Thursday, February 29, 2024

MultiChoice hikes DStv decoder prices by up to over 17%.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice has quietly hiked DStv decoder prices by up to 17% far above the inflation rate.

From earlier this month the price of a standalone DStv HD decoder jumped 14.3% from R699 to R799, while MultiChoice increased the recommended retail price (RRP) of an installed HD decoder by 11.1% from R899 to R999.

MultiChoice hiked the price of a standalone DStv Explora PVR decoder a whopping 17.6% from R1699 to R1999 from February, while the Randburg-based pay-TV operator increased the standalone price of its top-of-the-range DStv Explora Ultra PVR decoder by 11.1% from R2699 to R2999. 

South Africa's inflation rate hovers around 6% according to Statistics South Africa, which means MultiChoice hiked DStv decoder prices by far more than double the inflation rate.

TVwithThinus asked MultiChoice why these DStv decoder price increases up to 17% is suddenly so high and far above inflation. The company didn't respond to the media query and had no comment.

MultiChoice is set to release its latest DStv decoder - the DStv Glass modelled after Sky's Sky Glass - towards the end of its current 2023/2024 financial year, which means it could be ready to ship to be under South African Christmas trees at the end of December 2023.

DStv Glass is basically a flatscreen TV set with the DStv decoder built-in, with MultiChoice that entered into a partnership with Comcast and the United Kingdom's Sky to bring a version of the Sky Glass to South Africa as DStv Glass.

It will further tighten and complement the content ecosystem and commercial partnership between MultiChoice and Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Sky that are collaborating on MultiChoice’s retooled and relaunched Showmax 2.0 video streaming service.

DStv Glass will mean that DStv subscribers no longer buy a decoder from MultiChoice but a TV set - which will raise questions about DStv subscribers' need for a valid SABC TV licence - with MultiChoice that bundles and curates all of the available content for the TV viewer on one screen, pulled from various different sources like linear TV channels and streaming services.

Similar to existing decoders, contract DStv subscribers will be able to buy a DStv Glass - which comes in various different sizes and colour schemes - and pay it off over time as part of the monthly subscription fee payments.

Earlier this month MultiChoice announced its annual DStv monthly subscription fee increase which will kick in from April 2024.

DStv Premium is increasing from April 2024 by 5.7% from R879 to R929, with a 6.9% increase for DStv Compact Plus increasing from R579 to R619.

DStv Compact is increasing 4.5% from R449 to R469, DStv Family is increasing 3.1% from R319 to R329, while DStv Access is increasing 7.8% from R129 to R139. DStv EasyView is remaining the same at R29. 

MultiChoice is increasing the DStv Access fee by 4.3% from R115 to R120 monthly.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

More TV channels on MultiChoice's DStv axed including People’s Weather.

by Thinus Ferreira

As the traditional pay-TV bundle continues to fray at the seams DStv subscribers have lost access to even more TV channels although another price increase will kick in from April, with B4U Movies gone, as well as community TV channels 1Free State TV and NWTV that went dark after just a few months, and with People's Weather getting axed within days.

B4U Movies, the Indian movie channel based in Mumbai with a channel line-up mix of classic and contemporary Bollywood films formed part of MultiChoice's DStv Indian package but suddenly stopped broadcasting at the end of January. 

About B4U Movies, MultiChoice told me it "regularly reviews its channel lineup to ensure we offer customers the best in local and international content" and that B4U "will no longer form part of our content lineup on GOtv channel 57/157/357 and DStv channel 451 effective 1 March 2024".

After MultiChoice's fanfare announcement that 1Free State TV (DStv 264) from mid-November, and NWTV (DStv 266) from December 2023 were added for DStv subscribers, both these community TV channels abruptly failed and stopped transmitting after just two months.

At launch, MultiChoice said that 1Free State TV as an "exciting addition to the DStv line-up is set to captivate the audience with entertainment, with its different range of programming delivered in Sesotho and English" and that the pay-TV service was "dedicated to showcasing the richness and diversity of Free State, with a focus on local culture, innovation, and community engagement". 

At launch, MultiChoice said that it "happily welcomes NWTV on our platform as it speaks to our continued effort to strengthen the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of our country" and that the partnership "allows us to enrich lives of the communities we operate in through job creation and skills development".

MultiChoce and NWTV promised "a diverse range of family-friendly programming" over the coming months which failed to materialise.

Two months later both channels are nowhere to be seen on DStv.

Following 1Free State TV removal from DStv, Thobeka Basholo, 1Free State TV spokesperson, told me "The termination of the channel was primarily due to contractual challenges, which both parties are actively addressing to reach a favourable resolution".

"1Free State TV is currently in negotiations with MultiChoice to resume broadcast on the DStv platform."

