Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mfundi Vundla says SABC will 'take a knock' in viewership with Generations off the air; says 'we will claw our way back to our original position'.

With the SABC's most watched show, Generations, abruptly off the air and out of episodes following a nasty firing of the principal cast, producer Mfundi Vundla warns that the SABC "will take a knock in regard to audiences" but that the production plans to fight back to regain viewer's loyalty and trust.

Generations has been the SABC and South African television's biggest TV show in viewership numbers and the South African Broadcasting Corporation's biggest revenue generator on television.

Now it's gone, and with it the high price tag for ads the SABC could command while the SABC is set to likely lose audience share as viewers abandon the SABC1 timeslot of 20:00 on weeknights now padded in an emergency measure with the educational youth drama Skeem Saam's third season that was shown at 18:30.

"We will take a knock in regard to audiences. Let's be realistic. That's to be expected. But we believe we will claw our way back to our original position," Mfundi Vundla told SABC3's morning show Expresso in a sit-down interview.

The final episode of Generations was broadcast on Tuesday night on SABC1 at 20:00 with the broadcaster and MMSV Productions episode cupboard bare for the first time in 20 years since it started in 1994.

Over the past two decades Generations perenially became the most watched TV show and primetime soap on South African television commanding a hefty R220 000 from advertisers for a 30 second ad spot, luring millions of viewers more than the rest of the popular programmes on the country's top 10 most watched list.

It leaves the show and the SABC's massive average of 8 million viewers free to explore other TV channels and shows after MMSV Production with the consent of the SABC fired Generations' entire principal cast in August and refused to give them their promised three year contracts, better pay rates and residual back payments for rebroadcasts stretching back years.

The principal cast, collectively known as the Generations Actors Guild (GAG) went on strike in August, demanding the long overdue three year contracts personally promised to them by the SABC's famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng more than a year ago in June 2013, higher pay rates that compare better to other local TV soaps, as well as residuals for rebroadcasts and resales of the show which they are entitled to in their existing contracts but which never happened.

The Generations Actors Guild is now taking the SABC and MMSV Productions to the CCMA.

Meanwhile South Africa's TV industry has been left aghast at the public broadcaster's loss of it's biggest on-air property and moneymaker and the untold damage inflicted on the image of the SABC, SABC1 and Generations.

Experts have been wondering why the SABC's top management spectacularly failed to properly and quickly solve the impasse in the month and a half before the available Generations episodes ran out, and what it means for the rest of the SABC's shows if the public broadcaster's biggest local TV production and flagship programme can suddenly stops showing due to a production implosion.

In July, before the strike, when the SABC announced new schedules for SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 the broadcaster boldly stated that Generations will remain in the primetime spot of 20:00.

Leo Manne, the now indefinitely suspended general manager for TV channels at the SABC told the press in July that "nothing touches Generations. We dare not move it". Two months later the SABC's biggest show is not even on the schedule.

It also means that MMSV Productions is actually in contract breach. Last month SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said that "MMSV is in a contract with the SABC to produce Generations and if they don't deliver, they will be going against that contract."

The TV show that Nelson Mandela once praised for nation building has behind the scenes been a far cry from reconciliation, unity and peace and also lost head writer and co-producer Bongi Ndaba who abruptly quit last month after 8 years with the show.

MMSV Productions and Mfundi Vundla who said he will never take the actors back is now working behind-the-scenes to try and come up with a "new" Generations as viewers got now resolution to multiple storylines which just abruptly ended on Tuesday.

In the Expresso interview Mfundi Vundla admitted that viewers can flee from the 20:00 timeslot on SABC1 they've tuned to for decades.

"Viewers can tune out and go somewhere else. Which is what pains me about what's going on right now. Our viewers have been put under a lot of stress," said Mfundi Vundla.

"I wish to apologise to the South African people and apologise to the Generations audience."

Mfundi Vundla told Expresso that "we are reconstructing Generations. They will recognise elements of the present Generations but we are taking a new creative direction".

He said that "our relation with the 16 actors who terminated their services, that relationship is irrevocably damaged and toxic.

"We are going back to our original roots of the series. Viewers will recognise individuals who were there at the beginning of the series, which anchors the new narrative, so people will recognise elements from the past in the new direction we are taking".

