In a desperate attempt to lift ratings, stem its ongoing viewership slide and slow its cash drains the SABC will announce yet another very dramatic schedule shake-up for its loss-making SABC3 channel that will come into effect from 1 April.
It’s no SABC April Fool's joke: SABC3's latest upcoming schedule shake-up will be the SABC's third for the struggling and loss-making channel in just a year.
SABC3's shake-up follows sister channel SABC2's latest big schedule change that was introduced in February and that angered a large number of viewers – SABC2's sixth big schedule shake-up since mid-2014.
Just as with currency fluctuations in an economy, public and commercial transport commuter timetables, and even a family's nightly dinner time, stability and predictability over time of a broadcaster's TV schedule – or the lack of it – is a strong indicator and signal to the organisational and systemic health or chaos behind the scenes.
Constant and erratic TV schedule changes – the SABC for instance again disrupted all three of its TV channel's schedules in January for Afcon 2017 coverage – confuse viewers who are creatures of habit and who struggle to find their shows and what they want to watch.
With every major TV schedule change of the SABC, some viewers sample competitor channels and programming, find new favourites, form new habits and never return.
SABC3 saw its ratings tank the past nine months following the SABC’s controversial former chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng's abrupt decree of 80% local content that was haphazardly introduced on the channel since July 2016. The badly implemented move saw viewers flee, viewership fall and then advertisers leaving.
The SABC introduced big schedule changes for SABC3 in April 2016, followed by yet another dramatic schedule shake-up just three months later in July 2016 – with a new SABC3 logo and-on air look.
That was also when Motsoeneng – now still currently employed by the SABC but ordered to stay at home with no job title – wreaked havoc on the cash-strapped SABC3 by abruptly ordering a decree of 80% local content for the SABC's only commercial TV channel.
Not a single one of the new and mostly badly produced local shows introduced on SABC3 since July 2016, except for a new season of Neill Anthony Private Chef, managed to lure enough viewers to crack SABC3's most watched month-on-month ratings list.
With disastrous AR's (audience ratings) in prime time for the batch of new content, the SABC still had to splash the cash to produce the ratings-failed content that viewers flipped the switch on.
The new SABC3 schedule shake-up is the first under SABC TV boss, Nomsa Philiso.
She was appointed as the SABC's new head of television in August 2016 to replace the veteran Verona Duwarkah who was abruptly fired for refusing Hlaudi Motsoeneng's allegedly irregular content orders and dubious production contracts and reportedly accused him of of harassment and gross mismanagement.
There's growing buzz that the SABC could perhaps be shuttering the beleaguered SABC3 before the end of the year, while insiders are wondering how the SABC wants to programme and run its promised five additional new TV channels for digital terrestrial television (DTT) if it is struggling to keep the three existing channels on the air and just three schedule line-ups filled that's already stuffed with repeats.
Zandile Nkonyeni, SABC TV publicist, was asked about talk that SABC3 might be shutting down, what the situation is around SABC3's future, and what assurance there is from the SABC to viewers about the channel, but she didn't respond.
Major programming moves
Now the SABC is again tinkering with SABC3's schedule in another big shake-up.
According to insiders, SABC3 will announce that it is switching a large number of its shows' timeslots with viewers who will once again have to adjust their viewing patterns.
SABC3 will introduce yet another new swathe of local content – some with dubious public broadcasting value – as it also gets ready to dump late night and overnight repeats to cut back on rebroadcast fees, cancels long-running programming like Interface and even moves its news bulletin, The Bold and the Beautiful, Top Billing, Special Assignment and other shows yet again to new times and days.
Zandile Nkonyeni was asked why SABC3 is doing yet another big schedule change again and what prompted the latest shake-up. She failed to comment.
SABC3's latest schedule do-over stretches from the very early morning to late night.
SABC3 will cut its breakfast show Expresso back by half an hour, with the morning show that will move from 06:00 to a new starting time of 6:30 in mid-April. SABC3 is also slowly moving the beloved American soap Days of Our Lives back from its midnight banishment to an earlier timeslot.
Here’s what’s happening on SABC3 from April
Major coming SABC3 changes from April include:
■ Expresso is being reduced again, back to two and a half hours, after its timeslot was increased in July 2016 to three hours. From Monday 17 April Expresso is set to start half an hour later at 6:30 to make space for a half hour of kids programming at 6:00 on weekdays.
■ The existing line-up of SABC3's 09:00 hour of repeats is dumped for repeats on weekdays of Real Talk with Anele from Monday 3 April.
