuperSport will announce which other on-air talent will no longer be working for SuperSport. SuperSport didn't respond.

Many DStv subscribers say they're cancelling their pay-TV subscriptions with MultiChoice after SuperSport fires veteran presenter Robert Marawa.

Furious DStv subscribers are saying they are and will be cancelling their pay-TV subscriptions with MultiChoice after SuperSport abruptly fired the veteran presenter Robert Marawa (46).

SuperSport terminated Robert Marawa's on-air job as the face of Thursday Night Live with Marawa on SuperSport 4 (DStv 204) with co-host Thato Moeng who anchored the show on her own and repeatedly kept saying it's "the last show" with no explanation of Robert Marawa's disappearance.

SuperSport said that getting rid of Robert Marawa is part of a refresh of its local presenters' line-up and said in a statement that "this restructure includes us not pursuing our contractual relationship with Robert Marawa".

Robert Marawa alleged that he was fired due to allegations of sexual harassment within SuperSport ranks that he spoke up about. SuperSport didn't respond to a media enquiry seeking comment about these allegations.

Many DStv subscribers and SuperSport viewers have been reacting in anger, saying on social media that they have, are and will be cancelling their DStv subscriptions.

Tokologo Matlala said "SuperSport, the only reason I kept paying your ridiculously high subscription was because of sport. And for me Robert Marawa is synonymous with sport! Mind you not just football for me. You lose Robert Marawa, then you lose me as a subscriber!"

Linda Kwenamore said "Im canceling my DStv subscription if Robert Marawa has been dismissed by SuperSport. I will also do like those Afrikaners and smash it!"

Letsebogo said "Not having Robert Marawa on Thursday Night Live on SuperSport is like having the MTN8 without Kaizer Chiefs - it doesn't make sense. Officially terminating my subscription with DStv end of the month. I will reverse the debit order".

Eddie Kuntha said "I'm prepared to drive over my decoder and cancel my subscription of MultiChoice's DStv in solidarity with Robert Marawa. SUperSport is not going to be the same again".

SuperSport fires Robert Marawa in an SMS, as he alleges that taking a stand against sexual harassment got him axed.

SuperSport has abruptly fired the veteran sports presenter Robert Marawa by sending him an SMS, with Marawa insinuating that his firing is connected to allegations of sexual harassment within SuperSport ranks that he spoke up about.

On social media Robert Marawa told the public on Thursday night that he was told less than 2 hours before the start of his show on SuperSport 4 (DStv 204) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service through an SMS not to show up for work.

Robert Marawa was previously fired from the SABC in July 2017 and later rehired, and he was previously also fired from SoccerZone on SABC1.

His current TV show bearing his name, Thursday Night Live with Marawa, is produced from SuperSport's Randburg studios as a live broadcast on Thursdays at 20:30.

Earlier on Thursday evening Robert Marawa still presented his usual daily radio show Marawa Sports Worldwide on the SABC that is simulcast on both Radio 2000 and Metro FM.

Robert Marawa said on social media that "I would like to thank all those who have supported my journey as a sportscaster and those I've worked with at SuperSport". Earlier he alluded to unhappiness in the workplace in an earlier tweet, saying "Imagine paying for a service where people who are guilty of sexual harassment are employed and encouraged to work".

In another message to viewers wanting to know what happened he said "One day u will ALL know. It will cost me my life but you will know" adding that "The Mafia! Incorporated with lackeys. An amazing story."

Thursday night's co-host Thato Moeng awkwardly presented the programme by herself and repeatedly told viewers that it was suddenly "the last show". It was unclear whether she meant the end of the entire show, or the end of the show being connected to Robert Marawa.

SuperSport in a statement said "SuperSport is in the process of an exciting refresh of its local presenter line-up, which will be unveiled as part of our new football season campaign".

"This restructure includes us not pursuing our contractual relationship with Robert Marawa. Robert was personally advised of our decision earlier this week. We are grateful for his contribution over the years and wish him great success in his future endeavours."

It's not clear which other SuperSport presenters or programmes are getting axed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Disney gains full control of the Hulu video streaming service that it plans to roll out internationally; will mean even more streaming competition if it launches in South Africa.

The Walt Disney company has taken over operational control of the Hulu subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service in the United States with immediate effect and said on Tuesday that it intends to make Hulu as a video streaming service available internationally which will mean even more competition if it is launched in South Africa.

Although no time-frame was given for its roll-out in international markets or which markets it will include, the likely roll-out of Hulu in South Africa and Africa will not just mean even more, and more intense, competition between existing video streaming services like Showmax, Netflix South Africa, Amazon Prime Video, Viu and others, but also with traditional pay-TV operators like MultiChoice's DStv and StarSat from China's StarTimes.