Generations is also going much younger in the way that's Rhythm City and the soaps and telenovellas on M-Net's Mzansi Magic channel on DStv have been incorporating younger characters to lure a younger audience.

"We are going younger. There's a predominance of 20 to 24 year olds, early 30's actors who will be in the show. Our stories will be entertaining. There's light entertainment elements and there's also dark elements in the new show," Mfundi Vundla told Expresso.

The disappearance of the soap for months from SABC1 cuts viewers loose from their longtime primetime habitual viewing to sample alternative programmes on competitor TV channels ranging from the growing number of community TV stations like SowetoTV to Mzansi Magic on MultiChoice's DStv and Platco Digital's OpenView HD which has channels like eKasi+.

On Digital Media's StarSat adds Trace Sport Stars and QYOU channels as MultiChoice lowers the premium value of Trace Sports Stars.

On Digital Media (ODM) is adding the new QYOU (StarSat 165) internet video clip linear TV channel and the sports lifestyle channel Trace Sports Stars (StarSat 250) already available on MultiChoice's DStv to its satellite pay-TV service in South Africa.

At the same time MultiChoice which had Trace Sports Stars since April 2012 when it launched as Trace Sports, has downgraded the channel which is no longer considered a premium TV channel.

Trace Sports Stars from Trace used to be for DStv Premium subscribers only but MultiChoice on 30 September lowered the channel's premium only status which has now been made available to DStv Extra, DStv Compact and DStv Family subscribers at the same time as it becomes available to StarSat subscribers as well in South Africa.

Neither On Digital Media, its PR company, nor the Trace group or its publicity department, nor the Los Angeles based QYOU, issued any announcement, press releases or statements to the press about Trace Sport Stars and QYOU starting today on StarSat.

While Trace Sport Stars' content is known, QYOU is a brand-new American-based linear channel showing short clips - mostly originating from the internet - very similar in style to what CurrentTV was when te United Kingdom version of that channel launched on TopTV when the platform launched in May 2010 in South Africa.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BREAKING. Suzanne Kolb out as president of E! Entertainment after just 3 years; Adam Stotsky named E! new general manager.

Suzanne Kolb is out as president of E! Entertainment (DStv 124) after just over three years, telling staff in an internal email that "all good things must come to an end and so must my time at E!".

Adam Stotsky has been named the new general manager for E! Entertainment.

Suzanne Kolb who've been at E! Entertainment for a decade writes to staff that "I know the future for E! shines bright and I look forward to cheering you on as you reach new heights".

During the past year the viewership for Keeping Up with the Kardashians has been falling to lows, Joan Rivers died who powered Fashion Police, several new reality shows were cancelled after just one season each, and Chelsea Handler ended her long-running talk show Chelsea Lately after blasting E! Entertainment as "a sad, sad place to live" and that they "don't know what they're doing".

Suzanne Kolb replaced Ted Harbert in July 2011 at the NBCUniversal pay-TV channel.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

EXCLUSIVE. SABC's Leo Manne suspended indefinitely as general manager for TV at the public broadcaster, pending investigations.

You're reading it here first. 

Leo Manne, the SABC's general manager for TV channels has been suspended today, TV with Thinus can reveal.

The SABC confirms to me that Leo Manne has been placed on suspension today, following days of media enquiries since Monday asking for confirmation when sources first told me this is happening.

Leo Manne referred a telephonic media enquiry today to the SABC. The SABC confirmed that he was placed on suspension today for an indefinite period of time to allow investigations to take place.

The SABC tells me there is no immediate replacement at the SABC for the position, following Leo Manne's sudden suspension.

"Leo Manne has been suspended today. We don't know for how long, it's pending an investigation," SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago tells me.

"The person who would be acting in the position has not been decided".

Kaizer Kganyago didn't want to be drawn as to the reasons why Leo Manne - who was the previous SABC1 channel head - was suspended.

"Don't even go there. I'm not going to talk about any of that. This is a matter between the employer [SABC] and the employee, pending an investigation and that is where it ends".

"All that you need to know is that he has been suspended pending an investigation and that's it. We cannot divulge anything else".

