Tuesday, March 4, 2014

M-Net turns Isibaya telenovela on Mzansi Magic into a weekday soap; adds new characters, new storylines, new backdrops.

One of those open secrets in the South African TV industry was just confirmed with M-Net finally admitting/revealing/confirming that the Isibaya telenovela on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) is becoming a weekday soap.

The pay-TV broadcaster commissioned and started Isibaya as a close-ended telenovela of 208 episodes but will now be exploiting the on-air property following strong viewership for the story about conflicting Johannesburg families set in Jozi's taxi industry where the Zungus and Ndlovus love and conspire in the vein of Shakepeare's Romeo & Juliet.

While Mzansi Magic's first telenovela iNkaba can now be considered a flop since it didn't prove a strong enough launchpad as a disguised soap in the making, Isibaya - produced by The Bomb Shelter - will start rolling out new episodes on every day of the week from 17 March.

The production has already added new characters to help flesh out the demand for new story and much more screen time.

"Mzansi Magic has decided not to leave Isibaya fans in the lurch and has now commissioned the series into a full-on soapie!" says the channel in a statement, exclamation mark included.

"The response to Isibaya has been fantastic," says Yolisa Phahle, the channel director of M-Net's general entertainment channels.

"Viewership exceeded the expectations we had when we launched in March 2013, with the show now consistently surprising viewers with fresh and interesting storylines. We are thrilled to now be able to offer our viewers a dose of Isibaya every weekday as the show enters a new era".

In a media enquiry made Tuesday and asked when Mzansi Magic took the decision to turn Isibaya into a soap and no longer a telenovela, Yolisa Phahle tells TV with Thinus that Isibaya has been on air for about three months "when we realised that the characters and the story had captured the imagination of our audiences in a way that was different to anything we'd seen before".

"It was a no brainer as our philosophy has always been to listen to the audience and try to produce more of the content they love. I am not keen of boxing the production into a genre, as I think it is different to anything that has been seen before".

How Isibaya will remian able to bring viewers those "fresh and interesting storylines", Yolisa Phahle says Isibaya has "a wealth of new storylines, new characters and new backdrops".

"We have actually had more time to develop this story than previous telenovelas as some of the key characters remain. Ultimately however the viewers will have their say, and we will respond to our audience".

Regarding the odd, lets-start-this-as-a-telenovela, lets-change-this-to-a-soap, Yolisa Phahle says "there are no hard and fast rules. At this point in time we were given an opportunity to take the story further which has resulted in it continuing".