Not only has SABC3 lost nearly half of its total audience in what used to be the popular Days 17:00 timeslot, but even more importantly and shockingly is that the overall SABC3 primetime viewership has also plummented.
Meanwhile not a single one of the crop of rushed-to-air local shows on SABC3's primetime programming line-up has managed to crack the list of Top 20 most watched shows on the channel, while it costs the SABC a lot more to produce the increased burden of local shows, although viewers and advertisers flee.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to a media enquiry seeking comment about SABC3's ongoing ratings plunge and whether the public broadcaster is considering changes to Hlaudi Motsoeneng's 80% local content strategy for the channel that he enforced since mid-July for the broadcaster's only commercial TV channel.
With the hugely popular American weekday soap Days of Our Lives that lured a massive 1 078 101 viewers at its peak in July, SABC3 saw 40.51% of its total viewers abandoning the channel during the timeslot in August (falling to 641 388 viewers).
That loss accelerated and grew in a second consecutive month to 48.2% of viewers gone in September compared to July in the 17:00 timeslot with just 558 020 viewers at most in the timeslot. SABC3's 17:00 timeslot has now lost a staggering 520 081 viewers in just two months.
Overall SABC3 ratings depressed
The ongoing viewership plunge should be sending shockwaves through the SABC where advertising rates and what the public broadcaster can charge for 30 second ad spots are closely tied to the number of viewers the SABC can deliver in a timeslot.
Making it worse is that the loss of half of the viewership that Days of Our Lives pulled in the 17:00 timeslot is a daily loss that was stripped over weekdays. The loss in viewers translates into a daily revenue loss in terms of ad income for the SABC and SABC3.
It's not just the replacement of Days of Our Lives with the local Afternoon Express talk show that's a ratings problem for SABC3.
While SABC3 lured an already low average AR (audience rating) of 2.13 during primetime for its top 20 most watched programmes during August, the channel saw its audience further ebb away to an average primetime AR of just 2.01 for its top 20 most watched shows during September.
Since this audience rating is for the most watched shows, it means that the viewership for the rest of SABC3 programming is even lower, and also that SABC viewers have completely rejected the raft of new local programming on SABC3 suddenly foisted on them.
Meanwhile metropolitan viewers do keep tuning to SABC3 specifically for its American films.
Besides the American soap The Bold and the Beautiful remaining the most watched overall show on SABC3 in September with 1.17 million viewers, films like Abducted: The Carlina White Story, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Maiden Heist, Seven Pounds, As You Like It, Kick-Ass 2, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Life Support, Brighton Rock grabbed a whopping 9 of the top 20 most watched places in SABC3's September ratings.
It means that while Hlaudi Motsoeneng abruptly banished foreign content off of SABC3, viewers are rejecting the replacement local content for whatever reason and seeking out and watching the remaining American content like the films that still exist.
The local telenovela High Rollers saw an uptick from August to September from a still low 482 504 to 616 960 viewers and a 1.8 AR for its highest rated episode in each month, while Isidingo also saw a slight improvement from a 3.1 AR (1.03 million) to a 3.3 AR (1.11 million viewers) in September.
The stalwart local lifestyle magazine show Top Billing remains more popular than any of the SABC3's other new local programming in primetime. The most watched episode in September pulled 484 703 viewers.
SABC audience share falls again, down to 48.8%
While the SABC's TV channels SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 attract audiences of 28.8 million, 26.9 million and 21 million viewers per week, the reality is that the SABC's average audience share fell yet again to 48.8% according to its just published annual financial report for 2015/2016.
That's down from 57% in 2011/2012 and 53% in 2012/2013.
The SABC admits that it missed its target of 52% and blames "increased competition and changing audience content consumption patterns" for its falling viewership share.