Tuesday, December 8, 2015

OPINION. M-Net's insane disregard for what its own channels like M-Net, M-Net Edge and Vuzu AMP are - and how its deliberately breaking its own channels propositioning.

M-Net's apparent callous disregard for the very expensive and premium shows the Randburg-based pay-TV broadcaster buys from the big broadcasters in the United States for its M-Net packaged channels on MultiChoice's DStv just keeps growing.

M-Net's insane, misguided and utterly wrong programming choices and allocations - that's done very deliberately - betrays that (a) either there's idiots working there who knows little about television, or that (b) M-Net knows better but doesn't care to follow its own guidelines for its self-compiled channels and what they're supposed to be about.

M-Net runs the M-Net channel on DStv 101, M-Net Edge as its edgier twin on DStv 102, Vuzu AMP on 114 (and its poorer sister Vuzu), as well as a string of Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) type channels in addition to the M-Net Movies family (and of course a channel like M-Net Family!).

Does the chicken now have too many chicks to keep track of?

M-Net comes across as either completely confused about what to do with the shows bought and where it should go, or deliberately doesn't care to put it in the right places where it makes sense for viewers and throwing it into whatever channel where there's an opening.

Imagine buying a separate Cars and a Frozen 50 piece puzzle in those foil packs. Both are from Disney. Imagine opening both, but instead of keeping them separate on the dining room table you jumble them up.

Now you tell two toddlers to build them - indiscriminately using Cars and Frozen puzzle pieces, sticking any piece of the puzzle where any piece will seemingly "fit". You will get somewhere, but eventually it doesn't look pretty.

In my view that's what M-Net as a pay-TV broadcaster seems to be doing with M-Net's various channels like M-Net, Vuzu AMP and M-Net Edge.

It's extremely confusing for viewers, looks to me to be tantamount to very bad planning and execution on M-Net's side, and ends up being bad for all DStv subscribers irrespective of what package they're on - as well as for M-Net terrestrial subscribers.

Just take a look for instance at what M-Net is doing for January 2016 for M-Net (DStv 101), M-Net Edge (DStv 102) and Vuzu AMP (DStv 114).

As just a normal person watching and consuming television, or someone working in television, ask yourself if M-Net executives really are so clueless as to not know better, or whether the people who work there and who are responsible for this really just don't care?

The problem is that M-Net risks becoming exactly like the SABC.

With three TV channels, the SABC repeats and cross broadcast so much programming - every single movie on one channel is shown on another channel after a few weeks for instance, along with soap repeats and other shows daily - that the distinction blurs.

SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 all have different channel looks and are theoretically different.

Yet because of the actual content shown on them, what's supposed to have set them apart and made them unique and their own "product on the shelf" originally, has been dramatically weakened, tainted, watered-down and homogenised.

If you say each channel has a different feel, is aimed at different LSM groups, courting different advertisers and viewer demos, why is it acceptable to, or why can, one movie or show fit on another channel without a problem?

It shouldn't be "possible" but yet it happens, showing how programming executives are not, and are not able to, keep up the gates and strict separation to keep distinct content that "fit" on one channel, off of another.

SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 are no longer and haven't been for a long time distinct channels (the SABC calls it its notorious "transversal strategy" - code for when you actually don't have enough content and are constantly "padding" to fill all the schedules).

The channels are no longer different entities and have become more like three content pipes coming out of the same bucket.

M-Net is likewise in a growing bad manner risking diluting its brands of M-Net, M-Net Edge and Vuzu AMP in much the same way - ironically not because of too little new content like the SABC, but because of too much content.

The net effect in the end is however exactly the same: channel brand dilution.

In slotting in shows across its channels, M-Net shows a shocking lack of insight and perspective for what its own channels are, and what they're meant to be.

Like the SABC, these channels are more and more becoming less different.

The same content is "good enough" to apparently go anywhere, instead of being that "good enough" to have only one special place and one channel where it properly fits.

Sleepy Hollow has been on M-Net, then M-Net Edge and now Vuzu AMP. Really? Yes, really.

Game of Thrones is on M-Net and M-Net Edge. Arrow is on M-Net and Vuzu AMP. (And if Arrow is on M-Net, why is Flash that's exactly the same type of show, on Vuzu AMP?)

If Scandal! The Fixer is on M-Net, why is How to Get Away with Murder on Vuzu AMP (where it totally doesn't belong at all)?

It's completely erratic, non-sensical and insane.

M-Net buys its expensive American TV content (bought in dollars) but then seemingly disregards its own channel's propositioning (is extensively typed up guidelines of what channels are and stand for just theoretical brand summaries?).

The result is that viewers (who cares, all DStv subscribers are all the same, right?) are short-changed - and it damages the brand loyalty for individual channels instead of building and maintaining it.

American Idol that the publicists at M-Net and Vuzu AMP call American Idols (sigh) was always on M-Net (DStv 101).

