Saturday, April 17, 2021

All of your viewing options today to watch the funeral of Britain's Prince Philip on TV and as live streams online as a global audience of millions is expected to tune in.

by Thinus Ferreira

The funeral of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will be broadcast globally today on TV and streamed online to a worldwide audience from St George's Chapel with millions of people who are expected to tune in. Here is how you can watch:

The broadcast of Prince Philip's funeral service will start at 16:01 (South African time) after a national minute's silence starting at 16:00.

Only 30 people, including Queen Elizabeth II, will attend the service in person, along with the duke's four children: Charles, the Prince of Wales; Anne, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York; Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, and their eight grandchildren.

Prince Philip's body that is now at a private chapel at Windsor Castle will be moved to the State Entrance and his coffin will be placed on a modified Land Rover that the duke himself helped to design.

The funeral will be held within the grounds of Windsor Castle and will be proceeded by a ceremonial procession inside the grounds of Windsor Castle that will start at 15:45, led by the band of Grenadier Guards with Charles and members of the royal family and staff from the royal households who will join the procession. 

Prince Philip's body will be carried in the procession across the short distance to St George's Chapel. The funeral service will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, with the Archbishop of Canterbury doing a blessing.

TV news channels will be accessing the feed and have lined up their anchors, royal correspondents and commentators for the funeral.

The BBC's official pre-coverage today will start at 13:30 today on BBC World News (DStv 400 / StarSat 256) with coverage that will run until 17:20 and with the entire broadcast that will also be simulcast on BBC Brit (DStv 120), running on both channels under the theme "The Funeral of HRH Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh".

BBC News' Huw Edwards will anchor the BBC's coverage, with special guests ranging from Sir David Attenborough, Baroness Scotland, Alan Titchmarsh, and Baroness Grey-Thompson, who will weigh in to remember the man behind the crown.

Reporters include JJ Chalmers and Sophie Raworth are in Windsor reporting on the events from key locations around the castle, and will meet people participating in today’s ceremonial events.

Kate Shiers is the programme's executive producer.

CNN International's (DStv 401) pre-coverage today will start at 14:00 today with Christiane Amanpour who will anchor live coverage from Buckingham Palace leading into the funeral of Prince Philip. 

At 15:00 Anderson Cooper will anchor both funeral pre-coverage and the funeral event until 17:30, and he will be joined by Julia Chatterley and Richard Quests in New York, as well as CNN International correspondents in Windsor, London and Edinburgh.

From 19:00 Hala Gorani will take over as CNN International anchor for a 90-minute programme of funeral post-coverage and analysis. CNN will also live stream its funeral coverage on its website.

Fox News (StarSat 261) will also broadcast the funeral starting with pre-coverage at 14:00 with Martha MacCallum anchoring. 

MSNBC (DStv 263) will also broadcast Prince Philip's funeral with Alex Wit and Katy Tur anchoring.

Sky News (DStv 402) will start dedicated funeral pre-coverage today at 13:30 and is using the theme "Prince Philip's Funeral" for its rolling coverage. 

Sky News will broadcast the funeral proceedings in its entirety today, as well as doing funeral post-analysis. Sky News will also live stream its funeral coverage online on its YouTube channel.

Sky News will start pre-coverage on Saturday at 11:00 with Sarah Hawson from Windsor Castle, followed from 13:30 with Dermot Murnaghan anchoring. 

Mark Austin will take over anchoring duties from Windsor Castle at 18:00, with Anna Botting also anchoring from Windsor Castle from 20:00. At 22:00 tonight Anna Botting will reflect on the events of the day live from Windsor Castle.

America's NBC News Now at will live stream the network's coverage to a global audience with Savannah Guthrie anchoring.

America's CBS will also do live coverage of Prince Philip's funeral with Gayle King anchoring today, and it will also stream live to a global audience on its streaming service CBSN on its website.

America's ABC News will also do a live broadcast with David Muir and Deborah Roberts who will be anchoring. ABC News's coverage will be streamed to a global audience as well on its ABC News Live service at its website.

Friday, April 16, 2021

A cerulean K with a drop of gold: A deep dive into the making of kykNET’s brand-new and beautiful 2021 on-air look.

by Thinus Ferreira

kykNET (DStv 144) has glossed up its on-air imaging and unveiled its latest on-air look, with the channel's rebranding that includes a more transparent, cerulean "K" - together with a drop of gold and a glass finish - and with its stars decked out in glamour wear.

