Concern is growing over the once popular SABC2 soap 7de Laan that's continuing its shocking ratings slide after ongoing tampering and retooling, unending cast changes and a misguided timeslot change have all been taking a heavy toll on the damaged weekday soap.
7de Laan, once alternating with the Venda soap Muvhango as the most watched show on the SABC2 schedule and one of the most watched shows on South African television has continued to fall out of viewer favour after seemingly just too many ongoing changes.
The Danie Odendaal Productions produced weekday soap dropped another massive 269 527 viewers in just one month from June to July (to 1.81 million viewers).
While shows gain and lose some viewers marginally from month to month, veteran TV shows like 7de Laan are mostly stable: ratings rises and viewership declines do happen, but are very gradual.
That is why advertisers love soaps – with a stable built-in audience, they deliver consistent ratings.
Advertisers buy airtime in these repetitive shows because they’re guaranteed a certain volume exposure for their brands to a largely set target audience that doesn’t show dips and spikes over time, but 7de Laan is no longer delivering the numbers advertisers are promised.
To put into perspective what has happened with 7de Laan: The plunge of over a quarter of a million viewers who used to watch SABC2 but abandoned 7de Laan in just one month represents a drop-off of 18.52% in the show's audience share from just one month to the next – and that is massive.
While viewers are fickle and it's easy for any TV to lose viewers, it's incredibly hard to get them back.
Misguided timeslot move
Adding to the show's latest handicap is that SABC2 executives abruptly moved the long-running soap in July from its 18:30 berth to the 19:00 timeslot.
Meanwhile the show that replaced it in the 18:30 timeslot, Election Debate, ironically completely tanked in the ratings, not showing up as one of the top 20 most watched shows on the SABC2 July schedule.
That means that a very large number of viewers simply tuned out and away from SABC2 during the timeslot, and that a lot less viewers came back to SABC2 and 7de Laan at 19:00.
Exactly two years ago in August 2014, SABC2 executives ordered wide-ranging production changes to be implemented to the Afrikaans soap to make it more multicultural and to try and lift stagnant ratings. It included several set alterations and changes.
In June 2015 the show also dropped its iconic Soweto String Quartet theme song for a forgetable new ditty, with viewers who vocally complained that their howling dogs familiar with the tune, no longer made a noise reminding them to watch the show.
Meanwhile a massive number of ongoing 7de Laan cast exits have seen the disappearance of longtime familiar faces and it is literally changing the face of the soap – gone are the people who felt like friends and who viewers have come to know and tune in to see.
The departures of Heino Schmitt, Werner Coetser and Zane Meas have seen Diaan Lawrenson, Jo da Silva and Christo Davids follow them out the door.
Meanwhile Melanie du Bois, Corné Crous and Masego Sehoole's were essentially fired – their contracts were not renewed by the soap, while Anelisa Phewa quit when he was not allowed to be on the soap and also be a film and TV lecturer at AFDA.
In March after the walk-on starlet Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa left the soap she slammed 7de Laan for alleged on-set racism and claimed that she suffered racial abuse working on the show with the SABC that ordered an investigation.
With 7de Laan literally not looking the same anymore – from its theme song, sets, different faces and the loss of a lot of familiar ones – its transition the past few months, coupled with a dramatic timeslot change, has made it harder, not easier, for viewers to find and stay tuned in to the soap.