It's one of that channel's signature shows. A short while ago M-Net and Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) together with Telkom gave away a viewer prize for someone and the Idols winner of the 11th season to attend the live finale of the 15th season which will be that show's final season ever.

But guess what? M-Net the big broadcaster just moved and dumped "American Idols" from M-Net the channel and is putting it on Vuzu AMP. It will start on 8 January at 20:30.

How about actually keeping your show that was your show and getting the brand benefits of what you've invested in?

By the time the winner attends the "American Idols" finale of what was a M-Net (DStv 101) competition, the show that is part of your competition and brand exercise is broadcast on ... Vuzu AMP??

I get that M-Net now wants Idols and "American Idols" gone from M-Net (DStv 101) because new hatchling The Voice South Africa is going to create brand confusion and huge conflict if two or all three of them are shown together on one channel.

M-Net clearly wants to keep Idols and The Voice SA from interfering with each other and wants to limit confusion and brand cross-pollution.

Yet strangely M-Net doesn't feel the same about the danger of cross-pollution between its actual channels.

And what about a M-Net and DStv subscriber who've always watched "American Idols" on M-Net (DStv 101)?

What if that person is/was loyal to M-Net or loyal to the show and doesn't know that "American Idols" has moved and is soon starting on Vuzu AMP after Christmas?

Arrow was always on M-Net too. From 5 January at 21:30 for the 4th season it's also suddenly jumping to Vuzu AMP.

Just like Glee and several other shows, M-Net carelessly will move a TV show that started on one channel to several other channels until viewers just give up on trying to find it and keep it.

M-Net's lazy Vuzu AMP publicists apparently couldn't bother to actually watch the show or to come up with a season applicable description, still calling Oliver Queen a "spoiled billionaire playboy" (really? After three years?) who "returns as a changed man determined to clean up the city as a hooded vigilante armed with a bow".

That was applicable for the first season of Arrow and maybe the first few episodes. Viewers who've watched Arrow for three year will now Oliver Queen is definitely not spoilt and that the rest of the team have actually grown and moved on.

Of course you will only know that if you actually cared for the content and are watching it.

Sleepy Hollow that was on M-Net, then moved to M-Net Edge (DStv 102) when that channel launched because its ... edgy.

Well, Sleepy Hollow, sad to say, is suddenly moving to Vuzu AMP from 6 January at 21:30. And I'm not joking.

Why does M-Net have a channel like M-Net Edge or want to have M-Net Edge if Sleepy Hollow is the very first show the channel launched with starting off with the second season - only to by the third season flung Sleepy Hollow away like the chopped off head in the hand of the headless horseman?

The first season of Gotham was on M-Net. The second season was suddenly on M-Net Edge. But if Gotham is the same as Arrow and Flash (and it is!), will the third season of Gotham suddenly pop up on Vuzu AMP?

I don't understand it, it doesn't make any sense to me, and it probably doesn't make any sense because  it's TV programming that's devoid of logic.

When I switch on a TV channel - especially on MultiChoice's DStv where "narrow-casting" and very specific TV channels are added, built and run around very finely-tuned programming genres each with their own narrow content niche - I want to watch that channel and see on it what I expect to find there.

The inverse is also true: I don't want to get there what I didn't expect to be there.

I expect "American Idols" to be on M-Net and I expect Arrow to continue to be on M-Net if that is where Arrow started. Arrow did incredibly well for M-Net ratings wise. Why dump a winner to a smaller channel where it doesn't really belong?

I further expect Sleepy Hollow to be on M-Net Edge if that is where the show fits and where I expect spooky, scary content from M-Net to be shown.

I don't expect How to Get Away with Murder on Vuzu AMP, but that is where it was seemingly pawned off to.

A few weeks ago M-Net fully planned to show the extreme ballet drama Flesh and Bones on M-Net. It blew my mind. That show fully only belongs on M-Net Edge and only someone who has no clue about its content and what it contained would put it on M-Net (DStv 101).

Who at M-Net watches (or is actually maybe not watching)? Who comes up with these seemingly daft allocation and scheduling ideas of whimsy that is damaging not just one channel brand but all of them?

M-Net, M-Net Edge and Vuzu AMP should be unique and "instantly recognisable" by their specific content - otherwise they should be called A, B and C.

The problem is these channels don't keep to their boundaries and that is bad and getting worse.

I love television desperately. I adore "my" shows.

I just wish some of the people at M-Net (the big one) for whom it is more seemingly just a technical exercise as to where what gets plonked down, cared a little more about the various M-Net channels (the individual small ones).

Anyone with different dogs will know: Only that special one always gets to jump and sleep on the bed; only that other special one always gets his special little Beeno biscuits in a silver bowl; and only that other special one gets the longer leash for walks in the park.

Even more so than dogs, M-Net, M-Net Edge and Vuzu AMP each need to get their own special treatment. They - and DStv subscribers - deserve it.