MultiChoice says on 31 January it removed NWTV and 1Free State.

"We remain committed to bringing our customers the best of local and international content through our various DStv channels and will continue to provide our customers with exciting content available on a range of packages."

After several years MultiChoice is also doing away with the People's Weather (DStv 180) channel, with the channel going dark at the end of this month. People's Weather remains available on eMedia's Openview satellite service on channel 115.

About People's Weather, MultiChoice says it "regularly reviews its channel line-up to ensure we offer customers the best in local and international content. This is done to ensure we deliver unbeatable content to our customers and that our DStv services cater for the needs and viewing requirements of our customers".

"As part of this ongoing process, People's Weather on DStv channel 180 will no longer be available on DStv packages, effective 1 March 2024."

So far six TV channels will be gone from DStv in just the two months since the beginning of 2024, with Deutsche Welle which stopped airing on 30 December and MultiChoice that decided to cancel the controversial Emmanuel TV of the late Nigerian televangelist T.B. Joshua by 17 January.

Justine Drake is also back as MasterChef SA judge for the 5th season on SABC3.

by Thinus Ferreira

Justine Drake is also returning as a judge for the new 5th season of MasterChef South Africa on SABC3.

Justine Drake who was a judge on the 4th season of MasterChef SA and the editor of Pick n Pay's Fresh Living magazine, joins the already-announced Zola Nene who was also a judge in 2022.

Homebrew Films is responsible for production and is testing a string of tricky challenges the chosen homecook contestants will have to prepare in limited time using ingredients from the Pick n Pay pantry with the retailer which is also back in the latest season of the Banijay format cooking competition show secured for SABC3 by Primedia Studios.

South African contestants have until the end of the day on 15 March to enter with the season that will be shown on SABC3 from mid-June.

"The aim of the show is to allow home cooks to achieve their MasterChef status," says Justine. "However it doesn't arrive on a silver platter. The participants are put to the test in gruelling challenges, and to reach the top of the culinary ladder, they have to be disciplined and willing to learn."

She really wants people who think they can do it, to enter at . "If you have a culinary vision and are ready to work hard to achieve your culinary dream, the world is your oyster with this show."

Andrew Mills, Pick n Pay chief marketing officer, says "The role of MasterChef judge fits Justine, an esteemed foodie, like a stylish kitchen glove".

"For many years, she has helped our customers serve up delicious dishes through the Fresh Living publication and, as a judge in 2022, demonstrated an authentic connection with people from diverse backgrounds and different food cultures. She is also a hard taskmaster who always strives for excellence."

Monday, February 26, 2024

MultiChoice and Paramount to make its Paramount+ streamer available as a 'destination area' in South Africa on Showmax.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice in an agreement with Paramount Global is finally bringing its Paramount+ video streaming to South Africa but not as a streaming app and instead a "branded destination" as part of a licensing deal.

Paramount has been late to South Africa's video streaming party where MultiChoice just relaunched its own Showmax streaming service which is competing with the likes of Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, as well as services like SABC+, eVOD, BritBox and VIU.

Paramount+ content like the science fiction drama series Halo has so far resided on Showmax since Paramount+ didn't exist in the territory.

According to MultiChoice, Paramount+ is essentially a tile on the carousel within Showmax. To get to Paramount+, Showmax subscribers will have to open Showmax, scroll all the way to the bottom where there is a row of content offered by studio, for instance Warner Bros Discovery, NBCUniversal and others. Paramount+ will now have a space here.

Paramount says the Paramount+ "branded destination" is part of its strategy to expand Paramount+ in "more ways around the world, including making it available as a direct-to-consumer streaming service, through bundled partnerships in key markets as well as through branded destinations in local markets through licensing deals".

South Africa is now getting Paramount+ as a "branded area" as part of a licensing deal, with Paramount calling this branded destination "the debut of the Paramount+ brand in pan-Africa".

Paramount says DStv subscribers will "have access to world-class content from CBS, Paramount+ Originals, Showtime, Paramount Pictures, and they will find iconic films and hit television series such as Yellowstone, 1883, 1923, Poker Face, Special Ops: Lioness, Lawmen: Bass Reeves and upcoming new series Landman as well as returning series like Survivor".

Lisa Kramer, president for international content licensing at Paramount Global content distribution, in a statement says "The expansion of our long-standing relationship with MultiChoice from a traditional licensing deal to a fully dedicated, Paramount+ branded destination on the platform is a testament to the tremendous effort of Paramount Global to continue to build the offering from multiple content pillars".

"Consumers in the growing African market already equate Paramount with quality entertainment and we're thrilled to now offer them a devoted space in which they can both access their favourite programming and discover new hit titles."

Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice SA CEO for general entertainment, says "MultiChoice is excited to expand our partnership with Paramount Global to bring the Paramount+ brand to African audiences through our platform".

"This agreement reflects our commitment to providing our viewers with world-class entertainment options and expands our offering with iconic content. We are proud to offer African viewers direct access to a dedicated space where they can enjoy their favourite programming and discover new hit titles, further enriching their entertainment experience."

Harry Potter series to debut in 2026.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Harry Potter TV series that will run for a decade just like Friends will likely start two years from now in 2026, Warner Bros. Discovery says.

WBD is creating the Harry Potter drama series for its Max streamer which isn't available in South Africa but promised last year that the show will be made available globally.

It means the show - like for instance Paramount Global's Halo made for Paramount+ which isn't in South Africa but was acquired for Showmax or Netflix's Orange is the New Black and House of Cards which went to M-Net before Netflix was locally available - will have to find another platform.  

It's still unclear whether M-Net (DStv 101) or MultiChoice's revamped streamer Showmax might be able to snag the as-yet-untitled series but like Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon which was also from the WBD and HBO stable and went to M-Net, the show would be a big coup for whoever brings it to viewers in sub-Saharan Africa.

MultiChoice has existing deals with WBD and HBO in place for M-Net and Showmax making these the most likely outlet for the Hogwarts-set series.

In the company's 4th quarter earnings call on Friday, David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, said that "We've not been shy about our excitement around Harry Potter".

"The last film was made more than a dozen years ago. I was in London a few weeks ago with Casey Bloys (HBO boss) and Channing Dungrey (WBD TV boss), and we spent some real time with J.K. Rowling and her team. Both sides are thrilled to be reigniting this franchise."

"Our conversations were great and we couldn't be more excited about what's ahead. We can't wait to share a decade of new stories with fans around the world on Max. We're aiming for a debut in 2026."

WBD announced the Harry Potter TV series last year and promised that it would be a "faithful adaptation" of each of Rowling's seven Harry Potter books, stretching over a decade.

In a press release WBD said "Each season will be authentic to the original books and bring Harry Potter and these incredible adventures to new audiences around the world, while the original, classic and beloved films will remain at the core of the franchise and available to watch globally".

"We are delighted to give audiences the opportunity to discover Hogwarts in a whole new way."

"Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon and it is clear there is such an enduring love and thirst for the Wizarding World. In partnership with Warner Bros. Television and J.K. Rowling, this new Max Original series will dive deep into each of the iconic books that fans have continued to enjoy for all of these years."

Friday, February 23, 2024

SABC holds showcase event about drastic content changes across its TV channels.

by Thinus Ferreira

On Thursday evening the South African public broadcaster held what it called an "exclusive showcase" for its SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 TV channels that it neither bothered telling the media about beforehand, nor shared any of the information or speeches afterwards.

In attendance in Johannesburg was Nomsa Chabeli, the new SABC CEO who spoke to stakeholders like advertisers. The SABC didn't share her speech.

Nomsa Chabeli has markedly not spoken to the media or done any interviews since she started at the beginning of this month at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters, although interview requests were made weeks ago.

Like on Thursday evening, Nomsa Chabeli is speaking publicly - just not with the media.

Also in attendance on Thursday evening was Lala Tuku, the SABC head of local content.

Lala Tuku is now also acting head of video entertainment at the SABC since Merlin Naicker has been suspended over allegations of impropriety over the contract and an allegedly secret profit-sharing clause in it with Discovery Digital running the broadcaster's SABC+ video streaming service.

The SABC didn't share her presentation or anything of what Lala Tuku said at Thursday evening's event with the media either.

The SABC is set to implement a range of drastic programming changes on all three its TV channels from March, including moving Skeem Saam to a later timeslot on SABC1, moving Deal or No Deal SA from SABC1 to SABC2, cancelling Fokus on SABC2, moving the Afrikaans TV news to SABC3 in a much later timeslot, and removing Afrikaans content from SABC2 and placing it on SABC3. 

Amazon Prime Video drops South African PR firm as part of cutbacks.

by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon Prime Video has also ended its contract with its South African PR firm Ten x Collective which will no longer do any publicity work for Amazon MGM Studios' content after this month.

The end of the contract with Ten x Collective is part of Amazon turning off its money tap for the creation of local African content that included the abrupt axing of all further African original productions in South Africa and Nigeria, the retrenchment of its content teams and executives in both countries and cancelling development deals with producers.

The conclusion of its contract with a local PR firm raises fears that Amazon MGM Studios and Amazon Prime Video will no longer bother to have a local PR presence in South Africa to promote any of its content through the press.