Here's the story behind the work of how kykNET's latest on-air imaging came about.

kykNET switched to the new on-air imaging, done with help from the Clearwater advertising agency, on Thursday morning, with a new slogan of "Soveel meer as net TV" (So much more than just TV) - and including a set of new idents and interstitials, genre endboards, parental guidance advisories and a video promo.

"Over the last 21 years, the kykNET brand name has shown that we are always finding new ways to innovate. This new look is refreshing and in tune with the world-class Afrikaans entertainment on the channel," says Karen Meiring, M-Net director for the kykNET channels.

Leo Smith, kykNET marketing manager, says that "With the positioning of kykNET as a premium brand name in Afrikaans, it was important to adjust the graphics to reflect the quality of our content".

"kykNET is one of the biggest brand names in South Africa and we are very proud of the impact that the channel has had on the entertainment industry. kykNET is truly so much more than just TV."

Part of the new campaign and on-air look was a week-long photo session where almost 200 kykNET personalities were photographed by Willem Botha - each with two outfits that included a formal outfit, as well as one that reflects the programme that they are known for.

The shoots took place over four days in Johannesburg at Stark Studios where Binnelanders is filmed, and three days in Cape Town at Atlantic Studios, home of Suidooster, Arendsvlei, Kwêla and Tussen Ons.

It was an enormous production with one producer and production manager, a production assistant, three make-up and hair stylists, two people responsible for the hundreds of items of clothing that were worn in front of the camera.

These photographs were given to one head designer, two assistant designers, and three animators that in turn created hundreds of images.

Hennie van Deventer from Clearwater, the agency responsible for the new campaign, says  that "The new branding has a strong focus on the people of kykNET - the names and personalities that viewers welcome into their homes every day".

One musical director, one lyricist and singer, and a sound engineer provided the fresh new sound and two editors put everything together under the watchful eyes of a creative director, a copywriter and a creative head. The theme tune was written by Loki Rothman and James Bassingthwaighte.

"It was a challenge to write lyrics that can be interpreted in two different ways," says Loki Rothman.

"We aimed to write a song for the channel that can be played on the radio or be played on its own without knowing that it was written for kykNET. I think we achieved the perfect balance."

Covid's impact
kykNET originally started working on the channel's new on-air look about a year ago in 2020 just before the global Covid-19 pandemic hit and cause a worldwide shutdown and caused the project's end date to be pushed to 2021.

"We briefed Clearwater about the project in 2020 but when Covid hit we first had to focus on schedule changes, had to adjust our content plans, and announce and roll out new series," Leo Smith tells TVwithThinus.

"Since we couldn't do photo sessions for months, we had to push out the project completely to 2021, after which we could do it within Covid-safe protocols. Clearwater started working full speed in October 2020 on creative options and by December we made the treatment choices."

"In January we started with planning and now during April we could roll out the latest look," says Leo Smith.

He says kykNET decided on the new on-air imaging since the last imaging was introduced in 2017.

"After 4 years on-air it was time for change. Renewal is always important especially if you want to keep the offering enticing for viewers".

"The new imaging reflects the premium positioning of kykNET," says Leo Smith. "kykNET is a premium Afrikaans brand - and also one of the biggest Afrikaans brands in the country."

"It's important that it signals to viewers that the content that they're looking for will be of extremely high quality. The on-air imaging is your glossy magazine cover. The content is the pages inside. It has to appeal to viewers".

Regarding the sound, Leo Smith says that kykNET was looking for a fresh, new sound that would appeal to a wide audience and the channel thought of an artist that would bridge various audience demos whilst representing the future of Afrikaans music.

"We made contact with Loki Rothman who's done the music for things like the kykNET Film Fiela se Kind. He's a very talented artist and his approach was immediately spot-on. He developed 5 different options of which one turned into our final choice," Leo Smith says.

"This year we decided that we want to use one photographer for the entire series of publicity photos for the channel. Willem Botha's profile has grown so much the past few years - he also photographed Miss Universe and the Miss South Africa contestants - that I just immediately knew that he would capture exactly what we needed."

"He's also a singer and artists and a presenter on kykNET and has the ability to bring out the very best from every subject in front of his lens."

Leo Smith says that the most challenging of the process was "to remain 100% true to the brand's history but also the audience - to give them something fresh and new without alienating them from what they're viewing every day. And then to also know that what we've created now must still look good in 3 or 4 years' time from now".