The Walt Disney Company already plans to launch its own video streaming service Disney+ on 12 November 2019 but South Africa and Africa isn't part of it immediate international territories plan according to its recent Disney+ presentation it did in April.

The Walt Disney Company that already owned two-thirds of Hulu, has agreed to acquire the one-third stake in Hulu that was still held by Comcast's NBCUniversal. Disney is now taking over full control of the streaming service, it announced on Tuesday.

So far South African viewers have been seeing Hulu Originals content on MultiChoice on channels like M-Net (DStv 101) and its Showmax service like The Handmaid's Tale, Marvel's Runaways, The Path, Future Man, Castle Rock and others that are distributed and available locally because Hulu doesn't have its own platform.

Should Hulu however launch in South Africa that content funnelling will stop as it keeps shows for itself, in the same way that MultiChoice and M-Net was able to acquire Netflix shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black from Netflix, and shows like Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle from Amazon Prime Video before they launched their services in South Africa.

Bob Iger, Disney CEO, on Tuesday spoke at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York and said "we have plans to roll out Hulu internationally in a variety of different markets".

Speaking about the traditional pay-TV operator bundled services and TV channels that Disney provides and sells content to, Bob Iger said that "is still an important part of our business" but that Disney is pivoting towards streaming where consumers pay for what they want to watch.

"There's much more competition in the world today for people's time and money. It's not competition that comes just from Netflix. It's competition that comes from many, many different directions."

"When you look at what people are spending their money on today, and the fact that people demand a high price-to-value relationship, when they look at a 150-plus channel package and they realise they're buying a lot of TV channels that they may never find or may not have any interest in watching - I think today's consumer doesn't look as positively at that as they once did. It's just the way of the world."

Bob Iger said Disney isn't trying to damage the existing traditional satellite pay-TV business model.

"We're not purposely trying to do anything to damage the bundle because it still has a lot of value. But there's a reality that exists that we had to come to grips with - and not just come to grips with it by basically saying that it exists, but by doing something about it. We're prepared to pivot in a new direction and we'll see what happens."

National Geographic doing a new global reality TV race competition, Race to the Center of the Earth; renews Brain Games, Drain the Oceans.

National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220 / Cell C black 261) on Tuesday announced that it will be doing a new global competition show from the creators behind The Amazing Race, entitled Race to the Center of the Earth.

Besides the new shows, National Geographic has renewed Brain Games for another season but adding celebrities, Drain the Oceans for a third season, and commissioned a Wicked Tuna spin-off entitled Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks.

At its upfront in New York on Tuesday, National Geographic revealed that it has commissioned a new show, Race to the Centre of the Earth, with the 8-episode series that will be an adrenaline-fueled global competition reality TV competition, pitting 4 teams against one another in a nonstop sprint across the globe for a $1 million prize.

Production is set to begin later this year.

Race to the Centre of the Earth will be an extreme non-elimination competition that follows 4 groups of adventurers, each starting from different corners of the earth as they race to a buoy holding a $1 million prize.

Each team is challenged with navigating through its route, offering unique terrains, climates and cultures as the team makes its way to a central location.

The teams in Race to the Centre of the Earth will face untamed jungles, frozen arctic, arid deserts, bustling cities, treacherous mountains and vast oceans to reach the location where all four routes intersect. The first team to arrive at the buoy wins.

"Our goal is to create a gripping, completely real experience that pushes the edges of adventure and embeds viewers in extreme action, breathtaking drama and stunning locations as we follow four highly skilled teams on the race of a lifetime," says Geoff Daniels, executive vice president of unscripted entertainment, at National Geographic Networks.

"Unlike other competition formats, Race to the Center of the Earth will combine the grittiness of a survival show with the cinematic style of a feature film action-thriller dropping viewers into the middle of a heart-pounding journey unlike anything ever made for television."

Betram van Munster says "I'm thrilled to team up with National Geographic. Our rapidly changing world has allowed us to reimagine a new and exciting way to showcase adventure".

"What excites me most about Race to the Center of the Earth is that this partnership is such a natural fit. By combining our expertise in adventure competition series with National Geographic's legacy of exploration and unrivalled visual storytelling, this series promises to raise the stakes of this genre and deliver something totally unique, breathtaking and exhilarating."

Race to the Center of the Earth is produced by New Media Collective with Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri of The Amazing Race as executive producers.

Wicked Tuna and Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks spin-off
Meanwhile Wicked Tuna will be back for another 15-episode season in 2020 on National Geographic, along with a brand-new spin-off entitled Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks that will have 13 episodes.

Wicked Tuna follows a group of salty commercial fishermen from the nation’s oldest seaport, Gloucester, Massachusetts, as they make their living through rod-and-reel fishing in pursuit of the prized bluefin tuna.

Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks follows a Southern cast of top captains along with the returning Northern cast, all battling to catch bluefin in the dangerous waters off the coast of North Carolina. In addition to unpredictable, treacherous conditions, the captains must contend with one another as well as experienced locals who will stop at nothing to beat them to the catch.

Other series
National Geographic has renewed Brain Games for another 8-episode season but is changing the format to incorporate American celebrities.

These celebrities will "realise their special brain power" through interactive games, illusions and social experiments. The show is being "Hollywood"-fied further and will be done in front of a studio audience.

The in-studio audience and the viewers at home can play along, comparing their mental abilities against the first 5 celebrity participants who will be Kristin Bell, Dax Shepherd, Drew Brees, Rebel Wilson and Anthony Anderson.

Trafficked with Mariana Van Zeller is an 8-episode series set for 2020 and will explore the often-dangerous inner-workings of the global underworld of smuggling networks, and black and informal markets.

The journalist Mariana van Zeller on a mission to track the chain of custody of trafficked goods; understand how to obtain the contraband; or see the 360-degree view of the trafficking world from the point of view of the smugglers, law enforcement and those caught in the crossfire.

As she meets the willing players and unwitting individuals who make, buy, sell and move goods, services and ideas, Mariana attempts - with characteristic boldness and empathy - to unearth the geopolitical circumstances and context that create the world’s multitrillion-dollar shadow economy.

Lost Cities with Albert Lin
In this new 6-episode series the National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin will go on a high-tech adventure that will revolutionize archaeology across the globe.

Utilizing ground-penetrating radar, LiDar and 3D scanning, Lin will work with boots-on-the-ground archaeologists to discover and re-create unexcavated worlds still hidden beneath the earth.

The ambitious approach will use high-tech imagery to uncover and resolve mysteries of the past in the most extraordinary sites of antiquity, including the Knights Templar in Israel, the Lost Kingdom of the Pacific in Micronesia, and the city behind the legend of El Dorado: City of Gold in Colombia.

China's Hidden Kingdoms
This 5-episode series will start in 2020 and take viewers into the secret wilderness of China to reveal the beauty of its hidden kingdoms.

With unique access to locations across the country, viewers go on a journey through these magical realms, exploring five very different worlds - high mountains, tropical jungles, bamboo forests, great plains and temperate forests.

Animals like the snow leopard, the giant panda, the Tibetan fox, the golden snub-nosed monkey and a stunning kaleidoscope of jungle creatures are found here. All these animals live within their own unique hidden kingdoms of habitats and landscapes, sharing their worlds with other fascinating creatures.

Using high-specification drones, camera traps and the latest 4K camera technology to engage with these special animals, the series brings China’s hidden kingdoms to life in the most dramatic ways possible.

Drain the Oceans
Another 10 episodes are coming in 2020 for the series that has been renewed for a third season.

The series reveals the full scope of the shipwrecks, treasure, sunken cities, geology and technology at play on the floor of lakes, seas and oceans around the world, solving underwater riddles that have mystified generations.

Ghostly shapes beneath the waves are exposed in all their stunning glory, as the water is removed from the picture to tell stories that explain natural wonders and man-made catastrophes.

Combining the latest scientific data from underwater scanning systems with state-of-the-art digital recreations, this series crisscrosses the globe in search of slaves, pirates, American revolutionaries, heroic explorers, ancient cultures and world-changing battles; and it delves deep into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the icy waters of the Baltic, the terrifying icescapes of the Arctic, the shoreline of one of America’s premier cities, the mysterious Nile delta, and the underwater graveyards of the American Civil War in its quest for answers.

National Geographic doing a new documentary series, Queens, focusing on females in 6 different animal communities.

National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220 / Cell C black 261) ordered a new natural-history documentary series, Queens, that will focus on females in 6 different matriarchal animal societies.

Queens follows female animals in natural animal environments where females rule with the 6-episode series that will reveals unique feminine behaviours in six distinct animal communities, including hyenas, elephants, ring-tailed lemurs, insects, primates and orcas.

Queens that recently started production will be shown on National Geographic in South Africa and Africa; 172 countries and 43 languages in all. The Queens production team will spend 300 days filming each of the episodes to capture the behaviours of each animal "queen" and the sisterhood of animals that she leads.

"Each episode devotes itself to discovering just why the title of queen is so coveted and tenuous. While getting to the top signifies power, holding rank is far from easy," says National Geographic.

"Every day brings challenges – and challengers – to a queen's rule. How she remains dominant depends on individual personality, loyalty, cooperation, politics, strength and fate."

Queens features state-of-the-art technology, including remote camera systems, the latest drones, cameras that operate in virtual darkness and gyrostabilized cameras for close-up, immersive filming. All the equipment used throughout each episode aims to give the viewer a profound understanding of the secret relationships within each queen's sisterhood.

