Monday, April 4, 2016

Part 1 of 3: WHAT GOGGLEBOX SA TAUGHT US: What Gogglebox South Africa on the Sony Channel actually reveals about MultiChoice's DStv and repeats.

This is part 1 in a 3-part series about educational reflections and observations regarding Gogglebox South Africa.

Five episodes in, there's something that Gogglebox South Africa on the Sony Channel (DStv 127) on Thursday nights at 21:00 actually perfectly illustrates about MultiChoice's DStv and repeats.

What do you think it is?

It's that the majority of the complaints and incessant rants from DStv subscribers about too many repeats and rebroadcasts of old content are actually largely unfounded and uninformed.


Well, look closely. While it would be disingenuous to hypothesize based on a single show like Gogglebox South Africa that all DStv subscriber complaints regarding repeats should be dismissed outright, using just the empirical evidence from the five episodes on the Sony Channel so far, it's actually very clear that DStv repeats are not the massive, big, bad, insane, evil, unending, cheating, robbing, overstated problem a lot of people are making it out to be.

Instead, it seems more likely - as I've felt for a long time (now check my own confirmation bias!) - that the majority of DStv subscribers who are complaining about repeats are doing so because of two issues inherent in themselves and their own unevolved TV viewing patterns.

Firstly, perhaps a lot of people complaining about DStv repeats are too lazy when watching TV and should be more pro-active about finding programming that they haven't seen before.

Secondly, perhaps people complaining about repeats are watching DStv with too much of a tunnel-vision, unwilling to expose themselves to shows, programming and channels they don't know, think they won't like, and simply dismiss, instead of trying it and widening their scope of what they watch and follow.

Keep this in mind about Gogglebox South Africa:
- The various family permutations are from a wide and very big representative cross-section of South African society.
- They all enjoy (or at the very least have big reactions to) all of the content they're watching.

After five episodes of Gogglebox South Africa, none of the families have watched the same thing on DStv twice (with the exception of M-Net's The Voice South Africa which featured twice in two different episodes).

Everything they've watched is new to them (although a lot of it is actually old and not first-run content).

In other words: Everything they saw on the various DStv channels have been new to all of them - although not all the content is actually "new".

None of the families are watching anything they would call a "repeat", although some of it has been shown multiple times, and yet none of them have ever bothered to see it or by chance found it and watched it.

All of the Gogglebox South Africa families watched the old Disney movie UP on M-Net Movies. None of them have yet seen it, none of them knew it, and none could predict the story's ending.

A lot of them haven't seen Snakes on a Plane; only one person have seen the old (great) film Big from 1988 with Tom Hanks on TCM years before.

Absolutely none of them have watched The Impossible on M-Net Movies before which has been shown several times already on TV. Yet they were all engrossed and had a very emotional reaction to the visceral story.

All of the Gogglebox South Africa families watched an episode from the first season of Four Weddings SA on Lifetime. None of them saw it the first time. The first season is currently on its umpteenth rebroadcast and what they actually watched is an episode that was shown back in October 2015 - 5 months ago!

The same goes for things like The Hunt on BBC Earth (a rebroadcast) and Secret Life of Babies and The Vikings are Coming (BBC Lifestyle)- old content that's been shown before; yet somehow none (and remember the families are from a wide spectrum of households) have watched before.

The families are "forced" to watch movies like Selma - clearly something none of them have watched, but then all enjoy - TV content they would not have chosen themselves.

White people watched Clash of the Choirs, Utatakho and Our Perfect Wedding on Mzansi Magic - clearly shows none of them have ever watched before and very likely wouldn't choose themselves. And surprise ... they enjoyed it.

Black families watched the older local movie Spud about a white kid at a white KZN boarding school and very likely wouldn't choose themselves. And surprise ... they enjoyed it.

None of the families have ever watched Checkpoint on eNCA, its regular weekly investigative magazine show - yet they all responded to it and became emotional, angry and involved with the story of injustice they were shown.

The same with the documentary He Named me Malala on the National Geographic Channel. How many families would have watched this without being prompted, and yet they were all visibly moved (literally to tears).

Several of them had/have no clue and are clearly not following and never watched even one episode of Empire (already in its second season) or The People vs OJ Simpson (both) on FOX. Both are good series television. Ditto for Code Black on M-Net.

What does it mean?

It means that there's a lot of content spread across DStv that DStv subscribers are too lazy too find, or too lazy to sample, that they too quickly dismiss out of hand although they would perhaps actually like it, and that there's clearly a lot of brand-new and "old new" content people are paying for but simply have never seen.

As a TV critic I never watch repeats. Every day is literally a battle to keep up with just new content coming to viewers now or soon and to try and watch it, read and report about it and to structure and plan and diarise when to fit that content consumption in.

It's not necessary for ordinary DStv subscribers to ever be that frenetic as a TV critic.

But with a little more pro-active planning, with a little more willingness to "experiment", and with a little less "plonking down and switching on waiting to be served" the ordinary DStv subscriber can elevate and reduce not only your perceived level of repeats and watch more "new" stuff, but also learn to like more new stuff.

I'm not saying DStv repeats are not a problem.

I'm suggesting that DStv repeats are not as big a problem as people want to make it, and that a part of the problem is actually viewers not taking enough responsibility and not making enough effort for making sure they find content that's new for them on an ongoing basis.

Find a place where you find the best TV guide for yourself and make it a habit of going back to it daily, weekly or whenever. Make it work for you. Make it functional and use it to plan a bit better when to watch something or when to record something.

Stop randomly plopping down in front of the telly and then expecting something brand-new and interesting to simply be on your default channel. That is most likely the cause of complaining about seeing something yet again you've seen before.

Watch something new you've never tried watching. Tune to a channel, tune in for a show, record something if you can that you've never watched before or thought you'd not be interested in.

Who knows, maybe you find a new favourite or more "new" things to constantly watch - just like the Gogglebox SA families who are being exposed to more "new" TV that they haven't watched before.

You are not all that different from the Gogglebox South Africa families - and yet they are watching stuff that's new to them during the course of the week, every week.

Isn't it time that you start complaining less about "DStv repeats" and make your own plan to use what is already available, to also watch some more of all the things you've never seen before?