Thursday, June 1, 2023

Desperate StarTimes SA management breaks 0% price hike promise for 2023 and hikes pay-TV prices by up to 9%.

by Thinus Ferreira

Just three months after promising a 0% price increase for 2023, with "desperate" StarTimes Media SA management saying they have no choice, will suddenly hike StarSat subscription fees in South Africa by up to 9% from mid-June.

In mid-February, China's StarTimes Media SA which runs the StarSat pay-TV service in Southern Africa, announced with glee that a 0% price increase is "the least we can do" after rival MultiChoice announced its annual DStv price hikes which would come into effect from April.

StarTimes Media SA at the time in a press statement said that it would "be increasing its prices by 0% across its pay-TV portfolio" and that it hoped that "these non-adjustments, which are far below the projected inflation rate for 2023, will help its customers continue to enjoy great TV at affordable prices".

On Thursday the Midrand-based pay-TV operator shocked when it suddenly broke its promise and announced that it would be hiking its subscription fees by up to 9% in two weeks, blaming South Africa's deteriorating economy. 

From 15 June StarTimes Media SA is hiking its StarSat Special package by 8.3% from R120 to R130 per month for 60 TV channels. The StarSat Super bouquet is increased by 8.6% from R230 to R250 per month for 79 TV channels.

StarTimes Media SA is hiking its top StarSat Max bouquet by 9.1% from R330 to R360 per month for 140 TV channels.

"On 17 February we, in good faith, released a statement to our loyal subscribers announcing a zero-rated price increase for the 2023 financial year - we did so based on reliable market indicators that rand value would maintain a degree of stability for 2023," StarTimes Media SA says in a statement explaining why it's now backtracking on its 0% promise.

"The seismic devaluation of the rand is historic - caused by several factors acting in unison - what some describe as 'the perfect storm'. Such factors include: rise in interest rates due to inflationary pressures, persistent load-shedding, geopolitical events (war in Ukraine, US allegations of SA weapon supply to Russia etc.), all of which has resulted in a drop in investor confidence."

"Despite desperate efforts by StarSat management to maintain bouquet price stability we are left with no choice but to implement marginal price adjustment of between 8% to 9% across each StarSat bouquet."

And just like that, Samantha's back in Sex and the City sequel series.

by Thinus Ferreira

After an acrimonious split behind the scenes with Sarah Jessica Parker which became public and saw her turn her back on Sex and the City and her former co-stars, Kim Cattrall is now returning and will be back in the second season of the sequel series as sex-positive publicist Samantha Jones.

The New York Post was first to reveal Kim Cattrall's return to her role as the beloved feisty and sex-open Samantha Jones for the second season of HBO's And Just Like That, seen in South Africa on M-Net (DStv 101), that will start on 22 June in the United States and seen in South Africa as an Express from the US title.

While Samantha return is great, it comes with caveats and while sure to please fans, it won't be exactly what they've expected and all they might want it to be be the episode is aired in August as the final of the second season's 11 episodes.

Variety followed up The New York Post's reporting, further revealing that Kim Cattrall's return is thanks to the intervention of Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and Max content, who personally reached out to her a few months ago to ask her to reprise her role.

After years of animosity between her and Sarah Jessica Parker, Cattrall has stated in multiple interviews that she has no desire to return to Sex and the City and has closed the door in the show and her relationships with her former co-stars Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Now she will be back although Samantha will only be seen in the final episode of the second season, although she didn't film any scenes with any of her co-stars.

During the first season of And Just Like That, Carrie was seen texting with Samantha, with the show in a sense mirroring the rift and estranged relationship which exists between the actresses in real-life. 

The relationship between Carrie and Samantha have become strained for unstated reasons, but Samantha did sent a massive bouquet of flowers to the funeral when Mr Big, played by Chris North, unexpectedly died.

Carrie kept in touch, and in the final episode Samantha agrees to meet with Carrie, although it happens off screen.

Kim Cattrall confirmed to The New York Post that she had decided to reprise her role. An insider whispered that "The fact that they’re keeping it very hush-hush says that there's some implication that she might be coming back — not this season, but it's definitely a cliffhanger that's gonna get people to come back for season 3".

