Thursday, July 3, 2014

Is Lifetime a yawn? Why the new A+E Networks UK channel coming to DStv hasn't been missed while it didn't exist in South Africa and Africa.

In the film My Left Foot there's the line "I like you much better now".

The addition of the anticipated Lifetime as a new TV channel from A+E Networks UK to MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform in South Africa and the rest of Africa actually evokes the opposite sentiment - one of: "I like it much less now".

The truth of the matter is that DStv subscribers don't really gain that much in terms of new TV content (or in other words miss out on much without it) that hasn't been shown yet on other TV channels, or which isn't accessible or can't be acquired or accommodated on other existing channels on the DStv bouquet.

A+E Network UK's addition of Lifetime could be (and maybe its not the case at all) marking a high-level point where South African and African pay-TV subscribers are finally saturated with the most widespread blend of TV programming already available and possible to get.

And that makes Lifetime and its addition from 22 July to DStv, bland.

That's not necessarily a bad thing.

It indicates that there's very little international and foreign content that South African pay-TV subscribers to DStv are not getting already. The problem with Lifetime and A+E Networks UK is that it took a lifetime to finally come to South Africa.

Lifetime as a DStv would have been much better and would have made a much bigger impact if it arrived and was added even four years ago. Now Lifetime as a "new" TV channel seems somehow redundant.

If it launched in South Africa and Africa even a few years ago, Lifetime would have been liked much more.

As it stands Lifetime's programming - the shows and characters unique to its own channel proposition - has already been procured by several other TV channels and distribution pipelines, creating a Lifetime content diaspora.

The bits that together made Lifetime different on its own, are in a lot of other places anyway, already.

The made-for-TV Lifetime Original Movies are nothing which couldn't have been seen - or haven't been seen - on the M-Net Movies channels, and those which are not are mostly bad or forgetful or lacking buzz, the sort of Joan Rivers' 90s biography film found on a channel like True Movies.

Devious Maids, Witches of East End, Army Wives, The Client List, Drop Dead Diva - the list goes on and on - are Lifetime specific shows that South African and African viewers have seen already and see on existing channels ranging from M-Net's existing premium pay-TV channels to public television like SABC3 and beyond.

It's indicative of how your TV watching life without Lifetime as a TV channel wouldn't really be any poorer. Or in other words: it's hard for Lifetime to make it feel as if what it's bringing and offering is really enhancing what a DStv pay-TV subscriber is getting anyway already.

The seen there, done that, nature of Lifetime's yawn worthy schedule and line-up should signal to DStv subscribers how difficult it has become to secure really unique and exciting further content. It's not a negative per se.

South African viewers watching subscription television should be pleased that they are largely already being funneled, and have been watching, the majority of American and international TV content available.

The secret is that with or without A+E Networks UK's Lifetime which is only earmarked for DStv Premium subscribers, even subscribers on smaller bouquets have been seeing Lifetime content for a long time already like Drop Dead Diva on M-Net Series Zone and Sony Entertainment Television (SET) as just one example for instance.

Project Runway? Seen it on Vuzu. Betty White's Off Their Rockers? Seen it on M-Net. I Married a Princess? Strong Medicine? Wild Card? Yep, yep and yep even for On Digital Media's StarSat pay-TV platform.

As a sidenote: It also shows how bad StarSat remains. StarSat executives want to claim its difficult to secure channels and new content but did nothing to get this close to like-for-like channel after it lost Discovery Networks International's TLC.

While Lifetime is not doing much to enhance DStv, a channel like Lifetime would have enhanced StarSat's channel line-up to a much bigger degree for those subscribers.

If Lifetime on DStv wants to become a destination channel, it will have to up its premium first-run content quota to make sure (force) viewers to go watch it on channel 131.

That could take quite a while as Lifetime assembles broadcasting rights to content for itself which has already been spread everywhere.

For now the biggest positive of Lifetime's addition to DStv is not its promise of new content but that its existence underscores and reassures as to how much you actually haven't been missing out on. And that's a good thing too.