While kykNET is an Afrikaans channel, market research constantly indicates that a lot and an ever-growing number of people who don't have Afrikaans as their home language, tune to the kykNET channels on DStv to watch the content. What does kykNET attribute this to?

"When kykNET lures viewers from other language groups it's because of a very simple reason: kykNET content transcends language," says Leo Smith.

"The quality of our stories are of such a level that viewers constantly return to kykNET for more - and also, of course, that people want to see South African content. We're producing everything 100% locally."

"It's very important for us to do direct audience engagement with viewers through our involvement and support of the various arts festivals, for instance, community activations in smaller towns, or projects like the Silwerskermfees where we create opportunities for a wider ecosystem of entertainment," he explains. 

A glamour-wand of cerulean blues and gold
Marleux Feyt, executive creative director at Clearwater, jokingly tells TVwithThinus that a bit of "obsessive-compulsive disorder" or OCD always helps when it comes to creating beautiful on-air imaging projects for clients like kykNET.

"In some ways, we are a little OCD when it comes to these things. We've been making mental notes since before we got the ball rolling as an official project," she says.

"We also know that kykNET is a personality in itself and retaining that is important - we don't want someone waking up and switching to channel 144 to find something that feels too different."

"There's a fine line between fresh and 'what is this?', so we retained the navy and cerulean blues of the logo, gave the yellow triangle a metallic upgrade and waved a glamour wand over the lot for a glass and gold finish on the logo. 

About the painstakingly Rumpelstilskin-work that starts from a blank slate, she says that "every part of the process has something magical about it - even the crippling 'blank page' phase at the start".

"The best part is always cracking the first design frame. It really is the branding equivalent of an 'ah-ha' moment. It also fuels the rest of the process."

"That design frame also keeps us on course because for the next few weeks, all your test animations are going to look grey and a little sad until the motion is completed and the colour gets added back in."

About working with kykNET, Marleux says that "It is an absolute dream to work with a team that has such deep respect for art in all its forms and the people who create it".

"Leo is also one of the most creatively literate clients you'll ever meet. It's not often someone can tell you exactly which reflection pass they would like to change in an animation. It really does fuel our team to go above and beyond. 

'Distilled storytelling'
About what Clearwater attempts to create, she says their vision "is always to connect people with content and that often means putting the emotion of a show, movies or entire channel in a neat package - anything from a 90-second spot to a 5-minute logo animation".

"We need to use every tool available to us to create an emotional connection - be it a laugh, some goosebumps or just a moment to breathe - with whatever we produce. I always think of it as distilled storytelling."

"The kykNET imagery is definitely an example of that."

"To give it an undeniably premium and luxurious feel, the logo animation - the one with the gold drop - went through 11 iterations."

"Each scene was created using 40 layers of animation, every reflection, particle glow and light flare was considered and discussed as a team and to get the detail we wanted, we digitally rendered the kykNET logo to be 5m tall."

"It seems a little crazy - and we've been called worse," says Marleux Feyt, "but ultimately we're not expecting anyone to notice a reflecting dust particle or a drumbeat in the music that perfectly coincides with a spotlight switching on - but we hope they feel it".

It turns out 10 April Wasn't Wendy Williams Day in South Africa as small ratings disappoint for American talk show host's biopic and documentary on A+E Networks Africa's Lifetime channel.

by Thinus Ferreira

While A+E Networks Africa tried to turn 10 April 2021 into "Wendy Williams Day" in South Africa on its Lifetime (DStv 131) channel, it didn't work, with this past Saturday that was far from a "Wendy Williams Day" and small viewership of her biopic and documentary on the Lifetime channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service.

Viewership ratings from South Africa's Broadcast Research Council (BRC) indicate that the claimed "Wendy Williams Day" only managed to hook a disappointingly small 49 219 viewers in the country during the 19:20 timeslot on Lifetime on Saturday for the Wendy Williams: The Movie made-for-TV movie.

The ratings increased very slightly to 50 107 viewers for the Wendy Williams: What a Mess! documentary that followed afterwards during the 20:50 timeslot on Lifetime on DStv.

In America the Wendy Williams biopic and documentary performed much better in viewership and audience share when it was shown on pay-TV there - also on a Saturday - in late-2020.

In March Wendy Williams mistakenly claimed in a YouTube video that 10 April is "Wendy Williams Day in South Africa", with South Africans who wondered where she got the wrong information.  

The former female radio shock jock turned TV talk show host Wendy Williams partnered with A+E Networks' Lifetime channel in the United States to tell her life story following the implosion of her marriage to Kevin Hunter.