Variety reports that Samantha will only appear in one scene and that Kim Cattrall filmed her scene on 22 March in New York City, and without interacting, seeing or speaking with either Sarah Jessica Parker or showrunner Michael Patrick King.

The famous designer Patricia Field who had worked on Sex and the City but not And Just Like That, returned to dress the character of Samantha for the scene.

Samantha has moved to London and is seen speaking with Carrie on the phone in the final episode of the upcoming second season, although Cattrall filmed her speaking scenes separately.

Also back for the second season of And Just Like That is John Corbett who is reprising his role as Carrie's former fiancé Aidan Shaw.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Yizo Yizo's beloved Mr Mthembu - veteran actor Patrick Ndlovu - dead at 84.

by Thinus Ferreira

The veteran actor Patrick Ndlovu, known for roles in SABC1 drama series like Yizo Yizo as school principal Mr Mthembu and as Sizwe Moloi in Zone 14 has died. He was 84.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of the legendary actor," his management agency, Moonyeenn Lee Associates (MLA) said in a statement.

"We were proud to represent such a consummate professional and majestic talent. He was a kind and gentle man, always ready with a smile, even when times are tough. Our thought and prayers go out to his wife, family and friends. We will miss you Patrick. RIP."

The SABC says the public broadcaster "is saddened by the untimely passing of the veteran actor Patrick Ndlovu commonly known for his iconic roles in Yizo Yizo and Zone 14. He will be remembered for his talent and commitment to the craft".

Patrick Ndlovu's cause of death is not yet known.

Besides Yizo Yizo and Zone 14, Ndlovu's career spanned over four decades, playing Uncle Koloi in Isithembiso and Goldfinger in The Queen on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and Bab'Hlatshwayo in Durban Gen on

Born on 15 November 1938, Patrick Ndlovu also appeared in M-Net's The Wild, The Road, Lockdown and SABC1's Soul Buddyz, as well as in Shaka Zulu, Igazi, and SABC1's Gaz'lam.

MultiChoice won't show any gay content to DStv subscribers in that country - and likely wider - after Uganda passes harsh latest anti-LGBTQ law.

by Thinus Ferreira

After Uganda's government on Monday passed one of the world's harshest anti-LGBTQ laws criminalising the so-called "promotion and abetting of homosexuality", MultiChoice says it won't be showing any gay content on DStv in the country - although censoring content for pay-TV for Uganda could mean it's kept away for multiple other countries too.

MultiChoice makes use of satellite transponders for instance covering the whole of South Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa and West Africa as multi-country regions - as opposed to a satellite used per specific country.

This means that keeping Uganda's government happy through keeping LGBTQ content away and off the programming schedules of DStv's channels as they're beamed down through Eutelsat's transponder, is in effect a lowest-common-denominator type of soft-censorship of certain content in East African countries where Uganda's anti-gay laws are not applicable.

Reuters reports that Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni on Monday signed one of the world's toughest anti-LGBTQ laws, including the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" - laws that now decree a 20-year sentence for "promoting" homosexuality.

In response to Uganda's new anti-LGBTQ laws, MultiChoice, in response to a media query after being asked its view on this, said the pay-TV operator will adhere to Uganda's laws. It means content that could be considered "promoting" LGBTQ people won't be shown on DStv.

"MultiChoice takes into account all laws and regulations under which we are governed and aim to adhere by those set rules in the countries in which we operate," MultiChoice says.

"We are a business that enriches the lives of many people through film and television in our quest to remain Africa's best-loved storyteller."

MultiChoice was asked how it will keep any LGTBQ content away from just Uganda, considering that the satellite transponder covers more countries than just Uganda. 

MultiChoice was asked if it had already done content interventions, for instance censorship of certain content in Uganda and since when this has been done.

MultiChoice declined to answer these questions.

Shifting strategy
Instead of outright censoring LGBTQ content, MultiChoice over the past number of years has shifted its programming and content allocation approach in two very specific ways in response to growing anti-gay sentiment in parts of Africa.

