Thursday, July 17, 2014

SABC internal memorandum: Schizophrenic 'SABC2 schedule only survives on 7de Laan and Muvhango; other than that prime time schedule is weak'.

The SABC2 schedule only survives on two pillar programmes - the Afrikaans soap 7de Laan at 18:30 and the Venda soap at 21:00, "other than that the prime time schedule is weak".

So wrote Leo Manne, the SABC's general manager for the public broadcaster's TV channels in an internal memorandum he prepared on 30 June to Veronah Duwarkah, the SABC's group executive in charge of television, as "motivation for schedule changes risks and mitigations".

The SABC's has come in for sharp criticism and scorn from viewers after permanently moving the bulk of Afrikaans programming and the SABC's only daily Afrikaans TV news bulletin from SABC2 to SABC3 permanently.

SABC3 however has the smallest national footprint of all of the SABC's TV channels, making the programming unavailable and inaccessible for millions of South African TV households who can't watch it even if they want to because they don't receive the broadcast signal.

"The schizophrenic nature of the SABC2 schedule" according to the internal memorandum and the content offering to two very unrelated audience segments - being Sotho and Afrikaans viewers "has seen overtake SABC2 as the second most watched TV channel in South Africa over the years to the third most watched with consistent declines continuing".

"Ignoring these declines will severely compromise the viability of the SABC TV network to deliver against its set audience and revenue targets," reads the internal SABC memorandum.

Although the SABC earlier this week said Afrikaans has nothing to do with the dramatic scheduling changes, in the internal memorandum Leo Manne writes that "despite a very strong lead in from 7de Laan, the 19:00 Afrikaans news has been losing audiences over the last couple of years".

"The Afrikaans block of programing at 19:30 to 20:30 which includes the Afrikaans dramas on Tuesday and 50/50 on Mondays loses even more audiences".

"At 20:30 the Sotho news bulletin struggles to perform because of a very weak lead-in from the Afrikaans content".
The SABC's total share of TV audience during primetime for the months of March, April and May 2014, with and even DStv which is a pay-TV offering outperforming entire channels like SABC2 and SABC3 according to the SABC's internal memorandum.

According to the internal memorandum, the SABC's chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, held a SABC content summit in November 2013 where the SABC Television division presented its strategy forward for the next three years, and which included looking at trends and factors influencing the changing viewing patters across the South African TV landscape.

Schedule and content decisions for SABC Television were proposed and approved at this SABC content summit in November 2013.

How the SABC's various TV news bulletins fare and compare in terms of viewership (AR's or audience ratings) in the month of May 2014, compared to other TV channels and programming, according to the SABC's internal memorandum.

On SABC1 "18:30 is the weakest part of the prime time schedule and hence the introduction of anew local soap offering," says the memo.

As can be seen from the graphic above, the yellow column in the back row is the Nguni TV news bulletin on SABC1. 

" The Nguni bulletin is the strongest bulletin on the network and moving it to the 19:00 slot [on SABC1] would weaken the strong bulletin," according to the SABC's internal memorandum.

On SABC3, the SABC memorandum reveals that "the one hour news block has lost significant audience share between 18:30 and 19:30 creating a very weakened lead in for Isidingo at 19:00 despite it being the third best performing program in prime time after Days and Bold".

"The shortening of the 18:30 news bulletin will be revived in the schedule followed by an improved Isidingo and then followed by the Afrikaans News," Leo Manne wrote in the internal memorandum.

"The movement of the Afrikaans drama's and other content will, within a year of this strategy, ensure a very competitive and advertising attractive audience of LSM 8-10 audiences, while SABC1 and SABC2 deliver mass audiences in LSM 5-8".

The SABC was and is also well aware that SABC3's footprint is smaller and that moving the Afrikaans TV news and other content to SABC3 would take it out of reach of some viewers, but calls it a "current minor challenge".

"The roll out of both digital terrestrial television (DTT) and direct-to-home satellite (DTH) within a year will ensure that any areas not covered by our current transmitter network are filled," states the internal memorandum".

"This current minor challenge though cannot and should not deter the SABC from protecting its current business as it builds for niche multi-channel and platform digital future where special interest groups can be adequately served".

In written media enquiries TV with Thinus asked the SABC whether the broadcaster wants to comment on the memorandum and its content or explain anything about it. The SABC declined to respond.