Friday, November 18, 2016

How CNBC Africa's ongoing lack of punting its programming is creating a growing problem and doing increasing damage to the CNBC Africa brand.

CNBC Africa's (DStv 410) ongoing problem - its lack of punting and communicating about its programming to the press - is doing increasing damage to the CNBC Africa brand - so much so that advertisers, reps and the media are spreading rumours that CNBC Africa is struggling and has dumped efforts to do live local programming after 18:00 in the evening.

CNBC Africa has the same problem as the SABC, and similar to the South African public broadcaster has let it fester and grow. 

CNBC Africa is giving the media covering television nothing to go on.

By creating a total vacuum through a lack of actually promoting and talking about its existing and upcoming content and on-air talent, CNBC Africa is doing nothing to keep the press informed about what it's actually doing.

It makes the media turn from covering a broadcaster's programming, to covering its behind-the-scenes operational and management issues.

By doing very little to communicate about its actual programming (which would take up time, and time away from journalists doing other stories) what happened with the SABC is what's happening with CNBC Africa from a PR and publicity perspective. 

Once the media and journalists latch onto other issue-driven narratives like the SABC's behind-the-scenes crisis and Hlaudi Motsoeneng, it's very hard to get the media to now write and make stories out of SABC1's Khumbul'ekhaya synopsis (oh wait, those don't exist).

It's now happening to CNBC Africa as well, available on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform and on StarTimes elsewhere in Africa, with the pan-African business channel that does content that comes and goes just like a tree that falls in the forest with nobody hearing.

Case in point is for instance that last night, on Thursday, CNBC Africa apparently broadcast its annual All Africa Business Leaders Awards 2016 (AABLA) on DStv. 

The actual ceremony took place earlier this week in Johannesburg.

CNBC Africa communicated nothing about this to the relevant media actually covering or theoretically covering the channel - most have given up years ago.

CNBC Africa couldn't get itself to inform not just that the awards show, CNBC Africa's biggest localised event and argubly the biggest "thing" for the channel every year is taking place - but afterwards not even who won, or when and that it would be broadcast.

CNBC Africa couldn't be bothered to issue even one press release in the lead-up to the AABLA2016 finale, nor about the winners afterwards, nor even a programming note to the media of when it would be shown.

Meanwhile CNBC Africa's lack of any apparent consistent communication strategy to notify the media about its programming in the way other DStv news channels do, has lead to the start of rumours that CNBC Africa has done away with live programming during the evenings on the channel.

Speculation is rife that CNBC Africa is struggling, and that it's been too difficult to find advertisers and too expensive to continue to do local live programming.

If only CNBC Africa actually took the effort to let the media know not just that it is doing programming but what programming it's doing on a continuous basis, it's of course highly unlikely that the swirling rumours around CNBC Africa would have started in the first place.

Of course wrong information and rumours are highly damaging to a brand, and in this case it is CNBC Africa that's being damaged - self-inflicted damage by not doing the bare minimum of what's required when running something like a TV channel: To keep telling the media what you're actually showing.

Earlier this week, asked about rumours about cutting back its local programming during the evenings, Bronwyn Nielsen, executive director of the CNBC Africa told The Media magazine that there's "no truth to these rumours".

On Wednesday morning it was terribly awkward when a bus full of South African journalists and TV critics as well as from Africa who flew in, pulled up at the Westcliff in Johannesburg and bundled out on the steps at the (wrong) door: The one outside where Rakesh Wahi, co-founder of the ABN Group that includes CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa was to punt his book.

While Discovery Networks International was having its 2017 upfront programming on-air talent interviews at the same hotel, the driver accidentally dropped the press at the wrong venue.

Of course journalists who quickly piled back into the bus and rushed to the right Westcliff door, noted the irony of CNBC Africa and Rakesh Wadi doing a book speech event and the All Africa Business Leaders Awards 2016 taking place, but CNBC Africa and ABN not being able to actually communicate with relevant media to tell them anything about it.

Embarrassing. And ongoing lost media opportunities for CNBC Africa that doesn't seem to care.

In 2016 CNBC Africa's viewership in South Africa on DStv remained dismally low compared to other available TV news channels on DStv.

Would perhaps talking about programming and letting the press (and through the media, also viewers) know about what is going to be on, help to lift ratings and draw more viewers? Very possibly.

CNBC Africa did excellent live coverage a few weeks back regarding the Pravin Gordhan saga.

Anchor Chris Bishop was brilliant as CNBC Africa, during the afternoon, suddenly covered the big news of Pravin Gordhan being charged. It was a momentary upflickering of what the great live business news coverage and analysis that CNBC Africa can do and is capable of being.

Sadly, it was again like a forest falling in the CNBC Africa woods.

Not only did CNBC Africa fail on the day and subsequent days to tell the media anything of its coverage plans around the developing news with an utter lack of even a most basic programming note, but viewers also didn't tune to the channel but to general news channels to follow the news developments.

So far has CNBC Africa apparently slid back, that it's not thought of as a top-of-mind tune-to channel in the case of big business news breaking.

More viewers followed the Pravin Gordhan news and rolling analysis on channels like eNCA and ANN7, although CNBC Africa arguably had a strong(er?) content offering on the story.

While CNBC Africa tries to cover things like the World Economic Forum in Kigali and roll out all kinds of sponsor-branded programming, it constantly fails to close the loop by actually promoting and publicising that content through letting the media know about it, so it can be watched.

CNBC Africa that turned 9 this year, in its past, at times, did communicate schedules and programming notes and show highlights and anchor changes and new presenter additions and programming specials to the press.

It did know how and made some effort and also thought it was worth the effort.

Sadly not the CNBC Africa of today.

In 2017 it will be a decade since I attended the launch event of CNBC Africa in Cape Town 10 years ago as a journalist and as a TV critic eager to cover and report on and tell the ongoing CNBC Africa story and its programming.

With little help from CNBC Africa, especially over the past few years, the task and journey - especially from a TV critic's perspective - has been very disappointing.