His infidelity that led to lurid tabloid headlines and almost spelt the end of her The Wendy Williams Show seen on ViacomCBS Networks Africa's BET (DStv 129) channel in Africa.

After 8 months MultiChoice and SuperSport are removing the WWE 'double' channel on 236 from May 2021 with WWE wrestling that will only be on DStv channel 128.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and SuperSport are removing the "doubled-up" SuperSport WWE channel at the end of April, 8 months after the duplicate was created as a mirror-channel to fit into the set of newly-aligned thematic SuperSport channels.

The WWE channel on DStv channel number 128 will remain as a sole channel dedicated to WWE American wrestling with the channel that won't be housed within the 200-channel numbered group of SuperSport branded channels. 

On Friday, Clinton van den Berg, SuperSport spokesperson, told TVwithThinus in response to a media enquiry that "the 2 channels are exactly the same and as such was only splitting audiences and causing confusion. We opted to retain channel 128 as it's the original channel number assigned to WWE".

The SuperSport WWE channel on DStv channel 236 will terminate at the end of April, 8 months after it came into existence in September 2020 when SuperSport restructured and rebranded its sports channels line-up on DStv.

In an on-screen message on the DStv electronic programme guide (EPG), MultiChoice is telling DStv subscribers that the SuperSport WWE channel on channel 236 "will be consolidated from 2 channels (128 and 236) to one (128) on 1 May 2021. Channel 236 will no longer be available from 30 April 2021 and you can continue to catch all your WWE superstars and content on channel 128".

In August 2020 SuperSport said that the replication of the WWE channel on channel 128 to also be on 236, was to bring it into the fold of all of the other sports content as part of the block of SuperSport channels where DStv subscribers expect to find all of it grouped together.

eNCA and eNuus meteorologists are gone with the wind as eMedia switches to weatherboard graphics without presenters and weather personalities exit with heavy hearts: 'Where the sun sets a more beautiful sunrise awaits'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Weather presenters on eNCA (DStv 403) are gone with the wind, with the eMedia Investments TV news channel that has abruptly axed and done away with its entire remaining weather presenting team including Joel Guy and Annette Botha and with eNCA that will now just be using low-level sliding "weatherboard" graphics for forecasting.

The disappearance of eNCA's weather presenters on-screen in English also impacts the daily Afrikaans TV news bulletin eNuus on kykNET (DStv 144) that is supplied to kykNET by eNCA.

eNCA and eNuus viewers were shocked on Thursday when two of the longtime meteorologists, Joel "Guy" Chabata and Annette Botha, suddenly announced that they're out of jobs and that viewers will no longer see them on-screen bring the weather.

The respected, veteran eNCA weatherman Joel "Guy" Chabata posted a photo on social media showing him leaving eMedia's Cape Town office after 12 years with his few desk belongings packed in a carton box.

The former physics teacher brought viewers the weather on and eNCA since 2009. "So this is it. End of the road with eNCA," Joel said. "It was good having your support South Africa while giving you the weather on your tellies for the past decade. Looking forward to new chapters and adventures."

eNuus anchors on air called the announcement "unexpected" after a very sad looking Annette Botha, known for her Afrikaans "onweer of mooiweer" sign-off, told viewers on-screen during Thursday night's TV news bulletin that she is gone after almost 7 years as a meteorologist.

Annette Botha stunned kykNET viewers when she said that it's her final weather forecast after almost 7 years and that she's taking DStv subscribers through some of her most favourite weather images that viewers have sent in over the years.

At the end of her last forecast, a clearly distraught Annette who managed to maintain her composure said in Afrikaans that "Tonight I greet you with a heavy heart. But where the sun sets, a more beautiful sunrise awaits. May it rain where your goats are grazing, and onweer of mooiweer, the Lord remains in control". 

eNCA kept the retrenchment of its weather presenting division quiet with neither Norman Munzhelele, eNCA managing director, or John Bailey, eNCA managing editor, who issued a statement or comment and with eNCA that didn't respond to a media enquiry on Thursday afternoon.

According to insiders, eNCA is toning down its TV standard of personalised weather presentations with viewers who will no longer get their weather forecast from an actual on-screen person from now on.

eNCA made the decision to now only use so-called "weatherboard" graphics going forward, filled by forecast data from the South African Weather Service and removing the human element and interaction with viewers.

