Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BREAKING. Fire engulfs M-Net's Big Brother Africa Hotshots house at Sasani Studios; reality show's start on Sunday cancelled.

A massive fire has engulfed M-Net's Big Brother Africa Hotshots house at Sasani Studios, leading to the immediate cancellation of the start of the the upcoming 9th season of the pan-African voyeur reality show which was set to begin this Sunday 7 September on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

No-one was injured in the devastating blaze which engulfed the studio at Highlands North in Johannesburg on Tuesday and sent clouds of billowing black smoke into the air.

The cause of the fire which erupted and plunged the production into further crisis is not known.

Production company Endemol South Africa and M-Net had no choice but to cancel the start of the show which has seen multiple production challenges the past few weeks before the cameras had even started rolling.

Due to stringent changes to South Africa's visa regulations, Endemol South Africa first had to dump the originally selected contestants from Ghana and start a frantic search for Ghana residents already living in South Africa to put in the show.

Then Endemol South Africa had to also jettison Rwanda and Sierra Leone as countries from the 9th season which was set to start on Sunday with a live launch show at 19:00, followed by highlight shows running on AfricaMagic Showcase (DStv 150) and two 24-hour DStv TV channels on channels 197 and 198 following the housemates.

After fire fighters battled the destructive blaze, M-Net and Endemol South Africa say that "due to a devastating fire at the Big Brother house, Big Brother Hotshots will not launch this Sunday as scheduled".

"The cause of the fire at this stage is unknown and investigations will commence as soon as it is safe to do so."

"At this stage M-Net and Endemol are urgently looking for an alternative Big Brother Africa house in which to film the production, however as this production has highly technical infrastructure, alternative camera and edit requirements are not immediately available".

"Every effort will be made to find a solution as quickly as possible to ensure that Africa's biggest reality TV show will continue".

Sasani Studios has become a hive of television activity over the last few years for South Africa's TV industry.

The studio complex houses a concentration of some of the most watched TV shows in South Africa that is being filmed there, ranging from weekdays soaps like Isidingo on SABC3 - which ironically moved there after its former studio space was destroyed by a fire - to e.tv's Scandal! and Rhythm City; as well as other shows like SABC1's Gospel Gold, and recently e.tv's game show I Love South Africa.

The live finale of M-Net's Survivor South Africa: Champions was broadcast from Sasani Studios' new Stage 8 earlier this year - the first live TV broadcast from that part of the studio complex.

Stage 1 at Sasani Studios housed the Big Brother Africa house since 2007 when the reality show was moved there from M-Net's Randburg studios.

It's not yet clear what the impact of the fire has been on all of the other TV shows and soaps in production in terms of  possible technical and equipment damage and destruction, as well as possible set damage.

TV with Thinus was told late Tuesday night that e.tv's two soaps Rhythm City and Scandal! are both safe and that filming on these two productions will resume on Wednesday.

All of the shows at Sasani Studios besides Big Brother Africa were however impacted on Tuesday through the loss of production and recording time due to the shut down and evacuation of the complex due to today's fire on the studio lot.

Today's fire is the second massive TV fire in Africa involving M-Net TV productions; the second massive fire involving a TV studio in South Africa, and the second massive fire for an Endemol South Africa produced TV programme in South Africa.

It's the second massive TV studio fire in Africa involving M-Net TV productions in just over a year, following the devastating and destructive fire which razed M-Net, SuperSport and MultiChoice's studios in Lagos, Nigeria in March 2013. (Not a studio, but an out-of-control wildfire also threatened, and caused the shutdown and evacuation of M-Net's soap The Wild in July 2011).

Today's Big Brother Africa fire at Sasani Studios is the second massive TV studio fire in South Africa leading to the shut-down of a major TV production following the shocking fire which engulfed the SABC's Isidingo soap in June 2012 which was then filmed at the SABC's Henley Studios in Auckland Park.

Interestingly, both Big Brother Africa and Isidingo are both produced by the same production company, Endemol South Africa.