Whether it relates to Leo Manne or not isn't clear at this stage, but according to sources who spoke about Leo Manne's suspension earlier this week before it happened today, there has been alleged irregularities regarding SABC airtime sales involving several people.

Sources said earlier this week that there's unhappiness inside SABC corridors regarding various things - some of which may, or may not, relate to today's suspension.

"There's been an avalanche of bad decisions including Generations, the Afrikaans news bulletin, sales commission issues, 'boys club politics and bad human resources management," one SABC insider told me yesterday and who apparently knew that a suspension was happening.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Microsoft's XBox One in South Africa launches; not able to access MultiChoice's DStv electronic programme guide (EPG).

Microsoft's new XBox One console launched in South Africa is not able to give users access to MultiChoice's DStv electronic programme guide (EPG) when connected to a DStv decoder in the way that other country's digital terrestrial and pay-TV operators' EPG's are integrated and accesible through the new XBox One.

A Microsoft SA spokesperson told TV with Thinus that XBox One users are able to plug their DStv decoder into the HDMI pass-through of the XBox One, although it won't allow them to control their DStv decoder from their XBox One.

"This will not allow control of the DStv decoder. It will simply feed through the video signal from DStv".

"With calling out 'XBox, watch TV' DStv will then play. Navigating the guide and TV channels on DStv will still require a DStv remote," I'm told.

"We are in discussions with DStv to bring services to the platform but have no news to disclose at this point in time".

In America and the United Kingdom Microsoft's new XBox One works well and is fully integrated with the EPG's of free-to-air as well as pay-TV providers.

UPDATE 15:24 - Microsoft South Africa adds that "Microsoft is constantly exploring opportunities with various strategic partners. When any of these opportunities result in new services or products, we'll make the necessary announcements".

DStv adds BET, Nicktoons and Nick Jr. as 3 new TV channels from VIMN Africa.

DStv is adding Nicktoons as expected as a new TV channel from 30 September and is also adding Nick Jr. and BET to DStv.

All three TV channels are supplied by Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa) as part of new carriage agreements with MultiChoice.

VIMN Africa already supplies channels like MTV, MTV Base, Nickelodeon, VH1 Classic and Comedy Central Africa to MultiChoice's DStv.

BET's spin-off channel BET on Jazz was available on DStv in South Africa for a period in the past but was discontinued.

BET has been available on On Digital Media's (ODM) StarSat satellite pay-TV platform the past four years and will remain available as a TV channel on this platform according to VIMN Africa.

In 2008 BET was added on DStv in West African countries. In 2010 MultiChoice said BET didn't test very well, but in 2013 MultiChoice tested BET again, yet cautioned that it doesn't mean the channel will be added to DStv.

BET on DStv channel 135 will be available on DStv Premium, DStv Compact, DStv Family and DStv Extra and broadcast programming like talk show The Wendy Williams Show, reality like Real Husbands of Hollywood and dramas like Being Mary Jane and 106 & Park.

Nicktoons on DStv channel 308 will be available on DStv Premium, DStv Compact and DStv Extra and is aimed at children between 4 to 9 - a younger skewing channel than the existing Nickelodeon channel also from VIMN Africa.

Nicktoons programming include The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, T.U.F.F. Puppy, Back to the Barnyard, Avatar and Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys.

Nick Jr. on DStv channel 307 will only be available to DStv Premium subscribers as a youth channel targeting pre-school viewers between the ages of 3 to 5 with programmes like Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies and Paw Patrol.

New programming will start in 2015 on Nick Jr. including Dora & Friends, Blaze and the Monster Machines and Shimmer & Shine.

"We are delighted to partner with MultiChoice to strengthen our kids and family, and general entertainment offering in Africa," says Alex Okosi, the senior vice president and managing director for VIMN Africa in a statement.

"Our DStv customers will no doubt be delighted that BET is finally available on their screens," says Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice's general manager for content in the statement. "Kids will be entertained for hours with the great shows on Nick Jr. and Nicktoons. We want to add channels that fill a gap in our entertainment offering".

EXCLUSIVE. Sony Channel on DStv is the brand-new name of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) as the channel rebrands with a new look.

You're reading it here first.

