TVwithThinus can reveal that the SABC has now suddenly put its decision to can High Rollers - described as "bizarre" by the South African TV industry - on hold.
The SABC backpedaling on its decision to abruptly remove High Rollers from the SABC3 and to just possibly pay out the show to go away, follows a massive public outcry from viewers last week, slamming the SABC over its decision to cancel High Rollers months before its third season contract is supposed to end.
The SABC's decision to rid its schedule of the casino-set local drama series - putting cast and crew out of work and income just before Christmas, comes after SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng said multiple times this year that the SABC supports local content and wants more local content on SABC3.
The decision to do away with High Rollers led to widespread shock and condemnation directed at the SABC by the South African TV industry at large, including producers and actors saying the SABC is only doing lip service when it comes to ensuring bigger work security and better employment stability for artists working in local TV production.
An online petition, started last week to try and save High Rollers on SABC3 and still amassing signatures and comments from very vocal South African viewers as well as people working in and watching television worldwide, seems to have done the trick in staving off the cancellation decision for now.
While the SABC is for now not going through with its decision to cancel High Rollers, it is making another shocking move: removing High Rollers from the SABC3 schedule and replacing it with SABC1's Generations from mid-January in its timeslot.
According to sources speaking on condition of anonymity to TVwithThinus, "the SABC has agreed to put a moratorium on the cancellation until they meet with the production company".
According to insiders, this meeting between Rous House Productions is set for sometime next week. "So everyone waits now," a person familiar with the matter told me.
Rous House Productions has so far not spoken publicly after the shocking revelation that the SABC planned to can High Rollers within 30 business days although there's months left on the contract because of "programming strategy changes on SABC3".
The SABC, asked about the High Rollers brouhaha, said last week that "the SABC is not in a position to discuss its contractual obligations with production houses and content providers with third parties including the media".
Another shocking twist
In another shocking twist, TVwithThinus can reveal that High Rollers will disappear from the SABC3 schedule from Monday 16 January when it will be replaced by SABC1's Generations on a daily basis at 19:30.
The SABC plans 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) soccer coverage on SABC1 from 16 January 2017 daily from 17:30 until midnight, and has to move Generations.
Oddly, the SABC plans to move Generations - its second biggest show in terms of viewership and a massive ad income generator for the public broadcaster - not to SABC2 but to its smallest TV channel.
The SABC recently made the same unprecedented move.
In October, and again in November, it moved Generations from SABC1 to SABC3 pre-empting High Rollers - the first time in the history of the SABC that it replaced one locally produced SABC TV soap with another of its locally produced TV soaps due to sport.
The triple-whammy result of the SABC move in January 2017 will firstly mean that High Rollers' dedicated daily demo audience on SABC3 will abandon the timeslot and "kick the habit" so to speak to tune in to the show - a daily prime time drama that cultivates habitual viewing and depends on an audience, following an unfolding narrative returning the next day to see more of the story.
When and if High Rollers returns to the SABC3 schedule, its falling viewership - as with most of SABC3's sagging audience ratings over the past few months - will very likely be down even more, with the show that will have to start over in trying to lure its dedicated viewer base back.
Secondly the move will mean that millions of SABC viewers won't be able to see Generations at all during prime time, since SABC3's terrestrial TV channel footprint is the smallest of the SABC's channels. The smallest number of South African TV households are able to receive the channel.
Thirdly the expected loss in viewers for SABC1, people not sticking around since there's no Generations and not wanting to watch African soccer broadcasts that will also be carrying a lesser ad load, will mean less ad income for the SABC1 during January for the cash-strapped broadcaster.