Firstly, MultiChoice has shifted the responsibility to international channel providers to package their programming schedules for channels on DStv with content that doesn't feature overt LGBTQ characters or themes.

Overseas channel providers have been asked to pro-actively not schedule certain content, to prevent the situation of having to pull content and change schedules after complaints from DStv subscribers and regulators in anti-LGBTQ countries.

In June 2022 Warner Bros. Discovery which ran a Pride Month content line-up on its TLC channel in South Africa for instance, self-censored and kept this content away from the TLC channel version running across MultiChoice's other satellite transponders so that it wouldn't air in anti-LGBTQ countries like Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.

Warner Bros. Discovery told TVwithThinus last year that it is "aware of the sensitivities in these regions and therefore TLC Pride isn't scheduled to air in these countries". 

In October 2015 Discovery Networks International was forced to pull the reality series I Am Jazz about a transgendered teen's struggle and life journey from TLC across Africa just before it was to begin broadcast following government censorship in Nigeria that impacted its screening across the entire continent.

In May 2016 NBCUniversal was forced to pull the second season of I Am Cait, a reality show about the transgender Caitlyn Jenner – formerly known as Bruce Jenner - from E! in Africa after complaints and a DStv TV-ban in Nigeria.

In July 2016, Viacom International Media Networks Africa, now Paramount Global, said it would be censoring an episode of The Loud House on Nickelodeon and won't be broadcasting it on its linear channel on DStv in Africa since it featured animated gay dads.

In June 2017 Kenya's Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned 7 kids cartoon for bogus reasons like saying one character "has a dick for a head", and that in another two characters of the same gender went on an (unseen) "implied romantic vacation", ordering MultiChoice Africa to remove Loud HouseThe Legend of KorraHey ArnoldClarenceSteven UniverseAdventure Time and Star vs the Forces of Evil from DStv because of "homosexual themes".

In November 2017 Kenya banned the Disney Channel show Andi Mack because it featured a gay teenager, keeping it off television for the entire Africa, including South Africa.

Secondly, M-Net has also adapted its approach with its self-packaged M-Net, Africa Magic and Maisha Magic channel sets seen outside of South Africa.

M-Net (DStv 101) which has different regionalised channel feeds for South, East and West Africa is pro-actively keeping certain content away from DStv subscribers in East and West Africa which are shown in South Africa without any complaints, where the same timeslot on the DStv guide is filled with other shows.

In March this year eMedia launched Openview Ultra as a pay-TV add-on for its fast-growing Openview free-to-air satellite TV service in South Africa, and started with a gay bouquet consisting of the OUTtv and Fuse TV channels at a subscription fee of R75 per month.

South African consumers cut gym and DStv contracts as economy bites.

by Thinus Ferreira

As pummelled South African consumers cut back in a worsening economy, gym contracts and DStv are two of the big unnecessary expenses they're axing from their budgets and letting go of, according to latest market research.

As weary South African consumers who are subjected to a sliding rand, stubbornly high inflation and never-ending Eskom load-shedding are forced to cut expenses to make family budgets work, they are reassessing all different expense categories and doing away with unnecessary luxury discretionary spending like MultiChoice's DStv pay-TV service and gym contracts.

To get an idea of categories that have been most impacted, the South African research company TrendER/infoQuest surveyed 300 consumers during May, asking them which policies and contracts they have cancelled over the past six months. 

According to the survey, household contents insurance has been the biggest loser with 10% of respondents claiming that they cancelled this insurance over the past 6 months.

This is followed by funeral policies (9%) and medical aid (9%). Younger consumers (aged 18–35 years) were more likely to cancel household insurance and medical aid, while the 25 to 34 age group were more likely to cancel funeral policies.

In terms of the entertainment/leisure categories, almost 1 in 4 respondents had cancelled their gym membership over the last six months, while MultiChoice's DStv pay-TV service was also a casualty at 18%. 

MultiChoice once again increased DStv prices from 1 April, with DStv Premium subscribers numbers that continue to fall. MultiChoice is set to announce its year-end results for the financial year until 31 March 2023 on 13 June, which might mirror the strain that South African consumers are experiencing. 