"Despite major behavioural differences among each society – for example, bees, wasps and ants are slaves to a single dictatorial queen, while elephants choose the oldest and wisest of their matriarch – there's at least one thing that each queen has in common: family comes first. In Queens nothing outmatches the powerful bonds of sisterhood."

The Queens production team is led by Vanessa Berlowitz, CEO of Wildstar Films and series executive producer, along with cinematographers like Sophie Darlington, Justine Evans, Sue Gibson and Gail Jenkinson.

"Queens is a wild departure from anything you've ever experienced with natural history storytelling," says Vanessa Berlowitz.

"We're accustomed to a narrative where the male animal voice often outshines that of the misperceived 'gentler' sex. In Queens, females drive the story: the most accomplished women in the industry get behind the camera to turn things on their heads, revealing surprising insights into how females rise to power, often relying on cooperation and wisdom over brute strength to get ahead."

Sophie Darlington says Queens "is full of possibilities and will offer a contemporary perspective on nature with the ambition to build industry legacy through diversity, collaboration and inclusiveness".

"It's so exciting to create a project with such a talented team; we share a strong commitment to the environment and believe that engaging women is key to saving the planet."

Janet Han Vissering, National Geographic's senior vice president of development and production, says "the assembly of a first-ever women-led production team will bring a new perspective to telling these intimate narratives".

"Scientifically, women tend to score higher for emotional and social intelligence, so there's an advantage in their ability to better read relationships to underscore the nuances of how female-bonded societies operate."

As the South African taxi-drama Isibaya on DStv's Mzansi Magic speeds along, so does MultiChoice in expanding the local production industry in the country as well as across Africa.

Set against the backdrop of South Africa's local taxi industry, it's not just the story inside its prime time soap Isibaya on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) that is speedings along at a rapid pace - it's MultiChoice itself as well, with the pay-TV operator that is ramping up and expanding the scope of its local production capacity and local TV storytelling.

Listed since the end of February, the MultiChoice Group that is facing ever-increasing competition from global video streaming services and other broadcasters for its DStv, GOtv and Showmax pay-TV brands in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa, is charging full-steam ahead with established local, homegrown shows like Isibaya in South Africa, as well as looking to commission even more locally produced series in Kenya in East Africa and Nigeria in West Africa.

While for viewers watching Isibaya it'sall about  drama and entertainment, for MultiChoice it's about business - remaining relevant in a rapidly changing video entertainment market while growing and expanding the local entertainment and TV industry while investing in more new voices.

While DStv subscribers watch international drama series like HBO's Game of Thrones on M-Net (DStv 101) - an American series that was predominantly filmed in Ireland that meant thousands of new job opportunities and a massive capital injection in Ireland's film and TV industry - MultiChoice is hard at work at trying to do the same for South Africa and the African continent.

A show like Isibaya is brought to life every day by literally hundreds of people besides just the actors and who are working behind-the-scenes; people who work behind the lens but who are part of building South Africa's vibrant and expanding TV biz.

"I am a storyteller and I want the audience to feel what I am feeling whilst they are watching our show," says Menzi Ngubane, who appears in Isibaya in the role of Judas. "I want them to feel the raw emotion and be engulphed in the entertainment that we are bringing into their homes".

Sayitsheni Mdakhi plays Saddam in Isibaya produced by The Bomb Shelter. He landed his first starring role in 2016 and today is working as a writer and a producer in the South African entertainment industry.

"The entertainment industry is evolving and customers are changing what they watch, when they watch it and how they watch it. It is up to us, as actors, to notice changes in viewing behaviour and bring the best TV to viewers' lounge," he says.

The Isiyaba cast and crew say their aim is to convey the realities and passions of modern-day South African viewers - balancing escapism and realism in the story that they produce and bring into the lives of ordinary South Africans, whilst providing riveting entertainment.

"We are committed to creating these platforms for storytelling and to making opportunities available for more actors and a wider audience as increased local content is a key driver of increased viewership," says Yolisa Phahle, the head of general entertainment for the MultiChoice Group.

"We have invested substantially into locally-produced content and understand that economic times are tough in South Africa, and that our customers are under pressure to make every cent they spend count".

"That's why we're making every effort to ensure DStv remains as affordable and accessible and our viewers get the best entertainment experience – the best local stories through series and movies," she says.

MultiChoice through its set of M-Net and SuperSport channels produces over 4 500 hours of local content per year, working with local production companies in South Africa and across the African continent, using production companies, production facilities and 10 studios across Africa stretching from Cape Town in South Africa to Lagos in Nigeria where the upcoming new season of Big Brother Naija will be filmed.

"As actors and being a part of an award-winning show, re-energizes everyone to want to do more and perform better and excel further than we thought possible," says Abdul Khoza, another of the Isibaya actors.

"This is one of the biggest sets that we have in South Africa and one of the best productions in Africa".