The Sony Channel (DStv 127) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform in South Africa and the rest of Africa is the brand-new name of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) following a rebranding and simplified renaming of the popular general entertainment channel from Sony Pictures Television (SPT).

The simplified name change from Sony Entertainment Television (SET) to Sony Channel appears to be the first such rebranding of the channel which is available internationally in several countries and territories.

The Sony Channel will be 7 years old in South Africa in a month and a half's time since it first launched on 2 November 2007 on DStv in South Africa.

The Sony Channel became the home of highly rated series like The Amazing Race, Hannibal, Drop Dead Diva, NCIS, Friends, CSI and several American talk shows.

According to sources the rebranding of Sony Entertainment Television only pertains to the Sony Channel, not sister channel Sony MAX (DStv 128).

The new on-air look of the Sony Channel made its debut this morning just after 06:00 on DStv during The Arsenio Hall Show with beautiful new multi-coloured on-air idents to signal and indicate different programming genres.

Blue signify comedy, red signify drama, green signify reality and yellow is now used for movies.

The former three-tiered name in white is now shorter and stacks over just two lines, saying just "Sony Channel", having done away with the long "Entertainment" and "Television" for a simpler, cleaner appearance whilst maintaining the Sony "S".

The new Sony Channel logo and on-air imaging utilise shiny, high-gloss, flipping "micro tiles" to create a "wave" effect and looks beautiful.

Monday, September 22, 2014

BRILLIANT. Robyn Curnow is anchoring on CNN International - and the result couldn't be more ... unexpectedly amazing.

"Shock" would probably be a good word to describe watching Robyn Curnow as an anchor on CNN International (DStv 401).

She is that great.

Not that anybody thought that South Africa's Robyn Curnow wouldn't be able to make the transition from CNN correspondent in Johannesburg to behind the anchor desk at CNN International, but her simply tour de force presentation and delivery with gravitas is simply brilliant to behold.

Robyn Curnow anchored The World Right Now on Monday night on CNN International and if you had to find even the smallest fault it would be that she was too good. Brilliant in fact.

Full disclaimer: Robyn Curnow is South African and this writer and TV critic happens to be a South African too.

Yet I'm not saying Robyn Curnow as a CNN International anchor is amazing because of any country or nationalistic affiliation or affinity. It's because she really is.

It's quite surprising seeing Robyn Curnow coming across as incredibly solid, hugely grounded, looking terrifically at ease, exuding a massive amount of confidence (not in herself but in delivering the news and interviewing news makers) and taking it all in her stride.

What's so incredible, is that Robyn Curnow comes across as if she's been doing it for years.

Her anchoring on CNN International blends freshness and a nuanced, yet natural newsey relatableness. Her questions of news makers and other CNN contributors and correspondents were succinct, clear and on point.

On Monday night it felt and looked as if Robyn Curnow was an Olympic swimmer. One who've been swimming and practising for years and who suddenly got dropped in a new bigger pool - yet one who completely unperturbed, is still swimming laps around everyone else.

As a viewer watching, it not only felt as if Robyn Curnow was driving the car, you felt instantly "safe" in the car - and it felt as if the car is going somewhere, not just aimlessly trying to go forward another mile, trying to fill another 10 minutes of satellite TV air.

There was sense, there was purpose, there was direction.

Whoever decided to elevate Robyn Curnow from CNN correspondent to CNN International anchor made the right decision.

This TV critic thought it would be a huge loss for South Africa and CNN International to lose her amazing background knowledge, contacts and skill set on the ground in Johannesburg, especially after her superb ongoing reporting from South Africa especially during the tumultuous, numerous big news events of 2013.

And it probably is.

Yet it turns out that Robyn Curnow as CNN anchor is just as good as Robyn Curnow the CNN International correspondent - in a really great new way.

Sometimes, some people are just able to fit various different molds all well - like the head girl who also "just" happens to be the captain of the netball team, who also "just" happens to be the academic dux pupil.

Until you realise "just" has nothing to do with it.

Perhaps hours and hours of practice, on-air anchor coaching and lessons to discern a cat baby meow from 15 other voices all screaming and talking and the same time in an earpiece took place. Perhaps none or very little.

