Sunday, January 28, 2018

Is M-Net's new 1Magic channel on DStv going to commit the cardinal sin of repeating old content that was on VUZU AMP - just because the rebranded channel has a new name?

It will be a serious error of judgement but what is the chance that M-Net's new 1Magic channel replacing VUZU AMP on 29 January is going to start rebroadcasting old content that was on VUZU AMP?

I'm desperately hoping that it won't be happening, although if it does, I won't actually be surprised.

MultiChoice has been working hard the past two years to start limiting the number of repeats and old content across its DStv satellite pay-TV service, but one thing that has seriously been irritating viewers, it hasn't put a moratorium on: the shameful recycling of old content that starts popping up yet again on a "new" channel, just because a TV channel gets a new logo and a new name.

BBC Worldwide did it with BBC Brit, Discovery Networks International did it with Discovery Family, AMC Networks International (AMCNI) did it with Sundance TV that replaced AMC, and I'm holding my breath to see whether M-Net's "new" channel 103 with a new name is going to dredge up the "old" channel 103 content.

If a TV channel has a new name, a new look and a new channel brand identity, it shouldn't trade in its yesteryear stock. 

It will be interesting to see if M-Net is going to put stuff like Being Bonang or Minnie Dlamini's wedding TV special, Minnie Dlamini: Becoming Mrs. Jones, that was on VUZU AMP, again on 1Magic. Keep in mind that 1Magic is supposed to be and presented as a DStv Premium channel.

If M-Net does end up doing that, 1Magic won't really be any different that BBC Brit, DStv Family and Sundance TV that were actually "cheating" pay-TV subscribers after their "relaunches" as new channels. 

And why go to all the effort of a new name and image and a new coat of paint on the factory door outside, if its still the same assembly line conveyor belt on the inside?

I dearly hope that 1Magic that is promising new shows like The River and Unmarried isn't going to load up on old content that DStv Premium subscribers have already seen in the past on VUZU AMP.

Ongoing series and shows that used to be on VUZU AMP like The Real Housewives are of course fine, because it's new episodes. But 1Magic will start to incur its first image dent if it dishes up VUZU AMP things people have seen before.

The one problem that 1Magic has is that it starts out with not a big, but actually a sizeable trust deficit - both with viewers as well as with the press covering television and the TV business.

Already I have had 5 different journalists ask me versions of: "So how long do you think 1Magic will last?"

That's not a good thing. 

Viewers, and I suspect several of the press, are not instantly going to "embrace" 1Magic. They are suspicious because they're been burnt now so many times before that they're no longer willing to just "invest" their heart and time and attention into a channel that might also just be outright cancelled and be done away with in another 3 years' time.

M-Net has made so many chops and changes to its channels over the past half a decade that it's almost a question of people not taking it "seriously" anymore when some M-Net channel is launched.

In the back of your mind there's now perpetually the nagging suspicion that it might be taken away just as easily as it was launched, after a year or two.

VUZU AMP lasted just over 3 years - a bit longer than M-Net Edge, so why should DStv subscribers have any trust or show affinity to embrace 1Magic? 

Like an orphaned child shunted from foster home to foster home one too many times, it is understandable why DStv subscribers might have trust issues with new TV channels that arrive, promising the world with new names, just to disappoint and then fold when you least expect it (yes Animal Planet, we're talking about you).

To a degree, M-Net already missed an opportunity this past week with 1Magic to properly explain the new channel, to try and allay fears that might exist, to put 1Magic into proper context, to try and influence attitudes, and to answer questions.

There was a media briefing for the launch of 1Magic at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg but M-Net did it only for Johannesburg media. Sadly the bulk of the type of Johannesburg media outlets who were invited and attended couldn't be bothered to report anything of substance about it.

Either the type of media invited are bad and lazy or incompetent, or M-Net didn't have interesting or relevant things to say - or perhaps both. Whatever the case might be, it's not good for 1Magic beginning as a new TV channel to have a media event and there not being actually a flurry of stories about what was said at the actual briefing.

The result is that ordinary viewers, as well as South Africa's TV industry, haven't been able to hear what M-Net has to say and wants to bring across and communicate about 1Magic.

Nkateko Mabaso, M-Net South Africa's general manager, was at the 1Magic media launch and press briefing and spoke, but there's not been a single article about anything he said from the media who were invited and attended.

Reneilwe Sema, M-Net director of local entertainment channels, was at the 1Magic media launch and spoke but likewise there's not been a single media place where you are able to find what exactly he said.

The award-winning scriptwriter Phathu Makwarela (Muvhango on SABC2's former head writer) responsible for The River as one of the executive producers and produced by Tshedza Pictures, was there as well and spoke, but you won't find any of his comments from this past week anywhere either.

To date there's not been a single review of The River that was actually previewed and shown at the media launch and press briefing to journalists (M-Net won't be showing it to TV critics outside of Johannesburg).

For 1Magic's start and to really bring it under the attention of people, M-Net should maybe have made a much bigger fuzz about 1Magic as a new channel launch, especially because there's the VUZU AMP existence that precedes it, and that it needs to get distance from.

Hopefully M-Net's 1Magic can in time (if it lasts long enough), overcome some of the built-in bias and skepticism that exist about yet another relaunch, and that it will be launching with on Monday.

If it can last on DStv for longer than 3 years and 3 months it will already be considered more of a success that what VUZU AMP ever was. 

With so many available TV channels now and the attention of viewers and the press so splintered, it's incredibly difficult to break through. Hopefully 1Magic will grow and be able to find traction.