It would unbundle all the work in media relationship building that Amazon has done over the past two years to get coverage and exposure for what was its growing slate of African Originals and global series.

Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK, didn't respond to a media query about the streamer dropping Ten x Collective and media concerns about it.

Last month Amazon Prime Video abruptly retrenched multiple content executives and staff it lured to join its video streaming service in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and in Nigeria, based in London, after it rapidly ramped up plans over the past two years to create, produce and roll-out localised African Prime Video Originals.

Upset producers in South Africa and Nigeria said Amazon lured them with production promises that turned out to be fake, and that they feel duped over "promises were made and not kept".

Amazon Prime Video has drastically reigned in its content spend in Africa and on African original content as part of the streamer's global realignment that is also having a negative impact on what was its content budget for Africa.

The media launch event for LOL: Laugh Out Loud South Africa earlier this month for Amazon's streamer held at The Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg is also its last, as well as the last for the PR company on behalf of Amazon.

LOL: Laugh Out Loud South Africa with host Trevor Noah, produced by Rapid Blue, was Amazon's first South African unscripted series but has the distinction of now also its last South African unscripted original. 

One of the attendees at the media event said "there were a lot of sad and emotional people" with "an undercurrent of depression" since a lot of people talked about Amazon shutting down local content production.

Lisa Pellatt, founder and director of Ten x Collective confirmed that Amazon had ended its PR contract.

"TxC is contracted to work with Prime Video until the end of February 2024, there has been no abrupt ending – everything has followed procedure. We unfortunately can’t comment on how other people felt at the event – we only received positive feedback about a wonderful evening and fun had by all."

During its expansion into South Africa, Amazon Prime Video made use of Gillian Gamsey International Communications (GGIC) in 2022 and then switched to Ten x Collective a year ago in February 2023.

MultiChoice and M-Net's Mzansi Magic bringing rainmaker legend Queen Modjadji to life in new Rhythm World Productions drama series.

by Thinus Ferreira 

After its first epic historical series Shaka Ilembe, MultiChoice and M-Net is following it up with Queen Modjadji for Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) in a drama inspired by the Balobedu legend of rainmaker Queen Modjadji whose bloodline has ruled Southern Africa's Lobedu clan for centuries.

Produced by Rhythm World Productions and Duma Ndlovu, Queen Modjadji will tell the "story of a matriarchal dynasty, whose ability to transform the clouds and summon the rain has earned the Balobedu royalty a place among the most revered of African dynasties," Mzansi Magic says. 

 Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, says "Bringing Queen Modjadji to our audiences meets their desire for television entertainment drawn from our heritage and it also flows seamlessly into our plans to create a catalogue of drama series made in African languages". 

 "Queen Modjaji comes hot off the trail of Shaka Ilembe which was a global phenomenon and very much an expression of the MultiChoice strategy to drive home-grown, authentic African storytelling," she says. 

According to MultiChoice production on Queen Modjadji is "already well underway and the team behind the title has been researching and consulting with key stakeholders, tribal leaders and academic experts".

Scripting and casting for Queen Modjadji is nearing completion and principal photography will be starting soon.

Duma Ndlovu says "The earth, the elements, and the energy of humans connect in ways that are both physical and spiritual, both obvious and unseen. Queen Modjadji was a living embodiment of this, and so we will explore what this royal title, and the women who've held it, have lived, sacrificed, lost, and achieved".

"At the same time, we want to be very entertaining – with a strong episodic storyline and historical detail set under unpredictable skies, where rain or storm, echoes what is happening in the lives of those below."

Mzansi Magic adds 13-episode netball teen drama Obstruction from Origin Pictures.

by Thinus Ferreira

Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) has commissioned a new 13-episode teen drama series, Obstruction, produced by Origin Pictures, that will start on Monday 18 March at 20:00 and revolve around a high school netball player and the challenges she faces to attain her goals.

Obstruction stars Luyanda Zuma as the 17-year-old Zenokuhle, with dreams of making it to the Gauteng provincial netball team. 

She has to contend with various challenges faced by "an extremely talented black female teenager and how she and her peers navigate relationships with their parents, teachers, love interests, enemies, and frenemies".

Obstruction also stars Bukamina Cebekhulu as Zenokuhle's mother Thandiwe who doesn't understand her daughter's dreams and uproots her by placing her in a new school, as well as Menzi Biyela playing her alcoholic father Mandla. 

The rest of the Obstruction cast includes Lerato Mokoka as "frenemy" Ora, Nhlanhla Kunene and Thembsie Matu.

"This is a story of a lot of young people in our society nowadays – faced with the pressure to succeed, to be liked by peers, to have an emotionally stable family life, and also nail it in the relationship department," says Shirley Adonisi, M-Net's director for local entertainment channels.