"Unfortunately, the tough economic conditions are resulting in some consumers cancelling their precautionary savings products such as insurance, medical aid and funeral policies," says Claire Heckrath, TrendER/infoQuest operational director.

"While it may be tempting to cancel personal insurance policies to save money, it is important to recognise the potential risks and consequences. It is crucial to carefully evaluate the potential risks, consult with professionals and make informed decisions based on individual circumstances."

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Media provocateur Eusebius McKaiser dead at 45 after suspected epileptic seizure.

by Thinus Ferreira

The well-known South African provocateur, broadcaster, writer and political analyst Eusebius McKaiser suddenly died on Tuesday in Johannesburg after suffering a suspected epileptic seizure. He was 45.

According to his manager Jackie Strydom, the prolific writer, commentator and debater apparently suffered a suspected epileptic seizure on Tuesday in his Sandton home.

In a statement, his family said that "It is with great sadness that we report that our beloved family member, friend and colleague, Eusebius McKaiser, passed away unexpectedly earlier this afternoon".

"He was a loving son, brother, uncle, partner and special friend. He was also well loved and respected locally and worldwide for his political commentary and analysis on race and identity."

In a statement, the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) chairperson Sbu Ngalwa says Eusebius McKaiser "will be missed for his sharp intellect and contribution to the thought leadership discourse in South Africa and beyond".

"He held very strong views that he could actually back up. You just had to admire his mind whether you agreed with him or not."

"He was not shy to challenge anyone, including journalists – pointing out double standards and raising ethical issues. He really made one to sit up and take notice or to check their blindspots. He made a huge contribution to the South African media landscape We are poorer without him."

Besides being a prolific writer for South African news publications as well as international news publications, he also hosted TV shows like Interface on SABC3 and Meet the Media on eNCA (DStv 403).

In 2015 Eusebius McKaiser accused the South African public broadcaster of once again blacklisting commentators and revealed how SABC News once again stifled freedom of speech and how he was banned from appearing on the SABC's airwaves for a critical newspaper column he had written.

Besides having been a TV host, Eusebius McKaiser also had several different talk shows on Primedia's 702 talk radio station as well as Power FM, and appeared frequently as a media commentator on television and radio, besides launching his own podcast show.

Eusebius McKaiser was born in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape where he attended St Mary's Primary School and Graeme College, after which he did a BA degree an Honours degree and a Masters degree in philosophy at Rhodes University. He also studied at the University of Oxford for a doctor's degree he never completed.

Rhodes University described Eusebius McKaiser as "a political activist focused on social and political topics that impact on our lives and make people sit up and take notice".

The university described him as "community-driven and provides a living example of victory over racism and homophobia. He is a strong advocate of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex community and educates the public about gay rights and the immorality of crimes committed against homosexuals".

Eusebius McKaiser was a social analyst at the Wits Centre for Ethics and at the University of Johannesburg Centre for the Study of Democracy.

Eusebius McKaiser authored the books A Bantu in my Bathroom: Debating Race, Sexuality and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics (2012), Could I Vote DA?: A Vote's Dilemma (2014), and Run, Racist Run: Journeys into the Heart of Racism (2016).

Eusebius McKaiser leaves behind his partner Nduduzo Nyanda.

... More to come ...

Sunday, May 28, 2023

UK's ITV fires Phillip Schofield over affair with younger male staffer he had groomed for decades as allegations swirl over top ITV execs cover-up and future of This Morning and Holly Willoughby.

by Thinus Ferreira

ITV in the United Kingdom has fired Phillip Schofield who was forced to admit on Friday that he's had a secret affair with a male staffer 34 years younger than him who he helped to get work on ITV's This Morning show.

The shocking revelations could lead to the exit of co-host Holly Willoughby, the end of Ths Morning, as well as the exit of top ITV executives if it comes out that they were complicit in a cover-up at the broadcaster, or where aware of the problem and did nothing.  

The shocking ITV, This Morning and Phillip Schofield revelations is a case of real life mirroring fiction.