What's undeniable is that Robyn Curnow is instantly, fully, solid CNN International TV news anchor material. Strikingly so.

Generations head writer and co-producer Bongi Ndaba out as dramatic changes continue behind the scenes at embattled Mfundi Vundla soap.

Bongi Ndaba who was the head writer and co-producer at the embattled Generations on SABC1 is out and gone as the dramatic and controversial changes continue behind the scenes of the biggest TV show on South African television faced with an uncertain future.

The SABC on late Friday announced that Generations will abruptly cease broadcasting further episodes for months from October since there aren't any episodes left after September.

It will be the first time since 1994 when the highly popular soap started that the most lucrative and most watched TV show on South African television will be off the air due to major production disruption.

With the Generations episode cupboard bare, the unexpected disappearance of the soap from the SABC airwaves, the firing of the entire principal cast and now the loss of the head scriptwriter represent the biggest TV programming upset to ever hit the beleaguered South African public broadcaster, impacting millions of viewers.

The fired Generations cast is now taking the SABC and MMSV Productions to the CCMA, while producer Mfundi Vundla said he would never take any of the 16 principal cast members back.

The Generations cast which formed the Generations Actors Guild (GAG) went on strike and was promptly fired after demanding the three year contracts the SABC's famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng personally promised them in June 2013 and which never materialised.

They also wanted better pay rates and residual payment for rebroadcasts of the show promised in their existing contracts which they've never received.

The SABC on Friday called the disappearance of Generations - which lures an average of 8 million viewers and commands the highest advertising spot price for a 30 second commercial of R220 000 - part of a "minor schedule change".

Now Generations also lost the soap's head scriptwriter and viewers will be left with multiple unresolved cliffhangers on 30 September while with producer Mfundi Vundla and MMSV Productions planning a "Generations - The Next Generation" type soap to "resume" from December on SABC1.

Bongi Ndaba who became head writer in mid 2012 and had been with the show for 8 years, suddenly resigned last week from Generations. She gave no reasons as to why she jettisoned the soap.

Thato Molamu who played Nicholas in the soap is the father of Bongi Ndaba's 4 year old son and is co-incidentally also one of the 16 actors who got fired from Generations. He is now the presenter of the SABC2 game show What's Behind the Wall?

In an interview in 2012 with Sunday World Bongi Ndaba said "I love Generations. I'd hate to work on a series where black people are shown kicking and stabbing each other. This shows blacks in a positive light. It's inspirational."

In the meantime TV industry experts expect SABC1 viewership to plunge from October when the perennial number one most watched TV show and soap on South African television disappears from the schedule.

The loss of Generations for months from SABC1 - and which was unplanned - will negatively impact the SABC's television audience share during primetime, advertising income, as well as the quota of original local content produced and being broadcast on the SABC.

The shocking backstage drama which the SABC's top management, TV executives and MMSV Productions have been unable to properly and speedily manage and resolve, already inflicted massive brand damage on the SABC, SABC1 and the production company since Generations is the public broadcaster's flagship show.

In July, when the SABC announced new schedules for SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 the broadcaster boldly stated that Generations will remain in the primetime spot of 20:00.

Leo Manne, the general manager for TV channels at the SABC told the press in July that "nothing touches Generations. We dare not move it".

Now the soap will not move but completely disappear for months from SABC1 - forcing viewers to sample alternative programmes on competitor TV channels ranging from the growing number of community TV stations like SowetoTV to popular pay-TV channels from M-Net like Mzansi Magic on MultiChoice's DStv.

As some of these viewers form new TV loyalties and solidify new viewing habits as they migrate elsewhere during primetime, the SABC stand a very real change of losing a large portions of viewers it will never get back.

SABC dumps Generations from SABC1 as show runs out of recorded episodes following firing of cast; SABC plans new show from December.

The SABC has been forced to shelve the public broadcaster's biggest revenue earner, admitting that Generations will disappear from the SABC1 schedule from October, calling it part of a "minor schedule change".

This follows the strike of the principal cast last month who were promptly fired by Mfundi Vundla and MMSV Productions with the permission of the SABC.

It follows months of unhappiness behind the scenes for the actors after the SABC's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in June 2013 promised the cast three year contracts.

