Monday, August 4, 2014

The most excellent MultiChoice and M-Net Local Content Showcase. And a wonderful, insightful, really great and a just so fully perfect, TV day.

100 points for Gryffindor M-Net and MultiChoice!

The satellite pay-TV platform MultiChoice which runs DStv and the pay-TV broadcaster M-Net jointly held a DStv Local Content Showcase today on the 20th floor of the World Trace Center in Sandton, Johannesburg.

It was the most perfect one-day, local broadcasting programming upfront held by a South African TV broadcaster yet and the best local one I've ever attended as a journalist and TV critic.

While I sat in it, listening and reacting, but also measuring and evaluating everything that's happening and taking place and how it's taking place and who is there, I realised that I felt very proud.

I felt very proud to be a South African journalist and a TV critic, covering the local South African TV industry, but I felt proud and happy for other people - that I had the opportunity to cover television and an event about television that wasn't (as is often the case) an amateur embarrassment for those involved.

Today it was totally and completely the opposite.

Today was something that was ... complete perfection.

I felt proud to think that a South African broadcaster and a pay-TV operator in South Africa are doing a programming upfront which was in its every smallest bit to its overall whole as excellent, if not better, than what would be done in a London or a New York or Los Angeles or in a New Zealand in their TV industries (and yes, I can judge and compare since I've attended many junkets and press conferences and set visits in all of these places).

MultiChoice and M-Net's presentation to the press felt real. It felt professional, it felt solid, it felt slick and smart and premium and sophisticated - and it was. It was world class.

There were TV talent - both on-screen stars and extremely high profile TV executives who were at the same time accessible, funny and down-to-earth, but also very clever. Eerything worked and everything was just ... perfect.

Years ago on one overseas TV junket I sat in a presentation for TV critics in Los Angeles done by the ABC network.

The Americans and American television have more money, they have more history of doing this, they have a publicity machine running television like you've never seen, and they have more experience, bigger budgets and a longer institutional memory of the intrinsic support and importance of a free and open press and they feel a responsibility to communicate.

MultiChoice and M-Net's absolutely excellent Local Content Showcase held today in Johannesburg felt exactly like that. Like when I walked into an auditorium to hear ABC executives talk television to TV critics.

Today in Johannesburg I felt as if I was sitting in a fully formed, very polished, carefully planned and thoughtfully thought-out press event for, and to showcase, the premium content of South African television's brightest brands in pay-TV.

It was first world and it was classy.

Like the last bowl of porridge in Goldilocks, every single thing was just right - a veritable score of 100%.

May the beleaguered SABC, the often indifferent, the growing mass of clueless TV channels, the wayward PR agencies who know very little about real public relations for television and how to properly handle and communicate with TV press and TV critics, all look and learn from MultiChoice and M-Net.

MultiChoice and M-Net today showed that they've cracked the (elusive?) formula for proper, direct, open, clever, engaging and oh so smart communication for a TV programming upfront in South Africa, with just the right level of everything.

The right people. The right duration. The right messages. The proper way and flow.


My job as a squirrel that loves television is to always want more. More information. More info nuts to gather, often obsessively. For as every squirrel will tell you, you can never gather enough.

As a South African TV critic and as a journalist and writer I represent maybe one hundred thousand, or maybe one million people, or maybe just one person, one viewer, who cannot ask the question or questions they want to know or need to know.

They're unable to try and get answers - often to questions they don't even know need asking.

South Africa's small group of TV critics and dedicated writers covering television, trying to do so justly and insightfully (and yes, I will admit that I like to be given food while I'm being shown or told a story!) today were given a totally open, transparent and level playing field to ask Yolisa Phahle, the CEO of M-Net South Africa, and Aletta Alberts, MultiChoice's general manager of content, sitting jointly on stage, anything.

And I mean anything.

Yes. They answered every question although the answer didn't always answer the question, but the press got the opportunity to put the questions to them, and the importance of being able to do that I cannot underline enough.

Two of the most high profile and industry-respected women in South African television and South African pay-television, felt it important enough to mark out time in their extremely busy diaries to talk to the media and to field questions from the press.

M-Net's Yolisa Phahle and MultiChoice's Aletta Alberts were patient, insightful and stayed on message. They were unflappable given some tricky and really difficult and hard questions thrown their way.

They also mingled, they joked - but they also showed how serious they took their work, and how vast their TV industry repository of off-the-cuff knowledge is.

They wonderfully helped to instill and transfer some of that knowledge to South Africa's working journalists covering television so that that journalists and TV critics not only get a better understanding of where M-Net and MultiChoice are and what they're doing and are busy with, but enabling journalists to write with a greater understanding and insight into the mechanics of television and pay-TV within the South African context.

The entire MultiChoice and M-Net presentation, sizzle reels from M-Net channels, sizzle reels from other TV channels on DStv, the tables, the three-course meal perfectly spaced, the big screen, the personal access and accessibility to talent, the venue, the master of ceremonies Tumisho Masha, the timing and pacing of the vent and information, the trotting out of talent, the "surprise" announcements, was all perfect.

If I had a wish it would be that MultiChoice and M-Net - as well as every other major South African broadcaster - did an annual or twice annual programming upfront or content showcase, and did it exactly like today.

My wish would be that local South African broadcasters - not just the Discovery Networks Internationals and Universal Networks Internationals and the other international TV channel suppliers who work extremely hard and professional to come and do slick programming upfronts here - would do great world class upfronts of their own.

That they would institutionalise it on their calendars as a fixed thing the press can look forward to, where everyone knows that it happens every year, or twice a year at the same time, as sure as the equinox takes place, without fail, and in the same familiar format.

You don't even need to give us water on the table. Just bring clips of your TV content or whatever your proud of or want your viewers to know - whatever is new or not even so new but still great - and bring your people to talk to us.

And we will always love you for it, for we live to tell about it.