by Thinus Ferreira
At the end of this month DStv subscribers are losing the SABC Encore (DStv 156) rerun channel from the South African public broadcaster after 5 years and the Sundance TV (DStv 108) film channel from AMC Networks International after 3 years after MultiChoice decided not to renew the respective channel carriage contracts.
SABC Encore, a rerun channel programmed with old library stock from the SABC archives, was originally part of a 2-channel deal that later became hugely controversial between MultiChoice and the South African public broadcaster over alleged digital TV policy influence peddling.
The SABC agreed to launch a new SABC News (DStv 404) channel exclusively on DStv to replace the shuttered SABC News International, but with SABC Encore tacked on as a second TV channel only if the SABC in a signed contract supported MultiChoice's policy stance regarding broader digital terrestrial television (DTT) encryption in the country.
SABC Encore launched in mid-May 2015 on DStv with big fanfare from the SABC and a bizarre SABC Encore launch event where the then SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng ranted that "MultiChoice must pay" and that the "SABC is coming for pay-TV".
It's not yet clear whether SABC Encore will continue to run as a TV channel despite its removal from MultiChoice DStv and whether it might become a stand-alone digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel only.
The SABC hasn't yet responded to a media enquiry that was made on Tuesday morning but the response will be added here once received. See UPDATE below.
Sundance TV launched with fanfare in mid-May 2017 on DStv as a replacement for the removed AMC channel, but remained a niche film channel destination with low viewership.
AMCNI UK hasn't yet responded with an answer to a media enquiry that was made on Tuesday morning but the response will be added here once received. See UPDATE below.
MultiChoice was likewise asked on Tuesday morning about the channel terminations of SABC Encore and Sundance TV on its DStv platform but hasn't yet responded. See UPDATE below.
With less than a month's notice, on the DStv i-plate electronic programme guide (EPG), DStv subscribers are now told that "Dear viewer. Please note that Sundance TV will no longer be on air from 1 June 2020. You can find movies on M-Net 101, M-Net Movies channels, Catch Up and DStv Now. Thank you."
About the axing of SABC Encore the MultiChoice EPG now says "Dear viewer, please note that SABC Encore will stop airing on 31 May 2020. Thank you for watching."
MultiChoice's removal of SABC Encore and Sundance TV follows after the axing of the British entertainment channel from ITV, ITV Choice that is also going dark on DStv at the end of May after 5 years.
UPDATE Tuesday 19 May 2020 - 17:37: The SABC tells TVwithThinus that "The SABC can confirm that SABC Encore, which was launched on the DStv platform channel 156 on 11 May 2015, is coming to an end at the end of this month".
"The corporation is at this stage exploring more avenues to ensure that our audiences continue to enjoy the broadcast of SABC’s premium vintage programmes on alternative platforms."
UPDATE Tuesday 19 May 2020 - 1845: MultiChoice in a response says that "The MultiChoice Group can confirm that SABC Encore and AMC Networks' Sundance TV will no longer be available on the DStv platform from 1 June 2020".
"MultiChoice’s contract with the SABC for SABC Encore will not be renewed – as agreed by both respective parties, as per their contract which included a non-renewal option. Sundance TV will no longer be broadcast by MultiChoice as the contract between MultiChoice and the channel providers AMC Networks has come to an end."
UPDATE Wednesday 20 May 2020 - 10:09: AMC Networks International UK says "AMC Networks International UK can confirm that SundanceTV will no longer be available on the DStv platform from 1 June".