According to sources the remaining meteorologists were let go Tuesday and told that it's an operational decision, with Thursday that was their final day.

eNCA already retrenched its weather department at the end of November 2019 using the same operational motivation, dismantling the well-respected division that brought DStv subscribers additional inserts and weather-related context to forecasts was built up by Derek van Dam as the channel's chief meteorologist over several years. 

eNCA however kept a few meteorologists on who have now also had their contracts terminated.

Worldwide, weather presenters on TV and as part of a bulletin continue to serve as an indicator of the stature of a channel or a TV news division's operations.

Viewers like to get their forecast about tomorrow's weather from a person on television, as opposed to the internet and smartphone apps where screen-scrolling for weather details suffice within the frame of a reduced and less interpersonal information-sharing experience.

Besides wind and rain projections, as well as minimum and maximum temperatures, TV meteorologists as a specialised skill, colour their presentations with explanations to viewers of various weather phenomena to help educate and inform them about everything from things like an extratropical cyclone to a polar vortex.

In South Africa as elsewhere in the world, weather presenters - who despite their brief on-air appearances at the end of TV news bulletins are in some cases held in even higher regard than news anchors - are beloved by viewers.

Viewers know their names and tune in especially because they like to hear from a friendly and trusted face about what "tomorrow's weather" might hold.

It remains to be seen whether eNCA's removal of weather presenters might shift some viewers to rivals news channels like SABC News (DStv 404), Newzroom Africa (DStv 405) and other TV news bulletins.

UPDATE Friday 16 April 2021 19:35: The eNCA and eNuus meteorologist Anika de Beer on Friday enveing also said got her chance to say goodbye to viewers, noting that it's "unfortunately my turn to say goodbye" after "I had the chance the past 5 years to life out my passion for the weather".

"Thank you that I could share it with you, and thank you that you opened your living rooms, homes and hearts to me and the rest of our team. It wasn't just my privilege but also my pleasure and that's why I'm so thankful that tonight I can talk to you for the last time about the weather," she said.

"It's with a heavy heart that I'm saying goodbye to you tonight but I'm thankful for the time I was able to be here and I'm excited about what the future holds," Anika de Beer said.

"If there's one thing that the weather has taught me, it's that sometimes storms are unpredictable but then faith and grace showed me that every storm passes. And with that I say, for the last time, 'dit is vir eers die weer en dalk eendag, is daar 'n volgende keer".

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Our Perfect Wedding to return to M-Net's Mzansi Magic channel in July 2021 with Khanyisa Titus returning as the presenter.

by Thinus Ferreira

The reality wedding series Our Perfect Wedding will return to M-Net's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel from July 2021 for a new season, with Khanyisa Titus who will be back as the presenter.

"We are thrilled that when Our Perfect Wedding, which tops the trends list every Sunday it airs, returns in July, viewers will be treated to fresh and exciting content when couples invite viewers into their homes and into their wedding venues to tell their love stories," says Nomsa Philiso, the Director of Local Entertainment Channels at M-Net.

Basetsana Kumalo, Connect TV CEO, says that despite the tough conditions imposed by South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the digital content and TV production company that specialises in reality shows, will bring viewers another buzz-worthy season during the winter of 2021.

"We look forward to sharing new episodes as the film crews will travel the length and breadth of the country to capture extravagant weddings comprising of stylish outfits, great décor, hearty meals and beautiful love stories that are authentic and relatable to most South Africans," says Basetsana Kumalo.

The Bachelor star Colton Underwood reveals he's gay and that hiding caused suicidal thoughts: 'I ran from myself for a long time, hating myself for a long time, and ... I’m gay'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Colton Underwood(29) is gay, the star of season 23 of the American love reality series The Bachelor said on Wednesday in an emotional TV interview on the Good Morning America show on ABC in the United States, revealing that hiding his sexuality led him down a "dark and bad" path and that he suicidal thoughts.

Colton Underwood was famously a virgin when the 26-year old was chosen as the next bachelor for The Bachelor, causing the expected drama when he jumped a fence and fled during one of the episodes of his season.

Colton Underwood on Wednesday told Robin Roberts that "I ran from myself for a long time, hating myself for a long time, and ... I’m gay".

"I came to terms with that earlier this year and I have been processing it. And the next step in all of this was sort of to let people know. I’m still nervous, but it’s been a journey for sure."

Colton Underwood said that "I'm emotional, but I'm emotional in such a good, happy, positive way. I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life and that means the world to me."

In the interview, he said that hiding his sexuality led him down a "dark and bad" path that included suicidal thoughts. He said that he realised that he was "different" at the age of 6 but "couldn't process" it until he was in high school - and that it later in life led him to thoughts of suicide.

