Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The SABC's TV channels all in a troubling viewership slide in September, while Sofia the First on DStv's Disney Channel proves the power of a princess.

The SABC's three main TV channels each continue a very troubling downward trend in the ratings as SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 continued to shed viewers in September, while Sofia the First on The Disney Channel on DStv delightfully proved the viewership power of a princess.

Troubling for industry watchers is that the overall TV viewership of people watching the SABC was again lower in September than in the preceding month, due to lower ratings for each of the public broadcaster's three main channels, according to the viewership figures compiled by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA).

SABC1's overall viewership during September fell from a month before, with the bulk of its top 20 most watched shows all grabbing less viewers than during August.

SABC1 lost thousands of viewers in total from Generations, Uzalo, Skeem Saam, Vodacom Millionaires, Thandeka's Diary, Selimathunzi, Shuga, Live Amp and Rise that were all down from the previous month, while the Xhosa news, Mutual Friends and Zaziwa managed to edge up.

On SABC1, soaps Generations and Uzalo remain dead even as the most watched shows on South African television - both with a 23.9 AR, with Generations grabbing slightly more viewers for its top-rated episode in September with 8.16 million viewers, compared to Uzalo's 8.15 million.

Worryingly, SABC2's viewership is also edging lower, with the second SABC channel's average top viewership for its top 20 most watched shows in September, also falling lower than a month before.

SABC2's viewership problems
SABC2's top shows - like its Venda soap Muvhango, the live Lotto draw and others are all down, but that's not where the problems end.

The plummeting viewership of 7de Laan remains a growing problem for the SABC, with the ratings of the once strong Afrikaans weekday soap on SABC2 once again falling further from August to September from a 5.5 AR (1.86 million viewers) to a 5.3 AR (1.81 million viewers) for its top rated episodes.

Whilst still a top show for SABC2, the channel seems unable to stop the viewership erosion, with the bad recent timeslot change that's been having an ongoing detrimental impact on the show's ratings.

Viewers are also fleeing SABC2's Afrikaans news bulletin, down from 4.4 ARs (1.49 million viewers) to 4.3 AR in September (1.45 million viewers) that also apparently changed its timeslot for the worse.

Also down in September from August: The viewership of SABC2 shows ranging from Musiek Roulette to Keletso.

SABC2's consumer magazine show Speak Out showed an uptick from a 6.8AR to a 7.4 AR (2.5 million viewers) in September.

SABC3's painful ratings slide
SABC3 remains a big and growing problem for the SABC.

As the SABC's only commercial TV channel that is supposed to pull in an affluent metropolitan audience highly sought after by advertisers, the opposite has been happening.

With the evisceration of its schedule by controversial boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng who banished foreign TV shows for an avalanche of rushed-to-air local shows, none of which are pulling audiences, viewers have made their displeasure known with the SABC for removing hugely popular fare like Days of Our Lives and American drama series from advantageous timeslots.

Although it costs the SABC millions of rands to produce new local content shows, the raft of new, mostly talking heads talk show type and reality magazine shows have failed to lift SABC3's anemic viewership for a third month in a row.

This is putting pressure on the SABC to do something as SABC3's overall programme ratings and viewership keeps dropping.

The SABC will have to either return popular foreign shows like The Amazing Race and other foreign drama and sitcom series it yanked mid-season back to the SABC3 schedule and bring back Days to its late afternoon timeslot, or produce better and more compelling local shows than the Divas of Jozi and Top Chef SA that viewers rejected.

Foreign films left on the SABC3 schedule is what fills the bulk of SABC3's most watched programming list during September, while its local weekday soap Isidingo showed a small uptick from 3.1 AR (1.03 million viewers) to 3.3 AR (1.11 million viewers) for its highest rated episodes.

Besides Isidingo, the only local TV series besides foreign movies to rate at all on SABC3's top 20 most watched list for September are telenovela High Rollers (1.8 AR), late afternoon talk show Afternoon Express (1.6 AR) and the stalwart glam magazine show Top Billing (1.4 AR) in the 20th position.

It's hugely troubling to advertisers and the TV biz that despite spending big bucks to fund new local shows to fill primetime, that viewers have turned their back on the entire new local content offering that SABC3 presented on its schedule when it comes to ratings.'s soap surge
The SABC's viewership loss is largely free-to-air channel's gain.

On in September its weekday soaps Scandal surged from August (13.2 AR to 13.8 AR and 4.7 million viewers) while sister soap Rhythm City also grew from 9.6 AR to 10.6 AR and 3.63million viewers.

The latest season of the Rapid Blue produced SA's Got Talent is a viewership hit as the 5th most watched show on in September with a 9.9 AR and luring 3.38 million viewers for its most watched episode so far.

The power of a Disney princess
Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) continues to grab the lion's share of viewers on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform, with Our Perfect Wedding, Isibaya, Rockville and Idols remaining the four most watched shows on in September on DStv, as they were in August.

The Queen, Greed & Desire - and even the repeat broadcasts of both shows - both series on Mzansi Magic as well, also took four spots out of the most watched programming list on DStv for September.

Don't ever under-estimate the resolve of children and the steel-strong consumer power of young viewers to influence viewing behaviour and patterns.

MultiChoice and The Walt Disney Company opening up The Disney Channel (DStv 303) in September to subscribers on lower-tiered packages was a huge ratings bonanza for Disney.

The toddler animation show Sofia the First on The Disney Channel for instance managed to lure more adult viewers in September aged 15 years and older to DStv than some Absa Premiership and Premier League soccer matches.

What it means is that such is the power of a Disney princess, that Sofia got her young underlings to not only watch the show themselves, but got them to force their parents - moms and dads - to watch with them, unable to tune away to "big people" shows.

More than 341 202 adult viewers (and that's excluding kids younger than 15) tunde in for the most watched Sofia the First episode on The Disney Channel on DStv during September.

The third party movie channel Studio Universal (DStv 112) from NBCUniversal International Networks popped up a ratings hit in September.

Studio Universal rated in September when the film First Blood drew 377 072 viewers on 3 September, making it the most watched movie on DStv during the month and giving it an overall 15th place on the most watched list.