The actors banded together and demanded the promised contracts, better pay rates and better working conditions and were fired.

The Generations Actors Guild (GAG) as the actors organised themselves, told me late Friday afternoon that they have now filed papers with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for re-instatement.

"We've been clear that we are open to negotiation and discussions – but were resolute in our commitment to transforming unfair industry practices". GAG says no negotiations or meetings with the SABC have taken place.

The TV industry remains in shock, closely following the nasty and high-profile real-life soap opera playing out publicly and which has kept the local showbiz tongues wagging.

An incredulous TV industry still can't believe that SABC management has been unable to salvage the situation and keep its number one flagship programme.

The SABC will no longer be able to guarantee the average of 8 million viewers tuning in on weeknights at 20:00, and will, therefore, no longer be able to command the impressive R220 000 spot price per 30 second ad break during the show – the highest ad rate on any of the SABC's TV channels.

Meanwhile, Cosatu's pleas for viewers to boycott the show last week fell on deaf ears. Viewership since last Monday surged by an average of 200 000 viewers more than before the SABC's Generations scandal started and the production of daily episodes imploded.

Viewers are desperate to catch the last remaining episodes and late on Friday the SABC confirmed that Generations is disappearing from the SABC1 schedule from October for months – the biggest single programming disruption to the SABC Television schedule since television started in 1976, given the duration and the sizeable audience affected.

South African TV soaps film episodes around a month in advance, and Generations is fast running out of the last existing episodes. The last remaining episodes will be shown the next week and a half and is set to end abruptly with several unresolved cliff-hangers.

The SABC calls it "minor changes" and says Generations "will be revamped" after the 16 actors "were terminated by MMSV Productions".

"From Wednesday 1 October Generations will be off screen until December as new episodes are filmed," says the SABC. The third season of Skeem Saam will now be broadcast at 20:00 from October. Generations will no longer be repeated on SABC3.

Instead, Muvhango will be repeated daily on SABC2, and Muvhango will then also repeat on SABC3 in the Generations timeslot from October.

The SABC says it "would like to appeal to the public to be patient as we deal with the challenges currently faced in ensuring the longevity of Generations".

Interestingly the SABC is also returning the Afrikaans TV news from SABC3 back to SABC2 from 3 November after the broadcaster shunted the bulk of its Afrikaans programming from July from SABC2 to SABC3 which has a much smaller broadcasting footprint in a highly controversial move, which caused a public outcry.

The SABC says the Afrikaans news will be back at 19:00 on SABC2 from 3 November.

The SABC says the "shifting of news programming is a result of the SABC listening to its audience's feedback".

Friday, September 19, 2014

Expresso celebrates its 1 000th episode as SABC3's weekday morning breakfast show.

Expresso, SABC3's weekday breakfast show, is celebrating its 1000th episode this morning since it started on 4 October 2010.

Presenters Katlegoe Maboe and Ewan Strydom are still part of the on-air talent team and have been since the beginning.

"We've had 1 000 feel-good mornings," says Ewan Strydom. "Expresso was a complete blessing in disguise for me and for my family. I am very proud of the team who has worked so hard to bring these feel-good mornings to South Africa".

"Expresso has become a special home to me and we've become part of people's families," says Katlego Maboe.

"It's quite something to know that we are part of a team that did groundbreaking work reintroducing lifestyle entertainment to the morning. It's fantastic to bring this show to people every day and to do it with such a diverse team is an honour".

"There's nothing like Expresso on local television and its ability to stay relevant, entertaining and informative each and every day has been a big factor in its success," says Aisha Mohamed, SABC3 channel head.

"It is definitely a perfect example of being able to find something for everyone on SABC3 and we congratulate the production team on this wonderful achievement".

Thursday, September 18, 2014

BREAKING. Altech Node launches in South Africa as brand-new video-on-demand (VOD) consumer console to compete with DStv, VIDI.

Altech is launching the Altech Node in the suddenly white hot video-on-demand (VOD) market with South African consumers and TV viewers who will be able to buy the VOD console, using MultiChoice's DStv dish, from Friday at R3 499, and giving access to 700 hours of entertainment.

