Sunday, October 6, 2019

Local plans in peril: Cancellation threat hangs over A+E Networks Africa's entire local content slate after MultiChoice dumps its channels from DStv.

The just-announced local TV content slate of A+E Networks Africa for its set of channels carried on DStv in South Africa and across Southern Africa is in danger of getting scrapped, with huge uncertainy over what - or if any - of the projects will go ahead after MultiChoice's shocking decision to dump all of A+E Networks' channels from its pay-TV service. 

The termination of the long-standing commercial partnership between A+E Networks and MultiChoice comes as Yolisa Phahle is currently MultiChoice's CEO for general entertainment, with Aletta Alberts as MultiChoice's head of content strategy and third-party channels, and with Calvo Mawela as MultiChoice CEO.

MultiChoice, through its decision to dump A+E Networks Africa's channels after having carried the slowly growing channels collection for an established number of years on DStv, is inflicting some direct damage on South Africa's TV industry as well as the local content production industry.

MultiChoice is making victims of South African production companies commissioned to produce local content for A+E Networks Africa, ranging from established ones like Clive Morris Productions doing Crime Stories SA to new companies like Nala Media from Katy Katopodis and Penny Peppa producing the gender-based violence special Loved Like Crazy.

These production companies might all likely have their programming cancelled, with their work - even if produced - that won't be seen by South African viewers since the channels will no longer be available in Africa for Dstv subscribers.

MultiChoice is also endangering jobs within the local South African TV industry with A+E Networks, a joint venture between Hearst and Sky, that established a localised A+E Networks Africa office in Johannesburg a few years ago that has slowly expanded to employ 12 people and is overseen by Yusuf Nabee as general manager.

With A+E Networks' "core" business - its History (DStv 186), Crime+Investigation Network (DStv 170) and Lifetime (DStv 131) channels that MultiChoice decided to remove from DStv - it is likely that jobs at A+E Networks Africa will now be under threat, if not the future of the entire local office which now remains unclear.

TVwithThinus asked A+E Networks and A+E Networks Africa in a media enquiry through its publicists how MultiChoice's axing of its channels on DStv will affect its announced programming.

A+E Networks didn't respond to the question.

A+E Networks and A+E Networks Africa was asked whether A+E will continue to produce the recently announced localised format show Don't Tell the Bride South Africa set for 2020 on the Lifetime channel. A+E Networks didn't respond to the question.

A+E Networks and A+E Networks Africa was also asked what is happening with the Loved Like Crazy special announced as earmarked for a broadcast date in November and which is supposed to be produced by Nala Media, and whether the second season of Crime Stories SA will still be produced by Clive Morris Productions.

A+E Networks didn't respond to the question.

A+E Networks and A+E Networks Africa was asked that if the commissioned programmes were to be produced, why A+E would go ahead since viewers won't be able to see it - or if the shows were to be cancelled, what the impact is on A+E Networks Africa and the production companies, as well as South Africa's local TV industry, and how A+E feels about having to cancel announced shows.

Again A+E Networks didn't provide any response to the question.

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.

Dean 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".

This premature pronouncement now looks like a pipe dream.

TVwithThinus asked MultiChoice in a media enquiry what MultiChoice's response is to DStv subscribers about taking this new local content like Don't Tell the Bride SA, Crime Stories SA and Loved Like Crazy away from them.

MultiChoice didn't answer the specific question but said in a broad response that "We encourage fresh content from all our channel suppliers, including our third-party channels as well as our owned channels that are constantly renewing their content".

MultiChoice said that "When making changes to channels on our platforms, we need to consider the content, how it resonates with our customers and its longevity".

"In addition, we need 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."

ALSO READ: MultiChoice dumps History, Lifetime and Crime+Investigation from DStv in South Africa and across Africa after channel carriage renewal negotiations break down with A+E Networks.
ALSO READ: Loss of a Lifetime sees thousands of livid DStv subscribers sign petition demanding that MultiChoice keeps the History, Crime+Investigation and Lifetime channels.
ALSO READ: MultiChoice on axing the A+E Networks channels from DStv after a bitter carriage fee fight: 'Unfortunately, some deals don’t go as intended'. 
ALSO READ: Knowing there's no channel carriage renewal deal in place, MultiChoice warned A+E Networks not to go ahead with its 2019 upfront and content showcase event - but A+E Networks Africa did it anyway. Then came the shocking revelation.
ALSO READ: TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. In the ugly divorce between dad and mom MultiChoice and A+E Networks the biggest loser is the kids - viewers - who will bear the brunt of TV parents who now dislike each other.
ALSO READ: A+E Networks goes into hiding after MultiChoice axes its channels; petition grows to over 5 000 signatures from angry DStv subscribers as MultiChoice posts Channel Termination notices on the DStv EPG.