The exploding Phillip Schofield scandal - following after his behaviour that's been ongoing for years and with ITV saying it did investigate rumours but found nothing - looks as if it's ripped straight from the American Apple TV+ drama series, The Morning Show.

In The Morning Show, the male anchor is fired after shocking revelations of inappropriate sexual relationships and how he abused his power and position to have sex with other and junior staffers, with his female co-host who had an inkling of what was going on.

Making it worse is that Phillip Schofield's wholly inappropriate relationship with Matthew McGreevy was known and gossiped about within Britain's TV industry, by showbiz reporters and many inside the media, although nobody did anything about it and failed to report on it for whatever reasons.

Phillip Schofield isn't very well known in South Africa but DStv subscribers would have seen him in some shows when MultiChoice carried the short-lived ITV Choice TV channel like The Cube, The Greatest Show on Ice, Dancing on Ice, and some British royal interview programming.

Phillip Schofield who came out as gay on This Morning just a few years ago after 27 years of marriage has allegedly been carrying on a secret affair with Matthew McGreevy who is around 34 years younger than him and who Phillip Schofield had allegedly been grooming since he was just around 10 years old when he was part of a local theatre group.

Phillip Schofield then got Matthew McGreevy a job at This Morning. Later - for reasons yet unknown - ITV moved Matthew McGreevy away from This Morning and over to the talk show Loose Women

When Phillip Schofield announced he was gay, insiders thought he was going to reveal his secret relationship with Matthew McGreevy but he didn't.

Last week Phillip Schofield was axed from This Morning, after the relationship between him and Holly Willoughby soured and got so strained that she demanded ITV bosses remove him. ITV however said it would still be working with Phillip Schofield and use him for other shows.

This Friday Phillip Schofield dropped the bombshell of his tawdry and inappropriate affair with the decades-younger man, which forced ITV to now completely distance itself from Phillip Schofield who will no longer do the other projects for ITV.

Phillip Schofield was also fired by his agent although he has a share in the YMU agency, as well as his lawyer, with his TV career that looks to be completely ruined over his shocking lies.

"I did have a consensual on-off relationship with a younger male colleague at This Morning," Phillip Schofield admits in his statement issued on Friday, saying his secret affair was "unwise" but "not illegal".

"'Contrary to speculation, whilst I met the man when he was a teenager and was asked to help him to get into television, it was only after he started to work on the show that it became more than a just a friendship. That relationship was unwise, but not illegal. It is now over."

"'I am painfully conscious that I have lied to my employers at ITV, to my colleagues and friends, to my agents, to the media and therefore the public and most importantly of all to my family. I am so very, very sorry, as I am for having been unfaithful to my wife."

"I am resigning from ITV with immediate effect, expressing my immense gratitude to them for all the amazing opportunities that they have given me. I will reflect on my very bad judgement in both participating in the relationship and then lying about it."

After his statement, YMU issued a statement.
"Honesty and integrity are core values for YMU's whole business, defining everything we do. Talent management is a relationship based entirely on trust," said Mary Bekhait, YMU Group CEO.
"This week, we have learned important new information about our client Phillip Schofield. These facts contradicted what Phillip had previously told YMU, as well as the external advisors we had brought in to support him. As a result, on Thursday we agreed to part company with Phillip, with immediate effect."
ITV in a statement says "We are deeply disappointed by the admissions of deceit made tonight by Phillip Schofield. The relationships we have with those we work with are based on trust".
"Philip made assurances to us which he now acknowledges were untrue and we feel badly let down. We accept his resignation from ITV and therefore can confirm that he will not be appearing on ITV as had previously been stated."
ITV did an investigation in 2020 into rumours of Phillip Schofield and his young lover but said it found no evidence. ITV called allegations at the time, in a statement, "malicious gossip". It turns out it wasn't. 
Meanwhile, Phillip Schofield's secret affair continued after he announced in February 2020 on-air that he was gay but left out that his younger lover was working at ITV - a job Matthew McGreevy got with the help and power of Phillip Schofield.
Now the Phillip Schofield scandal that destroyed his career, threatens the jobs of ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, ITV director of television Kevin Lygo, ITV's head of daytime programming Emma Gormley, Martin Frizell as This Morning editor, and group corporate communications director Paul Moore, with allegations that they have been part of a cover-up of Phillip Schofield's affair.
Allegations are also swirling about what and how much Holly Willoughby knew, whether she could stay on, and if or when the tarnished This Morning is getting cancelled. 
The former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes said on Twitter that Phillip Schofield "has finally been caught out but he's not the only guilty party. Four high members of ITV management knew what sort of man he was and never took action to prevent him controlling or taking advantage of his position over young people".
ITV in a statement says that "ITV can confirm that when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in early 2020, ITV investigated. Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours as did Phillip’s then agency YMU".
"‘In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour."
"Phillip’s statement reveals that he lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship."