The launch of Altech's Node comes a week after the launch of Times Media Group's VIDI with Node viewers who won't suffer buffering issues like VIDI and who will also be able to watch the latest movie releases as well as library TV shows.

Altech didn't release a list of the TV programming and movies available at launch and didn't respond with a list to a media enquiry seeking a list on Thursday.

(Altech didn't make the Node device available for testing ahead of the launch to national TV critics who were not invited to, nor told of, the launch event on Thursday evening).

With MultiChoice's DStvBoxOffice on the one side of the spectrum, Times Media Group's VIDI on the other side and Altech's Node in the middle of the existing - and suddenly exploding - VOD market, South African consumers and viewers suddenly have a lot more choices and options.

Like DStv BoxOffice on the DStv Explora and HD PVR the content on the Node console is updated through satellite and stored on the 1TB internal hard drive and viewable in 1080p high definition (HD).

Unlike VIDI, Node users won't have to pay for massive internet downloads to watch the actual video content.

Like DStv Catch Up and unlike VIDI, the Node includes video-on-demand sports content (80 episodes at launch). It's not live sports content but packaged content.

Node will have 200 hours of TV series at launch, 140 movies at launch, 150 hours of kids programming, 150 hours of documentaries, and 30 hours of current affairs programming that can be watched instantly.

Altech's Node will carry 7 to 10 new movie titles per month at any given time available for rent, as well as 100 titles per year.

In the subscription library there will be 140 movie titles which are available to watch at any time and which doesn't require an additional payment. These will be refreshed at a rate of 10% to 15% per month, says Altech in a press release.

Altech's Node will work with any TV set that has HDMI ports, and the Node console itself has 3 HDMI ports.

Besides the R3 499 cost of the console which includes free installation and which people will be able to buy from Friday at Altech Autopage Cellular, Cell C, Dion Wired, Game, Hifi Corporation, Hirsch's, Incredible Connection, JetMart, Makro and Pick n Pay Hyper, there is a monthly subscription fee of R299.

This R299 monthly subscription fee gives the user access to the majority of the library content on the Node which regularly is cycled through and replaced just like on DStv BoxOffice on DStv PVR decoders.

Similar to the licensing rights agreements of DStv and DStv BoxOffice and VIDI, Altech has licencing rights agreements with Hollywood studios which include Sony, Disney, MGM and Universal.

On the Node the latest blockbuster movies cost R25, compared to the R27 for DStv BoxOffice and R27 for VIDI. This R25 will be in addition to the R299 monthly subscription fee.

Like DStv BoxOffice and VIDI, a movie on Node remains available for a 48 hour period to watch.

Older movie titles on Altech's Node will cost R15.

Subscription and rentals of and through the Altech Node can be paid by using debit and credit cards or Altech's Eyenza wallet.

Older non high definition (HD) content will have a higher bit rate on Altech's Node says the company "to ensure the content still looks great in an HD screen".

"Sound is delivered through 5.1 Dolby. YouTube videos will stream at a minimum of 720p resolution".

"Node is much more than video-on-demand," says Craig Venter, Altech CEO, saying that Altech's Node is "like a DVD store in your home".

"It is an entertainment hub, a streaming server, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an e-commerce platform".

"It is the most sophisticated home gateway in the world and is a true reflection of Altech's mission to provide its customers with value-added products, services and solutions through the convergence of telecommunications, multimedia and information technology".

Movies and library TV series will be updated monthly as older content is replaced with new releases and other TV shows.

The Altech Node come with a built-in 3G modem which enables users to buy data, airtime and pre-paid electricity and pay for municipal services like Eskom and Telkom through using the device.

The Node also allows for consumers to download Android apps, access the internet, access their email and to control certain home appliances through what Altech calls "Node branded Smart Plugs".

Altech's Node comes with a built-in media player, MyMedia, which allows content to be played off other devices, such as the Altech Node branded USB flash drive.

The Node's Wi-Fi- functionality also enables an environment to be turned into a Wi-Fi hotspot where up to 5 devices like the TV set, computer, smartphone and tablet can be connected to stream content to these devices.

Node users who have DStv or had DStv won't need to install a new satellite dish since Altech's Node makes use of the same Intelsat-20 satellite, which means that a existing DStv dish is already aligned.