MultiChoice now has over 40 000 hours of local content in its library and spends over R2.5 billion on local productions per year. 

WHEN DStv Now WENT DStv NOT: MultiChoice's crash of its DStv Now Sunday service didn't just paralyse its video streaming service - it also collapsed its communications, with MultiChoice confused and unwilling to talk about what happened.

MultiChoice's latest crash of DStv Now didn't just paralyse its video streaming service - it also collapsed its communications with the media and the public, with MultiChoice that comes across as confused and looking terribly inept about how to respond to the press about it.

MultiChoice and its Connected Video division that was repeatedly asked for answers over the past few days, as well as who is available to talk about what happened and what is happening at the moment, doesn't want to talk about why its DStv Now video streaming service imploded and turned into DStv Not.

MultiChoice is seemingly under the mistaken belief that if it doesn't talk about its terrible and non-available service or when it has a big service interruption that there won't be media coverage, or that the media won't keep reporting on it if it deliberately stays quiet and doesn't answer questions about it.

MultiChoice takes customers' money but when it doesn't provide the service it promises in return - like when upgrades to DStv Now caused that service to unexpectedly crash - it doesn't take accountability and doesn't want to explain to its customers and the media exactly what happened and what is being done to fix and improve it.

Having a service interruption is one thing, but MultiChoice during and afterwards not wanting to talk about it reeks of an arrogant and dismissive attitude towards both its customers as well as the media.

After asking MultiChoice on Monday morning who the right person is to talk to (after multiple enquiries since DStv Now crashed on Sunday), Joe Heshu, MultiChoice's head of corporate affairs referred TVwithThinus to Richard Boorman, MultiChoice Connected Video's head of communications.

After reaching out to Richard Boorman, it took the whole of Monday to get a response at the end of the day, saying its best to speak to Joe Heshu.

If a company can't even decide internally who speaks to the media when there is a crisis or problem, what chance does the general public or the industry have to find and get the right, relevant person from a company to answer very basic questions about non-service?

MultiChoice's latest slogan for DStv is "feel every moment". When DStv Now broke - the 4th time that happened over the past month - the DStv Now blackout lasted for hours on Sunday and into Monday.

By not being open and more transparent, by not responding to the media's questions and by refusing to talk about it, MultiChoice added insult to injury - ensuring that its consumers paying for something they're not getting and the broader TV industry just wanting to know what is going on, are feeling every bad moment of MultiChoice's absence of agency when it comes to proper public communication as a company.

By not wanting to answer questions and being open and upfront with the press doing their job asking about what went wrong, by not explaining what is being done and when customers and South Africa's TV and media industry can expect something like DStv Now to be operational again, MultiChoice is doing itself a disservice, the industry a disservice, and adding additional damage to its brand reputation.

Instead of coming across as being able to handle a crisis and communicate during it, MultiChoice and its Connected Video division that runs DStv Now and Showmax displays a run-and-hide attitude when there's a problem instead of being responsive and open about it.

The MultiChoice Group has executives like Nicklas Ekdahl, CEO of its Connected Video division; Nicolas Callegari, senior manager for customer experience in its Connected Video unit, and several others.

None of them or anyone else has yet come forward to talk about what went wrong and how MultiChoice fix problems when something like DStv Now implodes. MultiChoice has offered up nobody to publicly speak and answer basic questions about what happened.

Yet this is the company that wants customers and the industry to continue to give it money for something that when it doesn't work, it's not willing to answer questions about.

As digital streaming services grow and expand, services like these from MultiChoice, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others, don't just build trust and reputation through normal day-to-day costumer-touchpoint interaction but also when things go wrong and something isn't working  -perhaps especially during those times.

MultiChoice and its Connected Video division don't seem to understand that yet, or if it does, doesn't care.

When something like a streaming service "breaks" - especially for such a long time as what happened on Sunday with DStv Now, companies like MultiChoice and its Connected Video division can actually build and keep trust by showing customers and potential customers that it won't simply "disappear" and go mute at the first sign of trouble.

It can show - like when an airline's flight gets disrupted or a bank's services go down - that it's bigger than its problem, that it will remain responsive, will and can communicate, and will explain what went wrong and what is being done to fix things.

It can show that although it's chaotic inside its corridors, that it will make the interrupted and bad "customer experience" better.

Sadly that's not yet DStv Now.

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. 'Make it (no longer) so': The trend of further content fragmentation continues as the best TV shows from CBS Studios International will no longer all necessarily be on DStv and M-Net - and that's a bad thing.

"Make it so", is the iconic catchphrase that Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say in Star Trek: The Next Generation but when the upcoming new drama series starring Sir Patrick Stewart eventually makes a debut for South African viewers, it won't be on a "normal" TV channel like M-Net (DStv 101) on MultiChoice's pay-TV service but on Amazon Prime Video's streaming service.

