THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BREAKING. Concern over shocking viewership plunge as SABC1's Generations takes a ratings nosedive to 4.1 million viewers in primetime.


You're reading it here first. 

They no longer like you Karabo. TV with Thinus can reveal that the SABC's reset primetime soap Generations The Legacy on SABC1, once the unassailable viewership behemoth of South African television, is in a shocking ratings tailspin, going down fast and losing millions of viewers as its former TV audience flee the new iteration which started on Monday last week and is now down to just 4.1 million viewers.

Meanwhile major concern is mounting over what was once the SABC's now apparently broken crown jewel and what it means for the South African TV industry, the public broadcaster and advertisers.

While returned stars like Connie Ferguson and Rapulana Seiphemo have been branded "sellouts" by viewers, the former loyal and large Generations audience who made the show the most watched programme on South African television are also turning their backs on the inexperienced actors roped in at short notice and the new story.

Generations The Legacy which started on SABC1 at 20:00 last Monday after a two month absence lured an unimpressive 7.5 million viewers, shedding a whopping million viewers to 6.5 million on Tuesday, fell to 6.1 million on Wednesday, dropping to 5.4 million on Thursday and plunging to an unprecedented 4.1 million viewers aged 15 and older this past Friday according to the latest consolidated ratings information.

Monday: 7.5 million
Tuesday: 6.5 million
Wednesday: 6.1 million
Thursday: 5.4 million
Friday: 4.1 million

Viewership is generally lower on Fridays but not for this 20:00 timeslot on SABC1 which is now averaging only an eye-popping 5.9 million viewers.

Generations The Legacy now pulls lower numbers than the third season of Skeem Saam which replaced it in the 20:00 timeslot for two months.

The soap is in fact no longer the most watched programme on South African television, with SABC1's longrunning Soul City and SABC2's weekday Venda soap Muvhango both now vying for the ratings champ crown, each roughly pulling in 4.5 million viewers.

MMSV Productions, caustic executive producer Mfundi Vundla and the SABC, in a controversial move, fired the entire principal Generations cast in August after they embarked on a stayaway after numerous requests for the three year contracts the SABC's Hlaudi Motsoeneng promised them in June 2013 and which never materialised, as well as the residuals from rebroadcasts and resales of the soap their existing contracts called for but which they'd never received over decades.

"Having been South Africa's top rated soap for several years now, the power that Generations had was unparalleled," Cheryl Dube, media strategist at Carat SA told TV with Thinus on Wednesday.

"We all know that the relationship that people have with their soapies. Such a significant dip in viewership for this particular timeslot and show is concerning not only for the SABC but for advertisers as well who invest a lot of money to reach this particular audience because they are aware that it performs well," says Cheryl Dube.

It now appears that millions of viewers feel robbed of a show that they loved. "Now to build up that kind of loyalty and rapport again is tough," says Cheryl Dube.

"Perhaps it does not show a lack of interest but rather the sense of loyalty that people had towards the old version of the show. After 20 years of watching a story, building relationships with the characters and engaging every day to all of a sudden having the soap end abruptly with so many cliffhangers and unanswered questions about the characters that South Africa loved so much - that's just reckless, especially for such a popular show," says Cheryl Dube.

"The new story line is completely new, so building that relationship again will be difficult for some but you do have those die-hard supporters who still love the Generations brand," says Cheryl Dube.

Meanwhile in the TV waters the sharks are circling having smelt blood. e.tv will attack SABC1 and the 20:00 timeslot early in 2015 with its own telenovela blatantly pitting it against Generations The Legacy in the same timeslot with its buoyant soap Scandal! on a viewership and critically acclaimed rise serving as the lead-in.

"I believe that this is an optimal time for the likes of Skeem Saam, Isidingo, Muvhango and Mzanzi Magic's Isibaya to capitalise on their already existing popularity," says Cheryl Dube.

"These shows have been scheduled in such a way as not to clash with the monster that was Generations in terms of viewership because they would most likely suffer. But it looks like people are now looking for alternatives and now is the time to do it," she says.