Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A+E Networks renegotiating or trying to renegotiate with MultiChoice about its channels set on DStv - sources.

A+E Networks, which will see its set of channels including History, Crime+Investigation Network and Lifetime disappear from DStv at the end of this month, is negotiating with MultiChoice again or apparently trying to negotiate a new deal, according to insider sources.

Furious DStv subscribers remain up in arms about the Randburg-based pay-TV operator's abrupt culling of the popular and sought-after premium TV channels, while South Africa's TV industry and producers have been left agog at the shocking turn of events.

It follows after a period of protracted brinkmanship over carriage fees during contract renewal negotiations, which saw the partnership between MultiChoice and A+E Networks UK break down in an acrimonious split after MultiChoice remained adamant that it won't pay the increases channel carriage fees that A+E Networks demanded for its content as part of a contract extension.

Insiders told TVwithThinus on Tuesday night that A+E Networks executives have expressed a desire to reopen negotiations with MultiChoice over its channels following the brinkmanship that saw both sides walk away, and that negotiations might actually have started again.

A+E Networks UK and its local Johannesburg-based office, A+E Networks Africa, have remained silent despite being asked multiple times the past three weeks what is happening.

Yusuf Nabee, A+E Networks Africa general manager, is shying away from interviews following the company's recent content showcase presentation last month where it announced several new local content initiatives that are now in limbo.

On Wednesday, A+E Networks Africa publicist Lauren Holley, in response to a media enquiry seeking comment about confirmation about whether negotiations have restarted and a request to interview executives, said "we have no updates to add to our statement. We will let you know as soon as there are any updates". 

MultiChoice was also asked whether negotiations have restarted. Joe Heshu, MultiChoice corporate spokesperson, on Wednesday said that "we do not comment on any channel or content contractual discussions whether past or present".

Petition growing
While A+E Networks remains silent about the loss of its valued channels on DStv at the end of the month a petition to keep the History, Lifetime and Crime+Investigation Network on DStv has already soared to over 7400 signatures by Wednesday morning

Disgruntled local producers who were commissioned by A+E to do local shows that now won’t be seen are privately fuming about being kept in the dark. 

MultiChoice has now posted Channel Termination notices across its DStv electronic programme guide (EPG). 

MultiChoice is telling DStv subscribers that channels will be ending and sending them to competing channels' alternative, for instance saying "The History channel will stop airing on 1 November 2019. Find similar content on Discovery Channel (121), Discovery Family (136) and National Geographic (181)."

With A+E Networks calling the channels that it supplies to MultiChoice its “core business”, dark clouds are hanging not just over the uncertain future of A+E Networks Africa employing a staff of 12 – but also over the just-announced local South African content slate that could very likely all be axed since nobody will get to see it if produced.

South African production companies who spoke privately to TVwithThinus are extremely upset, saying they were kept in the dark that A+E Networks didn’t have a channel renewal when their recent content was announced at A+E Networks Africa’s upfront showcase. 

Producers say that they are still in the dark about what is going and about what will be happening with their shows - including programming already commissioned, produced and scheduled for February 2020 that is in the final post-production stages. 

These shows range from plans to do Don't Tell the Bride SA, to Crime Stories SA (from Clive Morris Productions), Loved Like Crazy (from Nala Media), as well as Your People, Our People (from Pillay Media). 

'Channels not performing given the costs concerned' 
Dean Possenniskie, the managing director of A+E Networks for the Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, spoke at A+E Networks Africa's content showcase upfront on 19 September in Johannesburg and touted the ongoing, increasing production spending going to the creation of local South African programming on its set of channels. 

Possenniskie described it's channels supplied to MultiChoice as its "core business" and part of a long-standing partnership with DStv, and that A+E Networks had already invested R30 million in creating local content in South Africa in 2019.

"We're proud to say that in the last 5 years we have invested in excess of R50 million into local productions which I think is very important for the local production community and which is something I believe that we will absolutely go on and do more of in the future."

While he mentioned that a slate of "exciting new local productions are coming your way in 2020 for our subscribers and viewers" all of that is now apparently under threat of never being produced – or not to be seen.

At A+E Networks Africa's upfront event, Fatime Kaba, A+E Networks Africa's head of programming and scheduling, said that "There are more announcements to come in the next few months as we continue to close deals and invest in these channels that we all love and also invest in our local creators and industry". 

MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry about why the A+E Networks channels have been dropped said that it "needs to consider the costs for the channel, the terms which may apply and whether we can get better value elsewhere".

"In some instances decisions will be made due to channels not performing up to expectations, particularly given the costs concerned, but the world over its not unusual for channels to be changed if parties cannot agree on terms, for whatever reason."