Saturday, May 27, 2023

SABC looking for proposals for long-form local drama content for SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.

by Thinus Ferreira 

The South African public broadcaster is looking to produce a long-running youth drama series for SABC1 like Skeem Saam with a focus on female, gay characters and disabled characters, a family drama for SABC2 centred around hope, and a telenovela for SABC3 that will likely be the replacement for The Estate

After a cash crunch that saw it abandoning its comprehensive so-called annual "requests for proposals" RFP-book over half a decade ago and which laid out its content plans which South African producers could pitch to produce, the SABC on Friday told the local TV biz that it's looking for three specific pitches.

The SABC's content commissioning intention for new local long-running shows comes as a welcome reprieve for the batter local production industry, damaged by years of Covid and when the broadcaster started to turn off the commissioning tap.

To stay afloat South Africa production companies have largely shifted away from the SABC to fulfil content commissions from eMedia for and its eVOD streamer, Netflix, MultiChoice's DStv and its streamer Showmax, as well as the M-Net, kykNET and Mzansi Magic channels that ramped up its local production output over the last few years.

The SABC is now awaiting proposals - one each for new drama series on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 - which would be able to survive in the competitive viewership environment as long-running series. Producers have a submit proposals until 28 July. 

The SABC's last big ratings hit was the Durban-set Uzalo on SABC1 which launched in 2015 and which is still ongoing, with the broadcaster - due to its ongoing financial struggles - that has been unable to put any long-running series on the SABC airwaves over the past eight years.  

The content division of the SABC's video entertainment division is now looking for show proposals for series which it plans to launch during prime-time across its three linear TV channels, which should all be "compelling and culturally authentic content with editorial uniqueness that resonates with our viewers". 

The SABC is also more and more open to so-called co-funding productions, where the broadcaster doesn't carry the production costs alone, in exchange for relinquishing some of the licensing rights.

SABC1: LGBTQ+, female and disabled
While the ageing trifecta TV of Uzalo, Generations - The Legacy and Skeem Saam continue to dominate in South Africa's TV ratings race as the most-watched shows on SABC1 and in the country, the SABC is looking to develop and produce another youth-centred show, like Skeem Saam for prime time.

"The themes and issues should be rooted, resonant and authentic to the realities confronted by the young in this rapidly changing world," says the SABC in its proposals brief for the SABC1 drama series.

"The concept should capture the spirit of our times, with a premise that is relevant and resonates with youth culture, music, fashion, retro being cool, side hustles, disruption of the norm."

"Characters should be original, multi-layered, and complex on a journey of self-discovery and truth. They should be agents of change, committed to forging a future that allows them to realize the fullness of who they are or aspire to be. Key focus areas include but not limited to the LBGTQ+ community, strong female-skewed stories and people with disabilities."

SABC2: Hopeful
For SABC2 the public broadcaster is looking for a drama series centred around the theme of "the power of hope".

The long-form open brief is for a family-orientated series where the power of hope "is an inherent part of being a human being. It defines what we want for our futures.."

"Hope links your past and present to the future. Hope is a motivator to take the next step forward to make things happen. Hope requires a clear vision; it keeps the dream alive. To have hope is to want an outcome that makes your life better in some way. Hope grows!"

"SABC2 is looking for concepts and ideas that broaden and celebrate the South African family in the context of home, society, and workplace. It remains committed to representing South Africa as part of the African continent and projecting the rich diversity of the continent."

