Saturday, September 6, 2014

South Africa's biggest reality TV showdown: Battle of the exes start as an avalanche of reality shows fight for viewer attention at the same time.

As The X Factor South Africa on SABC1 gets ready to take on M-Net's Idols X from tonight, an unprecedented avalanche of local format reality television programming is set to be unleased on South African viewers who are going to find it extremely difficult to watch and keep track of it all with multiple shows, episodes, and contestants desperately vying for viewer attention.

Never in the history of South African television has so many hit local reality format TV show aired concurrently, placing a huge demand on the available TV time, concentration and attention viewers will be able to devote to trying to watch and follow it all.

The first season of The X Factor SA starts on SABC1 this evening at 18:00, as Strictly Come Dancing South Africa's 7th season has episodes on Fridays at 20:00 and elimination episodes on Saturdays at 19:00 on SABC3.

Meanwhile the 5th season of SA's Got Talent starts this evening as well on at 18:05, with the 10th season of Idols on M-Net and DStv's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) on Sundays at 17:30. As if it's not enough, there's the third season of MasterChef South Africa on M-Net on Thursday at 19:30, with the third season of Ultimate Braai Master starting on this Thursday at 20:30.

Big Brother Africa Hotspots would also have started on AfricaMagic Showcase (DStv 150) and two dedicated DStv channels this Sunday at 19:00 if it wasn't that a devastating fire destroyed the Endemol South Africa camera house at Sasani Studios on Tuesday.

Spread out, most of the popular localised format reality shows are ratings juggernauts, delivering big audiences, buzz and reams of press attention about the nouveau contestants of a specific season when there's little other local reality shows to compete.

South African commissioning editors, channel heads and TV executives who plan their annual schedules mostly independently, however didn't bargain on their top tentpole productions all being up against each other at the same time of the year - let alone during the same primetime timeslots over especially weekends.

Now as even DStv PVR decoders will have a hard time keeping up with recording it all - in several instances hours of shows running on different TV channels at the same time - viewers and South African TV critics will battle to do their homework and watch it all.

TV with Thinus is aware of several fretting TV executives who were privately shocked when TV channels started to reveal their big reality shows and startling starting dates - and are now keeping a close watch on viewership numbers, press attention and social media to see which shows will not only break through and connect with viewers, but maintain momentum and viewer engagement.

Shows all require a high demand of viewer love
"In another year any of these shows on SABC1,, M-Net and SABC3 would almost guarantee a big chunk of excited viewers, advertising money and a lot of attention," said a longtime South African producer speaking on condition of anonymity so as to not impact on existing production relationships with several broadcasters.

"The irony is that all of the shows are now up against each other, dividing the potential audience share. They're fighting for eyeballs and the same viewers who will have a difficult time to keep up with the high demand and viewer love these shows require".

"There's different judges, different formats and different contestants you have to get to know before you choose your favourites and which ones you want to support. And now it's all at the same time for the next couple of months. We might see viewer fatigue because of overload," cautioned the producer.

Who's who in the reality zoo
On MasterChef South Africa on M-Net the top 12 contestants have now been revealed with the heightened kitchen drama and elimination now in full gear with new judge Reuben Riffel who joined the show - and a celebrity edition awaits in January 2015.

Ultimate Braai Master on also has a new judge - chef Petrus Madutlela,with 13 braai teams throwing a "vleisie" and whatever else they're challenged with, on the coals.

Meanwhile The X Factor South Africa on SABC1 is bound to make a splash with viewers - at least intially. Viewers will be tuning in to see the first local version and how it looks after having followed the British and American versions.

It remains to be seen whether judges Arno Carstens, Zonke, Oskido and presenter Andile Ncube will be able to connect with viewers and deliver big ratings.

Strictly Come Dancing SA on SABC3 is set to ramp up the drama in the ongoing two episodes per week as the celebrity contestants dwindle, while the new season of SA's Got Talent on also starts with the first few episodes covering the nationwide auditions with new judges in the form of DJ Fresh and Lalla Hirayama who join the returning Shado Twala.

The 10th season of Idols on M-Net adopted the "X" as in Idols X - presumably due to The X Factor SA on SABC1. The show also underwent a big tweak this season with the contestants now being eliminated during the Sunday live spectacular performances instead of separate Tuesday episodes to up the ante for viewer attention.

Eating into Generations' lead?
The big loser could end up being none other than SABC1 and Generations - South Africa's most watched TV show and soap. "With so much to watch and courting viewers, some of the Generations viewers might be lured away and never return when the soap runs out of episodes," quips a TV biz insider.

The Generations actors went on strike demanding promised three year contracts and better pay rates and were promptly fired by the SABC.

"When viewers end the habit of watching what they used to tune in from October when there's no further Generations to show and sample some of the new exciting shows, some of them might never return".