M-Net is adding two new local productions, Trackers, a 6-episode Deon Meyer crime novel adaptation; as well as House of Phalo, a period drama focused on the rise of Xhosa in the Eastern Cape and the rise of King Phalo produced by Mfundi Vundla's Morula Pictures.
M-Net says the pay-TV broadcaster remains committed to local storytelling and that the slate of new productions will provide compelling viewing for DStv subscribers and help to feed the growing global appetite for television drama series.
"This is the golden age of television series – an era marked by a year-on-year increase in scripted content that is eagerly consumed by audiences, both live and through binge viewing," says Yolisa Phahle, CEO of General Entertainment for MultiChoice,
"Audiences are also increasingly receptive to authentic, universal stories and this provides an opportunity for us to take African stories to the world."
Trackers is an adaptation of the acclaimed South African crime writer Deon Meyer’s international best-selling novel.
The 6-part series is co-produced with SCENE23, a new production hub created by Deon Meyer, Cobus van den Berg and Tim Theron, together with Three River Fiction, a London-based, independent production company.
"It is a real pleasure and privilege to co-produce an international TV series based on my novel, Trackers – with South African talent, textures and accents,” says Deon Meyer.
"Thanks to M-Net and Three River Fiction’s involvement, we are also delighted to have Robert Thorogood, best known for the Death In Paradise TV series, on board as the showrunner, leading our writing team".
"Deon Meyer has been responsible for introducing millions of people across the globe to South Africa, so it made absolute sense to adapt one of his books for SCENE23’s first outing into the great unknown of the international industry," says Cobus van den Berg.
"The global and critical success of Trackers made it the perfect choice to go with. As producers we’re really excited to join the current push to show the world that we’re not just a great place to come and shoot their films and series, but that our own stories deserve to be seen and enjoyed by the global audience. But we can’t do it alone, and SCENE23 is extremely proud to be partnering with M-Net and Three River Fiction to make this project a reality."
"Three River Fiction is delighted to be working with SCENE23 and M-Net on Trackers,” says Jonathan Drake, CEO and co-creative director at Three River Fiction.
"Deon has written a thrilling book, and working with Deon and Robert Thorogood to adapt the story for television is a really exciting opportunity. M-Net is the ideal home for Trackers – a story rooted in Africa but with strong international appeal. It is already generating strong interest from other networks around the world."
A Xhosa Game of Thrones
A uniquely South African historical drama series is also currently in production - House of Phalo, a telling of the first modern history of the Xhosa and the rise of King Phalo.
Mfundi Vundla’s Morula Pictures is behind House of Phalo. Vundla is renowned for his game-changing television, having created South Africa’s first soapie Generations in 1994 on SABC1. House of Phalo will appeal to fans of series like Vikings and Game of Thrones that's on M-Net.
"This story is about shattering the popular narrative that the history of our people began in 1652 with the arrival of Jan Van Riebeek," says Mfundi Vundla. "There is indisputable evidence that Xhosa people have lived in the Eastern Cape since the 15th century."
"It’s only through systematic erasure by colonialists and apartheid that we have lost part of this history. It was crucial for us then to treat this drama with the care and reverence it deserves. We hope we have managed to evoke a sense of pride in our history, a better understanding of the people we are, and a clearer vision of our present and future."
M-Net acting CEO since 1 February, Nkateko Mabaso says "co-productions are on the rise globally and they are certainly playing a huge role in the opportunity to build global audiences for local stories. These days it is common to see productions that are a collaboration between broadcasters operating in different markets."
"This is good for the industry as it has the potential to increase audiences," says Nkateko Mabaso.
"We are thrilled to be working with some of the finest talent, both locally and abroad, to bring an increased focus to the incredible talent in South Africa."