Is M-Net finally ready to announce that The Voice SA is coming to South Africa? And who will be swiveling in the red chairs?
According to sources M-Net is apparently going to announce to advertisers this afternoon in Johannesburg at M-Net's content showcase that the pay-TV broadcaster has officially picked up the rights to The Voice SA as its new reality singing show to sit alongside the longrunning Idols SA.
South African viewers have been waiting for a long time for a localised version of the singing format show with the South African pay-TV broadcaster which first started looking into the possibility of acquiring the rights for a local version of The Voice over a year and a half ago.
SABC3 was first to start showing the American version of The Voice and then also explored the possibility of doing a local version, The Voice SA. The ongoing money trouble and severe budget constraints at the SABC not only scuppered the local content plan but also saw the loss of the American show to M-Net.
M-Net then diligently started showing the American version of The Voice as it planned to grow familiarity with the singing competition franchise and its format for its own pay-TV and DStv subscribers and to then possibly follow it up with a local version.
Exactly a year ago at DStv and M-Net's local content showcase, M-Net South Africa CEO Yolisa Phahle, in response to a question from TV with Thinus confirmed that M-Net had been looking into the possibility of doing a local version of The Voice SA for a few months already at that time. She was however coy as to how far at that time negotiations were and non-committal about plans.
According to sources, M-Net was also looking for and evaluating "newer" shows and formats, with one M-Net executive describing The Voice and a local version as "somewhat tired" since viewers have now seen too much of it.
A possible The Voice SA also has a higher hurdle to cross since M-Net and Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) already have the successful Idols which maintains decent ratings and because The Voice up to a year ago still had an association with SABC3 and didn't start off originally as an M-Net foreign content acquisition.
When M-Net gathered South Africa's TV critics in a Camps Bay hotel a few months ago to announce a huge new local production – which turned out to be Power Couple SA produced by Afrokaans and starting on 10 September on M-Net – pre-speculation under the press was that M-Net was finally going to announce either The Voice SA or an African version of The Amazing Race. It didn't happen.
The conspicuous lack of a new season of Big Brother Africa this year – a reality show done by M-Net from South Africa for DStv – also led to some speculation the past few weeks that M-Net seems to be saving money for something else that’s big.
Now once some of the press covering television, as well as advertisers, are whispering that an announcement on The Voice SA – on which M-Net has apparently been sitting for some time – is imminent and could possibly come this afternoon when M-Net reveals its upcoming programming slate to ad buyers.
The local TV biz will find out soon enough whether this time is considered the right time for M-Net for a local version of The Voice.
A lot of questions
The addition of a possible The Voice SA by M-Net comes with a lot of questions.
If M-Net were to do the show, what would happen to Idols SA? Will both reality singing shows co-exist? If they co-exist, will viewers see seasons simultaneously, or will M-Net alternate the shows to give viewers and those entering some breathing room? Or will the 11th season of Idols be its final one, replaced by The Voice SA?
Will The Voice SA be a co-production between M-Net (DStv 101) and Mzansi Magic as with Idols the past few seasons to help pool and boost ratings, give sponsors a bigger audience and reach, and make it more workable from a commissioning budget point of view?
Do South African viewers have reality singing and talent show fatigue with an avalanche of shows ranging from SA’s Got Talent on e.tv and SABC1 (which doesn't have money for more The X-Factor SA this year), and will there be enough people who might want to enter yet another new talent search show?
With the blond pop singer Christina Aguilera who is a judge on the American version of The Voice visiting South Africa on 17 October to perform at ANN7's (DStv 405) 2nd South African of the Year Awards, will she be helping out for a local version, perhaps record a promo or two or do something else production wise in relation to The Voice SA if there is to be one?
And which local celebs will sit in the red swivel chairs if there is to be a The Voice SA … and will one of them stroke a cat?