Fair warning: This is going to be a very "inside baseball"-ery type of column about television, and really only of interest to South African TV executives and hardcore TV lovers who understand and want to understand the why of it, and what it really means in a broader sense for the future.

However, the distilled take-away from it is that Picard Star Trek TV series going to Amazon Prime Video instead of to M-Net (where I was 99% sure I would be) is a very bad omen - part of the start of trend of international distributors' best content no longer automatically going to, and being on MultiChoice's DStv or its range of M-Net packaged-and-run channels.

That is bad for the South African TV lover. Although competition is good, MultiChoice and M-Net were a bit of a "one-stop TV shop". Now, more and more, consumers will have to pay more if they want to continue to see everything, with multiple pay-TV subscriptions to not just services like DStv, but also multiple video streaming services.

Let's start. While the SABC almost two decades ago simply gave up on trying to compete and acquire a wide range of American TV shows with some premium titles mixed in, the South African public broadcaster was supplanted by as a free-to-air broadcaster and especially M-Net because they had bigger budgets and more money to spend.

It meant that the M-Net channel (and later its other M-Net channels) managed to pick up the bulk of (and the bulk of the best) shows, always having almost the entire range of available American TV shows.

These shows were and are distributed - all part of specific collections of series - by a handful of American studios through their international distribution divisions, for instance CBS Studios International. Think Dr Quinn Medicine Woman, Oprah, Judge Judy, Dr Phil, and JAG and NCIS and on which channels you've watched those shows over the years.

A lot of them were on the SABC, until one by one, drop after drop, they disappeared from the SABC and series popped up on and M-Net. Now a systemic migration is again taking place and this time putting M-Net in the worrying position that the SABC ended up in.

A broken model
Part of the fun and personal joy/game as a TV critic and journalist has been and continues to be to take highly-educated guesses - without having any background information - as to where new American TV series would land in terms of South African broadcasters and channels.

After a while - and knowing the distributors, their catalogues, and South African operators and channels - it's been possible to predict with a very high level of accuracy and over years where a remake of 90210 or Empire, Dynasty, Arrow, The OC or Desperate Housewives would land even before a broadcaster made an announcement or you saw a schedule.

No longer. That high-level of TV stormfront prediction - the predictive model - is broken. It still works but it doesn't work as well as it used to.

This is due to the addition and growth of multiple global video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video now also competing for shows.

Meanwhile MultiChoice is making and allowing completely irrational and vampiric moves of content not based on any specific rhyme and reason when stealing shows from M-Net (DStv 101) for its Showmax streamer and weakening M-Net's offering.

Both of these new unpredictable elements within the model have dramatically diluted the predictability and guess-work of where what American shows would end up as first-run series.

Still with me? Well done!

A starship in TV's coal mine
Back to Star Trek. The newly-revived franchise did Star Trek: Discovery but that show was literally produced in conjunction with Netflix right from the beginning.

That means that while Star Trek: Discovery is on CBS's own streaming service CBS All Access in the United States, Netflix acquired the global rights, which is why Star Trek: Discovery is carried on Netflix South Africa.

After that CBS decided to to another live-action TV drama, the upcoming Picard Star Trek series, also produced by CBS Television Studios. This one however, CBS decided to distributed through CBS Studios International.

That immediately meant that the chance fell to very small that this series would also be on Netflix. It did however dramatically increased the chance that the new Picard Star Trek series would be on M-Net right?

After all, The Good Fight, produced by CBS, also for CBS All Access, and also distributed by CBS Studios International is on M-Net (DStv 101).

The same water, going into the same pipe, at the same front-end, should all come out at the same other end, right?

Predictive models and journalistic guesses use past behaviour and actions to extrapolate possible future outcomes. The most likely outcome to me was that the new series had an extremely high likelihood to end up on M-Net.

Over the past while I actually specifically asked M-Net about the Picard Star Trek series several times and to be kept up to date if there was an acquisition from CBS Studios International. I was ready and wanted to to break the news about it first.

But it was a wrong guess although from correct available information. On Monday I had to report that the show will be on Amazon Prime Video.

It's altogether worrying new trend data.

With the Picard Star Trek series going to Amazon Prime Video the danger signal it sends is that MultiChoice's DStv and M-Net (although it won't happen soon and won't happen suddenly) over the long-term, is running the risk of becoming the "new SABC".

If M-Net isn't extremely careful it could become the new second-tier content platform in exactly the same way that M-Net took over the mantle from the SABC - existing in a level above the SABC but its best stuff stripped and consumers opting to go straight to video streaming services for the most premium shows.

How many of the premium-level Game of Thrones type shows in future are going to be on M-Net? Will it be "Showmax first" that already looks as if its being positioned as "the new M-Net" with best shows now going there first?

