The launch of SABC Encore, which formerly would have been called SABC Entertainment, forms part of a now controversial deal with the public broadcaster under which the SABC is supposed to supply MultiChoice with two TV channels.
The SABC launched SABC News (DStv 404) in August 2013 and now SABC Encore will finally start broadcasting from May. It was supposed to start on DStv a few months after SABC News launched but has been delayed.
SABC News and SABC Encore as TV channels are both essentially a do-over for the SABC.
The SABC had SABC News International as a struggling 24-hour TV news channel and SABC Africa as a general entertainment channel, running on DStv before they were both shuttered after a few years due to non-performance.
MultiChoice terminated SABC Africa as a SABC supplied TV channel on DStv at the end of July 2008 with the SABC and MultiChoice which said the channel "is no longer viable" due to poor performance.
The SABC closed down SABC News International in March 2010 since it became too expensive to operate during the period when the SABC's cash crunch crises and management woes started to escalate.
In a new contract between MultiChoice and the SABC, signed by the public broadcaster's chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the new two channel deal was signed in 2013 with SABC Encore which is now ready to launch.
The launch of SABC Encore was largely dependent on the digitisation of the SABC's archives which MultiChoice is helping the public broadcaster with and which forms part of the overall content supply contract.
SABC Encore will be a retro, "golden oldies" TV channel, similar to what the M-Net supplied Series Channel was when it launched on DStv and what FOX Retro was when it launched on TopTV, now StarSat. Both those channels with a channel proposition of catering to TV nostalgia lovers, have since been closed down.
SABC Encore will be filled with old local programming from the SABC archives, mostly titles from the 1980s and 1990s in various genres and in various South African languages.
"SABC Encore is a celebration of the SABC content which has been produced over the years," Verona Duwarkah, the SABC's group executive in charge of television, told SABC News. "SABC Encore allows us as South Africans to celebrate the past."
SABC Encore as a TV channel will be available on all of MultiChoice's differently priced DStv bouquets, says the SABC.
SABC Encore will run from 17:00 to 23:00 on weekdays with programming spanning children's shows like Pumpkin Patch to Afrikaans drama series like Agter Elke Man, and the sci-fi puppetry show Interster.
Other SABC Encore programming will include Kideo, Lesilo Rula, Shaka Zulu and Hlala Kwabafileyo. SABC Encore will target an audience aged 37 to 70, mostly South African viewers who grew up watching the SABC's then TV1, TV2 and TV3 channels.
"The Entertainment channel as it was contractually called, is actually called SABC Encore. It is a celebration of the SABC's content which has been produced over the years," says Verona Duwarkah.
The channel is made up of all sorts of genres - all from the SABC's archives.
"Sometimes you'll even laugh at the quality of the actual production in the old days, because we've learnt so much".
There was no joint statement from the SABC and MultiChoice on Tuesday, as is usual, when the addition and details of a new TV channel on DStv is announced.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to a media enquiry made on Tuesday afternoon asking about SABC Encore.
MultiChoice spokesperson Jackie Rakitla, asked about SABC Encore on Tuesday afternoon, said MultiChoice welcomes the channel to DStv.
"We welcome SABC Encore to the DStv platform. Viewers can expect to see some of the SABC's classics when it's launched on channel 156 on 11 May. It will be a real trip down memory lane for parents, who will be able to share watching some golden oldies with their children."
The launch of SABC Encore takes the SABC back to 5 active TV channels - the two broadcasting on MultiChoice's DStv exclusively - and SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as analogue TV channels also carried on the satellite TV platforms of On Digital Media's StarSat and the Sabido owned OpenView HD (OVHD) from Platco Digital.
The contract of the SABC's supply of the two channels - SABC News and SABC Encore - to MultiChoice's DStv is currently part of a case before South Africa's Competition Tribunal brought by Caxton, together with Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the civil society public broadcasting pressure group SOS Coalition.
They say the contract essentially constitutes a "merger" between MultiChoice and the SABC and that the contract not only gives MultiChoice "undue exclusive access to SABC content", but also places MultiChoice in a position to influence SABC policy.
Caxton, MMA and the SOS Coalition is arguing that the deal is not in the public interest and that the deal works against the long-term interest of the SABC as well as the South African public.
MultiChoice says it rejects the allegations and says that there is nothing wrong with its relationship with the SABC. "This is a standard commercial agreement for the supply of two television channels".