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e.tv's eNews division is gearing up - and dramatically staffing up - to start a Zulu TV news bulletin soon to take on the SABC, according to sources.
e.tv's eNews plans to challenge the public broadcaster head-on in a new fight for Zulu TV news viewers - shifting the existing English language eNews Prime Time TV news bulletin currently at 19:00 to a later timeslot.
The new Zulu TV news bulletin would anchor a new schedule designed to aggressively court viewers away from the SABC, in conjunction with the new e.tv telenovela which will start within months at 20:00 on e.tv, directly opposite SABC1's damaged and floundering reversioned Generations - The Legacy.
e.tv's English language eNews Prime Time TV news bulletin has already been leading the ratings race for years, as the most watched, most popular English language TV news bulletin in South Africa as more and more viewers abandoned the SABC and the public broadcaster's flagship TV news bulletin on SABC3 which has undergone a dramatic loss of viewers over the past five years.
Now e.tv wants to try and duplicate that success with Zulu, after it has been supplying the daily Afrikaans language TV news, eNuus, to M-Net and DStv's kykNET (DStv 144) TV channel the past few years with great success.
While e.tv has done "snippets" of vernacular TV news, it has predominantly been confined to e.tv's early morning timeslots like its breakfast offering Sunrise.
The new Zulu TV news bulletin will be a full, and fully staffed, half hour and daily Zulu news bulletin in an attempt to give viewers more, and better Zulu TV news coverage than what they're getting on the SABC.
Insiders first talked about the plans for a Zulu TV bulletin on e.tv in late November 2014. According to eNews sources e.tv's English news bulletin eNews Prime Time will be shifted away from 19:00 to a later timeslot within months with a Zulu bulletin taking its place at 19:00.
Interestingly, reporters at eNCA (DStv 403) - eNews' 24-hour, English language TV news channel - are concerned about the move. A lot of the/their stories done for eNCA are shown and "simulcast" in English on e.tv in eNews Prime Time, and eNCA reporters are quietly worried that the "replacement" and shift of the existing eNews Prime Time bulletin is going to mean less exposure of their stories and less work.
Meanwhile eNews and eNCA has gone on an extremely aggressive hiring spree of specifically Zulu speaking people, indicative of the staffing up to prepare for a Zulu news broadcast.
The news division started looking for Zulu speaking journalists and news production personnel to swell its ranks since the end of 2014 - the most ever job advertisements for Zulu speaking journalists in the history of eNews and eNCA.
Asked by TV with Thinus to confirm that the eNews Prime Time bulletin on e.tv is moving away from 19:00 to be replaced by a new Zulu TV bulletin soon, and why the change is being made, e.tv responded to a media enquiry but was unwilling to confirm or deny the news, only saying "the South African television industry is dynamic and always changing".
"As a free-to-air channel that reaches millions of South Africans, it's also important that we keep up with what our diverse audiences want to watch on television," says e.tv. "News is also critical to e.tv's offering, and so is language."
"e.tv is looking at its programme schedule for the second quarter of 2015, but no firm decisions have yet been made. The channel will announce once a decision is made".