"The channel delivers to diverse cultural and age demographics. Its content is aimed at education informal knowledge building and entertainment through a diverse representation of genre."

SABC3: High-concept, complex characters
With the channel's local telenovela The Estate, produced by Clive Morris Productions, wrapping filming next month on its third season and going off the air at the end of July, the SABC is looking for a new telenovela of which the proposal brief reads very much like what the channel had on air previously with Isidingo and The Estate.

The SABC is looking for a "high-concept drama" in its open brief for a new telenovela and notes that SABC3 wants a "drama series that explores the impact of this seismic shift in society on the individual, the family, community, and institutions at large".

"We are looking for original, highly authored and story-driven complex characters, set in a world that reflects the complex realities and contradictions of the lives of urban South Africans, where high-end brands get them a seat at the table, travel is part of self-care, and code-switching is a critical tool in building social capital."

"We are looking for a high-end/high concept drama that speaks to the SS3 DNA with themes that focus on class distinction, social mobility, career success, policy advancement and that explores the interpersonal dynamics that define this world."

"Key focus areas include, but are not limited to the nature and environment, economic reform, gender equity, mental health and culture and identity."

Producers will have to have three years of experience in doing long-form drama with at least one complete long-form drama already produced and broadcast, will have to submit episode summaries for at least 13 episodes along with their proposals, as well as a funding plan for hybrid-funding models.

The SABC says it will only consider proposals which are submitted through its SABC website portal for content submissions at and that the closing date is midnight on 28 July.

Besides the new drama series for the three channels, the SABC is still working through 998 other proposals the broadcaster received since August 2022, with 601 already evaluated and 397 left. 

"The teams are working tirelessly and diligently to finalise the process and provide feedback to all producers as soon as possible," says the SABC". "The video entertainment team has already begun the pitching and look forward to engaging with more producers as the process unfolds."

Why Disney's Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser hotel crashed and burned.

by Thinus Ferreira

Disney is shutting down its multi-million dollar, immersive Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort after just 18 months, saying the Mouse House has learnt lessons from the very expensive flop.

After opening in March 2022, Disney has announced that the Galactic Starcruiser will be shutting down in late September. 

On the Halcyon, located close to the Galaxy's Edge Star Wars attraction at Walt Disney World, holiday-goers were immersed in various interactive adventures "aboard" the ship with the crew who were actors, staying in character for the 2 days per stay that a "space journey" took.

"Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our guests and recognised for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment," Disney said in a statement announcing that it's shuttering the hotel after 18 months.

"This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans."

Disney spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser in Orlando, Florida in the United States during the reign of the now-ousted Disney CEO Bob Chapek but its last voyage will now be on 28 to 30 September.

The experience had an out-of-this-world price, starting at $4800 (R94 000) for two people sharing a cabin, to $6000 (R117 500) for a family of four.

After it opened, Bob Chapek kept hyping the popularity of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, saying at the time that demand for booking remained very strong and that "response to next-generation storytelling like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has been phenomenal."

In a Q&A session at at a JP Morgan communications conference this week, Josh D'Amaro, Disney parks, experiences and products chairman, said that the Galactic Starcruise was a stunning asset.

"The Imagineers did a stunning job putting it together, it got high guest ratings but it didn't perform how we wanted it to, so we decided we'd sunset it. It was a never-before-seen type experience and it raised the bar creatively but it was time."

Pete Werner, co-owner of the Dreams Unlimited Travel travel service in Orlando, on his DIS Unplugged podcast this week, weighed in and said "As far as what went wrong - we don't have to guess".

"Every major Disney outlet said the same thing when the pricing came out: The pricing was insane! Absolutely insane. Too expensive - and focused on a micro-niche market. I said it at the time: It's not sustainable long-term."

"The audience told them this. As usual Disney management rolled their eyes and doesn't take us seriously. Had they listened to us from the beginning, maybe they could have adjusted some things that would have given this at least a little bit longer life, if not made it a sustainable business model. But they don't do that," Werner said.