Monday, April 9, 2018
ANALYSIS. e.tv's show, Imbewu, to rival SABC's Uzalo has a problem before it's even started, as e.tv signals to the media and TV critics how little importance it attaches to its own show.
With less than a week before Imbewu will start on e.tv as a rival for the SABC's Uzalo on SABC1, e.tv has a big problem that is of its own making as the broadcaster is making it very clear how little importance e.tv is actually attaching itself to Imbewu as it signals to the media covering television that the production isn't a show to bother with or something worth spending any time or attention on.
With Imbewu - The Seed starting on e.tv sometime next week, e.tv has done basically nothing to bring the show under the attention of the national press covering television and South African TV critics attention. Who knows why?
Produced by Grapevine Productions, a joint venture between Videovision Entertainment, Word of Mouth Pictures and Luys Productions with Duma Ndlovu and Anant Singh, it now seems as if either e.tv executives are thinking that Imbewu is trash - or that e.tv just can't actually be bothered enough to promote its own show properly.
Either way, what the lack of e.tv's effort and attention to get media involvement with and for Imbewu is now signaling to the media, is that e.tv is sending a deliberate sign in a crowded local TV drama series field filled with many soaps and telenovelas, that Imbewu is not worth the attention nor the time of TV critics and the press - and by proxy not worth viewers' attention nor time.
Imbewu at this stage is probably another one of those throwaway local productions that's little more than a late prime time timeslot filler, not worthy of any significant press attention. If it were, e.tv would have put effort into signaling and reaching out to the media that Imbewu was important by actually communicating with journalists and all national media about it.
If Imbewu mattered - or mattered enough - to e.tv, the broadcaster would have brought normal marketing and publicity practice to bear and would have involved, reached out to and sought out national journalists and press attention for Imbewu.
That however is - by this far too late stage - something that e.tv hasn't bothered (failed?) to do.
It's also important to remember that e.tv's Imbewu even before starting the broadcast of its first episode, had already suffered controversy over things like the anti-Indian group known as the Injenje Yaba Nguni Council that in February this year threatened to burn down Anant Singh’s Videovision offices if Imbewu dared to portray racial tensions between Indians and other groupings.
Then there's also the allegations of sexual harassment that was made by an Imbewu on-set extra.
You'd think that e.tv would have worked out some plan to do even more marketing and publicity for Imbewu given the controversy and many things that's unclear around the show; that e.tv would have organised some type of a pre-show press conference like other broadcasters, would have reached out by offering up the cast and producers for interviews, and would have make screener episodes available for reviews or would have done a pre-screening for national media.
e.tv didn't want to do any of that for Imbewu.
The biggest conclusion to draw from this is that Imbewu isn't of importance to e.tv, since the broadcaster's PR and marketing machine - and the people appointed by e.tv to do Imbewu publicity whoever they are - deliberate took the decision and chose not to reach out to the press to drum up buzz and national viewership support before the start of the show.
This past Thursday or Friday e.tv apparently organised some so-called "Imbewu media launch" somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal but national media didn't even know about it, nor did e.tv's publicity division communicate anything about it at all.
e.tv's marketing and publicity and whoever is responsible for the show's PR couldn't bother and neither beforehand, nor afterwards, wanted to tell and inform national media and TV critics that there would be a so-called "media launch" of Imbewu somewhere in KZN - presumably Durban.
Imbewu is set in KwaZulu-Natal's Durban and surrounding areas and revolves around two rival families, exactly like Uzalo on SABC1. With Leleti Khumalo who jumped ship from Uzalo to the new similar-looking Imbewu, e.tv that hasn't done anything to explain why it's doing a show that before its launch next week looks like a copycat type show.
e.tv's marketing and publicity and whoever is responsible for dealing with the media on behalf of Imbewu didn't issue any transcripts of what was said by Imbewu's production executives, e.tv executives, or actors appearing in Imbewu. A typed up record or so-called "rush transcript" in the biz of what was said probably doesn't even exist.
There's been no roundtable Q&A, no press release for Imbewu, after the "launch" event, and no basic publicity material like cast publicity images, character descriptions or episode synopses issued.
What did Duma Ndlovu, Anant Singh and Leleti Khumalo as producers have to say, if any of them attended and spoke? We don't and won't know. What did Ziyanda Mngomezulu, the general manager for content services at e.tv, or Marlon Davids, e.tv managing director, say if these or other e.tv executives spoke? Again, we won't know.
Not fact-checked, but apparently e.tv showed an episode of Imbewu - or some of it - to people at the so-called "media launch". If true, it's sad and shocking that e.tv continues to blatantly discriminate by only showing footage to certain people but not giving national press an equal change to sample show's for review purposes.
It's bad that e.tv and its marketing and publicity division couldn't bother with making the effort to show or preview Imbewu to the national media and TV critics, irrespective of whether it showed some of it at some "launch".
There's been no screener issued either through an online preview service as is being done by other broadcasters and several streaming services locally and internationally for South African media, or a DVD screener disk, or by holding any type of a screening room event for this Imbewu. It's embarrassing.
e.tv also didn't reach out to offer up e.tv executives or Imbewu showrunners, producers or cast members - something that is almost always done by the publicity teams of broadcasters with their noteworthy new shows.
TVwithThinus polled other journalists and media covering television about Imbewu on Monday afternoon. All asked said that they knew nothing and heard nothing from e.tv regarding Imbewu or any apparent media launch.
A few said they saw something on Twitter that e.tv held some type of a "media launch" in KZN for Imbewu but that they didn't bother investigating or giving it attention and that they won't be bothering with Imbewu purely because e.tv "didn't bother to send me any information or really do anything". I won't add what some other journalists covering television said but it was all negative about e.tv and Imbewu.
Quite telling is how e.tv's marketing and publicity approach to Imbewu is different when comparing the like-for-like show to SABC1's Uzalo.
When the SABC launched Uzalo three years ago in February 2015, it invited national TV critics and a group of strategic media from across South Africa for a whole day media launch in Durban.
The Uzalo media launch before the show started included a comprehensive, guided set visit at the studio, watching the blocking and filming of scenes, an elaborate on-location set visit to several of KwaMashu's streets and buildings where exteriors are filmed, round table interviews with producers and cast at the studio, as well as showing the first episode to media and an official evening event launch.
The SABC and Uzalo also gave full press packs to media attending as well as to media who wasn't there more than a week in advance before Uzalo started.
e.tv chose not to do any of this for Imbewu and the broadcaster's deliberate under par publicity effort for the show is a signal to the media that it shouldn't bother much with Imbewu either.
With so many other shows, broadcasters, streaming services and TV channels - local ones as well as international ones available in South Africa - and who are putting in a lot of effort to get attention and press for shows, the bulk of the media will very likely quickly forget about Imbewu before it's even started.
The same happened with e.tv's Broken Vows that the channel didn't want to properly bring under the national media's attention last year in April and was eventually basically dumped and swept from existence after less than a year after terrible ratings on e.tv.
Is Imbewu a "worse", "same" or "better" show than Uzalo? It's not possible to say. What is possible to say, is that Imbewu is, now, perceived as less or lesser or a show, "thanks" to e.tv's lesser effort for whatever reason, around the show.
For viewers, TV executives and people working in television in South Africa and following news about Imbewu and possibly wondering why there's not more about Imbewu in the national press just days before the first episode will be broadcast - its because e.tv chose to do less publicity than others.
The result is that the media are and will be attaching less importance to it and will very likely be giving Imbewu less exposure than what otherwise would or could have been the case.