Wednesday, July 9, 2014

As the 3 M-Net Series channels on DStv turn one year old today, a look back and a look forward, as another 'complete overhaul' awaits.

The set of three M-Net Series channel that pay-TV broadcaster M-Net supplies to MultiChoice's DStv pay-TV platform turns one year old today - 9 July.

And while M-Net Series' first birthday in its current channels format is a cause for celebration for pay-TV viewers who are getting to see more overseas TV shows (and faster), there's also strong indications that the subset of channels are in for yet another major redo before long.

M-Net Series which started out as just one channel - showing retro-television - could possibly even go back to being just one M-Net Series channel, and possibly even with a new name, like, for instance M-Net Atlantic.

Before TV with Thinus looks forward to what the future could hold for M-Net Series, lets first look back to its past.

The M-Net Series channels of course have a storied legacy, and whatever changes might come in the months ahead, the one thing that remains is that the aim has been, and will be, to bring more and better series television to South African pay-TV viewers.

M-Net Series is the still in existence M-Net supplied TV channel to DStv which has gone through the most changes since The Series Channel, then with an all yellow and black look, started as a retro-TV channel showing Little House of the Prairie and Mary Tyler Moore.

While the Soap channel, ActionX, K All-Day, GO, MK and others came and fell away and morphed into other content pipes, The Series Channel changed and changed and changed but endured.

With numerous on-air and channel proposition changes over the almost past two decades M-Net Series has allowed South African pay-TV subscribers to see more foreign television - especially American TV - which simply couldn't (and still cannot) be accomodated on just one channel like M-Net.

That's its big strength - added value - and will remain its strength going forward irrespective of what guise M-Net Series might be taking on next.

The split into three channels of M-Net Series a year ago allowed the funneling of even more TV content to viewers. Although there's more content for viewers than ever before, there's been things that haven't been working.

The name of M-Net Series Reality (DStv 114) doesn't really tell viewers all of what is on this channel, like its heavy (and good) American talk show offering.

Likewise M-Net Series Zone (DStv 115) appears to have been a misfire - a channel derided by DStv subscribers when it launched as largely a knock-off rerun channel.

To their credit M-Net executives went to the ER to quickly try and beef up the channel with better shows and a better programming and scheduling structure.

A year later it doesn't seem to have been working - or at least viewer response isn't what it should be or should have been, sources have been saying for months. Therefore the writing might very well be on the wall for M-Net Series Zone as a TV channel which has not been performing to expectation, despite ongoing improvements over th.e past year by M-Net.

With the M-Net Series channels turning one, TV with Thinus asked M-Net about the channels' future.

It comes amid ongoing talk and word doing the rounds the past two months that M-Net Series is in for a "relaunch" or "rebrand" before the end of this year.

In fact, M-Net told all staff at the Randburg-based pay-TV broadcaster that M-Net Series requires "a complete overhaul" and according to various sources, viewers could possibly see the result of that complete overhaul implemented by possibly late September to October.

"These three channels have increased the viewership of international shows - our objective with launching the channels a year ago," says Yolisa Phahle, M-Net's CEO for South Africa, when asked how M-Net feels about the performance of the three M-Net Series channels after a year.

Asked what worked, what surprised and what worked less well, Yolisa Phahle says that "reality programming is increasing in popularity. We still believe that there are great series that people are not watching and we are working on ideas to fix this".

"The three channel strategy has delivered increased viewership and each M-Net Series channel has contributed to this in different ways," says Yolisa Phahle.

"M-Net Series Reality speaks to one psychographic, M-Net Series Showcase to another and M-Net Series Zone has given DStv Compact viewers new drama content, but we feel still that we can improve awareness around new content," she says.

And how has the channels enabled M-Net to bring more content and quicker to viewers? Yolisa Phahle says M-Net has managed to bring content to viewers much faster than before.

So, what does the future hold for the M-Net Series channels? Of course the ongoing development and changes of a specific TV channel (especially when its part of an overall group) should never be seen in isolation.

You can't, because its all part of an integrated network of content - where very decision and change affects the entire content ecosystem.

It's TV with Thinus' understanding that one - or even two - of the M-Net Series channels, possibly M-Net Series Zone and M-Net Series Reality could perhaps be closed down, discontinued, or morphed into, or their content folded into, other channels like the possible start of a second Vuzu channel like Vuzu Amp.

I asked this and if there would be a rebranding, and whether there's been talk, discussions or plans about possible M-Net Series closures, but for now Yolisa Phahle didn't want to be drawn about this.

What looks certain however is that the M-Net Series channel or channels will not be looking the same at this time next year.

So where does that leave M-Net Series Showcase? Well, M-Net Series Showcase, the premium channel of the three, could possibly be rebranded to something like M-Net Atlantic, similar to BSkyB's Sky Atlantic TV channel.

Sky Atlantic specialises in showing only high-quality, premium American TV shows. Given how M-Net follows the BSkyB model, which it did for its M-Net Movies channels, a M-Net Atlantic type channel seems a possibility.

"We believe we have the best variety of drama and reality and will continue to work to improve the viewer experience," says Yolisa Phahle when asked what M-Net wants to say to viewers about the M-Net Series channels being on-air for a year now.

The coming months will tell and show exactly how the set of M-Net Series channels will change. For now, there's one candle on the cake to celebrate a birthday - a year of more TV shows and more content the past year than what viewers had before.