For how many additional video streaming services will South African consumers and viewers have to pay as well just to see everything (of even just one franchise)?

That is why Star Trek is a good example of a starship in the TV coal mine of what's to come.

If you want to see Star Trek: Discovery you need to pay Netflix South Africa. If you want to see the Picard Star Trek series you will need Amazon Prime Video. If you want to see the new Star Trek animation series you will need to pay MultiChoice for DStv to get the Nickelodeon (DStv 305) channel that will carry that particular series.

It's too much - both literally in money terms, and figuratively in terms of consumer psychology and attention economy.

The poor consumer is going to have to pay an increasingly hefty price in subscribing to multiple content platforms, and then face the increased friction hurdle of trying to keep up with content discovery as they try to figure out what show is actually where.

That is something that even the journalists covering TV nowadays has a harder time trying to puzzle out than ever before.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Actor Ron Smerczak dead from a heart attack at 69; leaves behind a decades-long contribution to South African television, stage and film.

The veteran, British-born South African actor Ron Smerczak has died from a heart attack. He was 69.

Ron Smerczak's decades-long career on South African television ranged from roles in SABC productions like Shaka Zulu, John Ross, Generations and Isidingo,'s Rhythm City, to kykNET's (DStv 144) Villa Rosa, Jongo on BET (DStv 129) and many more.

He also appeared in international series filmed in South Africa and Cape Town like Warrior and Strike Back on M-Net (Dstv 101), and Black Sails that was shown on History (DStv 186).

Besides television he appeared in several roles on stage and in film.

"That moment when you think back to the last time you spoke to someone for whom you have the greatest respect & admiration. You agreed to coffee and catch up. Then he's gone. Actor, icon, legend & guide Ron Smerczak is no more," wrote Jack Devnarain, the former Isidingo actor and chairperson of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA), in a tribute.

SAGA in a statement said "SAGA mourns the passing of the veteran actor and industry stalwart Ron Smerczak. His love for Shakespeare, stage, TV and film defined his decades of service to the industry. We remember him as a friend, mentor and inspiration and we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family. We are all poorer for his loss."

Cancelled! Renewed! These are the American series that just got axed and the ones that will see further seasons - did you favourite make it?

A whopping 17 American TV series got cancelled, while several got renewed for further seasons as American broadcasters get ready to roll out their annual so-called "upfront" presentations to advertisers where they show the existing and new programming they've lined up for later this year.

FOX cancelled the series Lethal Weapon (seen on M-Net City), Proven Innocent (seen on Universal TV), The Cool Kids, The Passage and Star (seen on FOX), while ABC dropped Whiskey Cavalier (seen on M-Net), For the People (seen on 1Magic), The Fix (seen on M-Net City), The Kids are Alright (seen on M-Net), Splitting Up Together (seen on M-Net) and Speechless (seen on M-Net).

CBS cancelled Murphy Brown (seen on M-Net), Fam, Happy Together (seen on 1Magic), and Life in Pieces (seen on FOX), while NBC axed I Feel Bad (seen on M-Net) and cancelled Blindspot (seen on 1Magic) by renewing it for a 5th and final season.

Meanwhile ABC renewed Bless This Mess, The Rookie (seen on M-Net) and Single Parents, The Goldbergs (seen on M-Net), Schooled, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor (seen on 1Magic), American Housewife (seen on M-Net) and Fresh Off the Boat (seen on FOX) for further seasons.

Grey's Anatomy (seen on M-Net) was renewed for a record-breaking 16th and 17th seasons, Station 19 (seen on M-Net) was renewed for a third season and How to Get Away with Murder (seen on 1Magic) renewed for a 6th season.

FOX renewed The Orville (seen on M-Net) for a third season.

CBS renewed Man with a Plan (seen on VUZU) for a 4th season, SEAL Team (seen on M-Net City) for a third season, S.W.A.T. (seen on M-Net) for a third season, Madam Secretary (seen on M-Net) for a 6th season, Bull (seen on M-Net) for a 4th season, Hawaii Five-0 (seen on M-Net City) for a 10th season and MacGyver (seen on M-Net City) for a 4th season.

Billions on Showtime (seen on M-Net) has been renewed for a 5th season.

NBC renewed This is Us (seen on M-Net) for an unprecedented 3 further seasons.

Production suspended on ITV's tabloid confrontational talk show, The Jeremy Kyle Show, that is removed from the schedule indefinitely after participant dies.

Production has been suspended on ITV's tabloid confrontational talk show, The Jeremy Kyle Show, that has been removed from the broadcast schedule in the United Kingdom after the death last week of a participant in an upcoming episode that won't be televised.

The Jeremy Kyle Show, similar to Jerry Springer, was broadcast for a number of years on ITV's international channel, ITV Choice (DStv 123) and shows guest discussing and fighting over personal conflicts and relationship problems in front of a studio audience.

