Tuesday, July 8, 2014

South Africa's M-Net charts brave new TV territory as pay-TV broadcaster turbo-charges the roll-out and showing of premium foreign content.

Welcome first world. M-Net is set to kick some dust into the eyes of Australia's Foxtel and New Zealand's Sky Television - comparable premium pay-TV markets - as the South African pay-TV broadcaster goes full throttle forward into a new age of foreign television delivery.

The almost 28 year old M-Net has always had and secured premium television content but two factors the past half a decade, prompted - almost forced - M-Net to not only secure and bring that content, but to up the stakes dramatically and also bring it to viewers sooner.

Firstly competitors edged in on the action by getting distribution for their TV channels on platforms like MultiChoice's DStv and On Digital Media's StarSat - mostly multi-nationals like Fox International Channels (FIC) with their FOX brand and a few others.

With shows like global buzz hit The Walking Dead and others - even Sony Entertainment Television (SET) with Hannibal - they're now nipping at M-Net's heels.

Like pharaoh's wizards they now also have premium content and their staffs can also mimic the trick of enticing and compelling premium content and turn into snakes.

Secondly there's illegal downloads, torrents, peer sharing and the growth of broadband and faster broadband, siphoning more and more viewers in Africa and South Africa away who are simply too impatient to wait months or even weeks for even a premium TV broadcaster to schedule things like Game of Thrones on its linear programme line-up.

Both these reasons are propelling M-Net to redefine what a premium television experience means: great, premium content, but shown nearly instantaneously as well in an increasingly borderless globalised world filled with spoilers, that cyber thing Al Gore invented and rabid binge-watching TV viewers.

After some water-treading at the turn of the tens four years ago when other comparable TV markets with like-for-like M-Nets, like Australia, started to pass South Africa in getting foreign acquisitions - series and movies - on television sooner, M-Net is now speedily getting right back up there as far as global benchmarking is concerned.

South African viewers no longer need to feel that they're getting "less" in terms of a premium TV experience as M-Net subscribers or DStv subscribers, compared to like-for-like countries.

The pay-TV broadcaster is undergoing a major sistemic shift in what it delivers and the experience of what is defined as "premium foreign television".

Today M-Net issued a press release headlined "M-Net transforms the way you can watch TV", and while releases are usually verbose with hype and understated with the truth, "transform" is in fact exactly the right word and exactly what M-Net is doing - and doing for the South African TV landscape.

Starting with second season of the American drama Ray Donovan on 13 July, M-Net will show the exact same episode in South Africa just one hour later at 04:00 on the morning on Monday 14 July on linear television on DStv's channel 101.

Directly after the episode has shown at 04:00, the Ray Donovan episode will be available on MultiChoice's DStv Explora's Catch Up menu.

It's usually TV with Thinus that would add the context, but M-Net's press release of today couldn't spell it out more clearly, more exactly, accurately and more truthfully: "That means that owners of these DStv decoders can watch it whenever they choose to, before its is screened in its dedicated primetime evening timeslot on the M-Net schedule. In the case of Ray Donovan, this will be on Tuesday 15 July at 21:30".

"This is fantastic news and a win-win for all our M-Net viewers," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.

"If you are suffering from fear of missing out, you can see what your favourite characters are up to as it happens, or you can catch-up at your convenience".

"In the past we've been able to simulcast or have delayed broadcasts of special events but having an international TV series within 24 hours is a first, and something we're very proud of".

"It shows that M-Net is always moving with the times in the world of entertainment, where, these days content can be delivered at breakneck speed," says Lani Lombard.

M-Net does caution that because of the extraordinarily fast turn-around time, what it now calls "Express episodes" will not have a family track or hearing impaired titles.

"Also note that the broadcasting times will be slightly different on the M-Net East and West Africa feeds," says M-Net. "Instead of on a Monday at 04:00 (South Africa), Ray Donovan will land at 03:00 on a Tuesday morning, with the primetime evening slot at 22:30 on a Tuesday evening".