Although installation cost is included in the R3 499 price, Altech says the Node is easy to install. "Users can do it themselves, even with the most rudimentary technical skills, and install their own automation and security equipment".

Users will have to pay for the data used of the internet return path which enables the rental of titles and on demand content.

"Node has been designed to connect to both Wi-Fi and ethernet networks," says Altech. "Node can also function as a wireless internet access point or hotspot, providing connectivity through its 3G modem. Node does not consume data for movie and series downloads but will consume data for internet access activity and any purchases made".

Node can access the internet through its 3G modem which Altech says is powered by Autopage Cellular. "However you will need a SIM card and your data cost will be in addition to the Node subscription".

"While there are other products currently on the market that offer aspects of Smart TV and video-on-demand content, Node is the first comercially available product that offers a complete, integrated package, incorporating elements of Smart TV and smart entertainment together with a smart home solution," says Altech.

As to why Altech chose satellite downloading like MultiChoice does with DStv BoxOffice to the DStv Explora and HD PVR, Altech says "even though fibre internet is fast and exciting, it is also a new arrival to the South African market".

The Altech Node is however fbire ready with an ethernet and USB modem port.

"Fibre internet is still expensive and can consume a lot of data, which may lead to excessive data costs depending on the customer's internet service provider package. By employing cost-effective and reliable satellite systems, Node can ensure content that is always available for instant play without any time-delays and costly surprises".

EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK. Tech Report on eNCA celebrates 150 episodes with a brand-new on-air look and colour scheme.

You're seeing it here first.

Tech Report is celebrating the show's 150th episode tonight at 21:30 on eNCA (DStv 403) as the well-produced South African go-to show for consumer technology and gadgets gets a red, black and white makeover and a whole new look.

Tapfuma Makina remains the anchor, with the funny and quirky set of presenters Seth Rotherham, Jason Greer, Juliet McGuire, Grant Hinds, Clive Maistry and Thenjiwe Stemela.

From tonight eNCA viewers will see a new set, title sequence and some new presenters for Tech Report as the blue-on-white on-air look is being replaced with a new and edgy red-on-black treatment.

Tech Report, produced by Homebrew Films, will continue to bring viewers the latest technology news and gadget reviews, game reviews, phones, tablets and apps testing as well as insight on tech trends shaping South Africa and the world.

Tech Report which has become a leader in tech and innovation news in South Africa says the weekly magazine show has garnered a significant following the past three years on eNCA and is looking forward to many more.

EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK. The VUZU AMP channel logo - with a 'stroke of genius' - takes the existing VUZU logo one fat line further.

You're seeing it here first. 

TV with Thinus can exclusively reveal the brand-new channel logo of VUZU AMP, the new general entertainment TV channel from M-Net that will start on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform for DStv Premium subscribers on 13 October at 17:00.

VUZU AMP will start on DStv channel 114 on the channel where M-Net Series Reality previously was.

The VUZU AMP logo design is very clever - cleverly taking the existing VUZU logo, which will remain a TV channel, and "enhancing" it with one broad stroke.

With one fat line down - lets call it literally a "stroke of genius" - the existing VUZU logo cleverly adds and becomes a sideways "A" at the end for the "Amp" part (or an inverse "V") (or a long shadow) (or a doubling up of the existing image, meaning more VUZU).

Besides the very smart and simple symbol extension, VUZU AMP also adds a slogan: "Out of this world TV".

Sky News' Kay Burley apologises for calling Scottish independence campaigner 'a knob' live on air who tried to hit cameraman with a stick.

Sky News' (DStv 402) Kay Burley is apologising after calling a Scottish independence campaigner "a knob" live on the air after the man tried to hit her cameraman with a stick.

Sky News has been doing extensive coverage of the Scottish referendum taking place today in Scotland, and yesterday Kay Burley was live on Sky News in Aberdeen when she called a man "a knob" on live television.

It happened after Kay Burley was constantly being heckled by a Scottish independence campaigner, and wasn't aware that her mic was live.

Afterwards she apologised for the "poor language" and said that it was a "challenging environment" and that someone wanted to hit her cameraman with a stick.