■ After taking away the Venda-language soap Muvhango repeat on SABC3 in July 2016, it is suddenly back – at 11:30 on weekdays.
■ The weekday chatter, Afternoon Express that was moved from 16:00 to 17:00 in July 2016 as part of a failed experiment, will move back to 16:00 from Monday 3 April.
■ Real Talk with Anele gets upgraded and moves from 16:00 to 17:00. Basically Afternoon Express and Real Talk with Anele are switching timeslots, with SABC3 now believing that Real Talk – that constantly attracts more buzz – has more potential to lure a bigger actual audience.
■ The SABC is once again moving the public broadcaster's flagship daily TV news bulletin on SABC3 that's been hammered in the ratings and that shed tens of thousands of viewers over the past few months.
The news at 18:30 on SABC3 is once again becoming News @ 6 from April – a simulcast of the news done on DStv's SABC News (DStv 404) channel with anchors Peter Ndoro and Francis Herd.
■ That knock-on effect means that the American soap The Bold and the Beautiful is also once again shifting timeslots – from 18:00 to 18:30 on weekdays on SABC3 from Monday 3 April.
■ The hugely popular The Bold and the Beautiful, perennially the most watched show on SABC3, will now serve as the lead-in for the struggling local soap Isidingo that stays put at 19:00. SABC3 hopes that Bold’s buoyant viewership will filter through to the Endemol Shine Africa produced Isidingo.
■ The local talker Trending South Africa that started in daytime on SABC3, switched to night time and then got a 12:00 weekday repeat, is getting cut down from five days to four episodes per week, losing the Friday episode.
Trending SA will also no longer get any daytime repeat on SABC3 from April but will see its broadcast timeslot move half an hour earlier from 22:00 to 21:30.
■ From Thursday 6 April Top Billing sees yet another timeslot change in the glam magazine show long broadcast history – moving from 20:00 to 20:30.
■ SABC3's investigative magazine show Special Assignment is once again moving in April – this time from Wednesdays at 21:30 to Mondays at 21:00.
■ SABC3's long running Sunday night current affairs interview show Interface at 21:30 is apparently abruptly getting axed. Interface's last episode will be on Sunday 2 April, thereafter replaced by a celebrity-driven type profile show entitled Celebuville in the same timeslot from Sunday 8 April.
Flurry of unknown new local content
Instead of phasing individual new shows in over time to help them gain viewer recognition and support, SABC3 is unleasing a next new wave of unknown local content from April as part of the latest schedule shake-up.
This programming will all compete at the same time for viewers' attention, battling each other to stand out in a crowded nightly 19:30 to 21:30 timeslot.
The previously announced channel switch from SABC1 to SABC3 of Clover's latest season of the advertiser-funded production (AFP), Tropika Island of Treasure Seychelles will start on SABC3 on Monday 27 March at 19:30.
While TVwithThinus saw it already and this show's production values look much improved, the same can't be said for new and unknown SABC3 shows like the female presented car maintenance and driving test show Driving in Heels starting Tuesday 4 April at 21:00, Hostess with Lorna Maseko starting Tuesday 4 April at 20:30, and the food competition reality show Dinner Date set to start on Wednesday 5 April at 19:30.
After several pushbacks the delayed Uyanda It’s On that was originally scheduled for 2016 is finally set to start on SABC3 on Wednesday 5 April at 21:00.
The reality show follows the former SABC1 publicist and socialite Uyanda Mbuli and her various worldwide luxury indulgences captured on video for public broadcasting consuption.
Friday 7 April will finally see the start of the new SABC3 half hour sitcom Soap on a Rope at 19:30 that was also originally supposed to start in August 2016 on the channel. The comedy stars Luthuli Dlamini, Melanie du Bois, Alfred Ntombela and Sonia Sedibe and is set on a fictitious TV show's set.
Publicist Zandile Nkonyeni was asked why SABC3 is introducing another batch of new local programming in a burst and what the programming strategy is behind the move but she failed to respond.
Late night changes
Days of Our Lives on SABC3 is moving from midnight to an earlier timeslot of 22:30 from 3 April.
The late night Isidingo and The Bold and the Beautiful repeats are both dumped in favour of the German TV news service Deutsche Welle that will now start at 23:30 and run until 02:00 in the morning.
From 02:00 the SABC’s feed of the SABC News channel on DStv will be simulcast overnight with the repeat of American TV series that used to be at 03:30 that's all getting axed in the latest shake-up.