Guests take paternity tests, drug addiction and conflict are often featured, security guards are on-set to separate participants who start physical fights and topics range from "My boyfriend’s mum has chosen a paedophile over him!" to “Did my dad have sex on my mum’s grave?”

"Everyone at ITV and The Jeremy Kyle Show is shocked and saddened at the news of the death of a participant in the show a week after the recording of the episode they featured in and our thoughts are with their family and friends. ITV will not screen the episode in which they featured," ITV said in a statement on Monday.

"Given the seriousness of this event, ITV has also decided to suspend both filming and broadcasting of The Jeremy Kyle Show with immediate effect in order to give it time to conduct a review of this episode of the show."

British media reports that Steve Dymond (63) committed suicide. He took a lie-detector test in the episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show to convince his fiancee Jane Callaghan he had not cheated but they split after he failed the test.

Empire on FOX cancelled after 6 seasons, Jussie Smollett not yet set for a possible return.

The drama series Empire on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201) that was recently renewed for a 6th season will end with that season with Jussie Smollett not yet set to make a return.

On Monday FOX in a surprise announcement revealed that Empire's 6th season next year will be its last with Charlie Collier, Fox Entertainment CEO, saying there are no plans yet for actor Jussie Smollett to return.

In late-January this year Jussie Smollett was hospitalised after a physical assault that he claimed was homophobic and racist but the police arrested him after an investigation saying he staged the attack. The charges were then abruptly dropped although the city of Chicago has sued him to recoup the money spent on the investigation.

Meanwhile Jussie Smollett's character of Jamal Lyon was written out of the last two episodes of the 5th season but with an option to return in the renewed and final 6th season.

On Monday Charlie Collier said "We are turning the final season of Empire into a large television event. We are really trying to go out guns a-blazing. If you think about it, one of the great benefits of announcing a final season is that you actually allow the fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve".

"We are excited to see the show go, you know, out with a bang and really, that’s what we've been focused on. And that’s been great in these early-season conversations."

About possibly bringing back Jussie Smollett he said "so we have the option to but there are no plans at this point".

Empire is produced by 20th Century Fox Television with the key cast including Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker.

New Jean-Luc Picard Star Trek TV series baldly going to Amazon Prime Video globally.

Amazon Prime Video has picked up the global rights for the new as-yet-untitled Star Trek Jean-Luc Picard series, with Star Trek: Discovery that will remain on Netflix outside of the United States.

It means that South African and African viewers will continue to watch the Star Trek: Discovery on the Netflix streaming service and which has been renewed for a third season, with the upcoming series with Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his iconic role that will become available on Amazon Prime Video.

CBS Studios International is the distributor of the Picard series and signed a contract with Amazon Prime Video to have the series, which doesn't have a starting date yet, on its streaming platform in 200 countries and territories outside of America.

Episodes of the Star Trek Jean-Luc Picard series will become available on Amazon Prime Video globally within 24 hours of its premiere in the United States.

The new series is set in the future, years after the last of the of Star Trek: The Next Generation films, and will revolve around the character questioning certain later life choices.

The series is being produced by CBS Television Studios together with Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment, with Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora who have already been cast.

The Picard Star Trek series is executive produced by Stewart, Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth, with Aaron Baiers of Secret Hideout serving as co-executive producer.

Hanelle Culpepper will direct the first two episodes of the series which will make her the first woman to direct a pilot or debut episode of a Star Trek TV series in its 53-year history.

Brad Beale, Vice President, Worldwide Content Licensing for Amazon Prime Video, says "We’re thrilled to partner with CBS to bring the newest edition of the storied Star Trek franchise to our international Amazon Prime Video customers".

"With the incredible Sir Patrick Stewart returning as the beloved Jean-Luc Picard, we’re excited we can give Trek fans both old and new the opportunity to see him back in action. It’s a terrific addition to our already robust catalogue of exclusive Amazon Prime Video content."

Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of the CBS Global Distribution Group, says "For 50 years, the Star Trek series have been a global sensation, spanning generations and audiences of all ages. It’s an honour to welcome Sir Patrick Stewart back for what is sure to be another world-class extension of the historic franchise".

"We look forward to working with the team at Amazon Prime Video to bring this next chapter of the incredible Star Trek franchise to its passionate international fan base."

Alex Kurtzman says "There’s only one word that can begin to describe Sir Patrick Stewart as Starship Commander Jean-Luc Picard, and that’s ‘legendary’. We are thrilled beyond measure to have him back in command, bringing the optimistic messages of Star Trek to audiences around the world.

ALSO READ: TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. 'Make it (no longer) so': The trend of further content fragmentation continues as the best TV shows from CBS Studios International will no longer all necessarily be on DStv and M-Net - and that's a bad thing.