Thursday, March 17, 2016

SABC3 at its first 'separate again' content press screening for its latest schedule changes: 'We're not confused, we're experimenting'.

At an upfront media event for some of its new shows, SABC3 didn't make any new announcements that weren't made and are not known already since last month, but did provide more context, telling the press that SABC3 isn't confused but experimenting and trying out different things to see what might work and what won't as it continues to evolve.

Although all three channels are under pressure and dealing with audience erosion in a tough TV market, out of the SABC's three terrestrial analogue channels, SABC3 as the public broadcaster's only commercial TV channel has been and remains under the biggest pressure to improve its performance.

For the larger part of the past half a decade, SABC3 has been dealing with steadily waning audiences, constantly changing programming, a muddled channel identity and struggling to maintain and attract the quality content and upper LSM viewers that it once did in the 2000's.

Although not noted and not asked about, the SABC3 upfront event was highly significant not for the content showcased to the media, but for being held in the first place.

The event, featuring SABC3 channel head Aisha Mohamed back again from her maternity leave, marks the first time that SABC3 again held its own content showcase event for programming after it stopped doing quarterly press screenings almost two years ago.

After it consistently maintained its own regular schedule of press screenings for the media for over a decade and a half, SABC3 in 2014 was lumped with SABC1 and SABC2 in a changed initiative to do a "transversal" upfront over the past two years that didn't play to the strengths of the channel.

Because SABC2 and SABC1 which both used to do their own press screenings, did it less, more irregularly and some years had no content screenings at all, SABC3 suffered by proxy. The overall content showcase for the combined channels took place less regularly and basically only once a year, possibly due to the lack of new content to showcase on the other two channels and less publicity initiative.

It would seem as if SABC3 is now once again unshackled as a TV channel to follow its own best practice regarding press screenings.

At the beginning of last month the SABC overall yet again announced programming changes to its three main TV channels - SABC3 included - undoing and backtracking on several initiatives and scheduling moves implemented a year and a half ago in June 2014.

On Wednesday night at Montecasino in Fourways, Johannesburg, SABC3 reiterated what the SABC said in February, that the move of Afrikaans language shows to SABC3 didn't work with programming strands like Fokus that's now been moved back to SABC2.

SABC3 is at pains to emphasise that the move of Afrikaans back to SABC2 doesn't mean that the lifestyle and entertainment channel is excluding Afrikaans and that it remains a multicultural lifestyle channel including all languages.

As previously announced, the Indian lifestyle magazine show Mela has now moved to SABC3 as a companion show on Sundays for the Top Billing repeat. The new season of the music collaboration show Jam Sandwich will also be changing channels to SABC3.

As it explained in February, SABC3 will change Friday nights to "Comedy Nights" from April with a Friday night comedy strand that will include both local and foreign stand-up comedy offerings. On Saturdays from April, the start of the movie slot is moved from 19:30 to 19:00.

On Saturdays, from April the arts and culture slot is moved earlier to 18:00 and on Sundays SABC3 is introducing a male variety slot at 17:30 for shows like Top Gear and One Day with Bryan Miles.

That is followed by a current affairs block from 19:00 including shows like Interface, Special Assignment and documentaries like Ross Kemp: Extreme Worlds.

The Friday night advertiser-funded show Win a Home will be back for a 3rd "season" but will no longer be a stand-alone show. Instead it will now be folded into the afternoon talk show Afternoon Express since both are produced by the same production company.