"I got into a place for me in my personal life that was dark and bad."

"I can list a bunch of different things but they’d all be excuses. I think overall the reason why now is because I got to a place where I didn't think I was ever going to share this. I would rather have died than say I'm gay, and that was sort of my wake up call."

"There was a moment in L.A. where I woke up, and I didn’t think I was going to wake up."

"I didn’t have the intentions of waking up - but I did. For me, that was my wake-up call of, like, 'This is your life. Take back control.' You know, driving my car close to a cliff, like, 'Oh, if this goes off the cliff, it’s not that big of a deal.' I don't feel that anymore."

Colton Underwood said that "I thought a lot about this: Do I regret being The Bachelor and handling it the way that I did?"

"I do think I could have handled it better, I do say that. I just wish I wouldn't have dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was. I genuinely mean that but I also at the same time I can say I'm sorry to all of those women, I can also thank them, and without The Bachelor franchise, I don't know if this would have ever come out."

In South Africa M-Net (DStv 101) has so far had two seasons of The Bachelor South Africa, followed by a first season of The Bachelorette South Africa, with Qiniso Van Damme as the bachelorette, that is currently broadcast on the channel.

South Africa's set building firm Just Sets shutters after 32 years because of Covid: 'We made real what seemed impossible.'

by Thinus Ferreira

After having created dazzling staging and building sets that seemed impossible, the respected South African set building company Just Sets has finally closed down after more than 30 years because of the devastating impact of the economic shutdown in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just Sets that existed for 32 years and that was started in February 1989 by Colin Fowler and Chris Hicks, had offices in Johannesburg and since 2001 in Cape Town as well, and was known for the design and construction of various sets for South Africa and Southern Africa's events industry.

Over the years Just Sets as one of South Africa's most well-known set construction and staging companies, designed and built numerous sets for the country's TV and film industry as well as the razzle-dazzle world of music and theatre.

Just Sets was responsible for iconic constructions like the FIFA World Cup's final draw event in Cape Town in 2009, and for sets that ranged from everything like the staging for the Miss World pageants at Sun City in 1994 and 1995, to the Face of Africa pageant and even Huisgenoot magazine's Skouspel concerts. 

Just Sets did everything from the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) to many Miss South Africa pageants, kykNET's Silwerskermfees film festival, to TV sets for shows like kykNET's Jou Show met Emo Adams.

In February Just Sets announced to the industry that the business had decided "with a heavy heart" to close down.

Neil Fowler, Just Sets director, told TVwithThinus on Wednesday that Just Sets was a family-run business and that he, his sister and their mother took over ownership after his dad passed away 19 months ago.

"We tried to do our utmost pre-Covid and then as soon as Covid hit we tried to manage the day-to-day operations as best as possible, however we were already affected by the Covid pandemic 2 weeks prior to South Africa going into its hard lockdown in 2020 when the restrictions that were put in place in terms of restrictions on gatherings and numbers of people."

"Within the first two weeks of lockdown we lost close to R2 million in turnover just in Cape Town," says Neil Fowler.

The last nail
"Our business thrives off of gatherings - anything from conferencing to live events to exhibitions, so were greatly affected even before the hard lockdown."

"Then during lockdown, we tried to manage it as best we could with some relief that we had from the government in terms of TERS but that's the only relief that we have had." 

"President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke on 28 December 2020 and we went into an adjusted Level 3 lockdown. By this time we were really on our knees," he says.

"Just Sets had an event running over a period at a shopping centre, and basically on 29 December the client phoned me to come and remove the set elements because it was classed as an event and they were not allowed to hold it. I think that was the last nail in the coffin."

About the decision to bring down the curtain, Neil says that if Just Sets went any longer it could have ended with liquidation "and I'm very proud to say that we didn't go that route and all the staff members who were retrenched got their full severance packages".

"It hasn't been easy but it was a decision that had to be made and that was forced in the sense that we were unable to operate. If we were able to go back to work some months ago we wouldn't be having this conversation".

Not enough support
"I think there's been a massive oversight from South Africa's government in terms of economic support in the sense that we were probably one - if not the first industry to go down because of the lockdown restrictions - alongside South Africa's tourism industry because we piggyback off each other," Neil Fowler explains.

"It affected everybody in the chain, from the hotel, to the conference centres, to the events managing companies, to the technical companies, to the set and staging companies - and even as far down as the hired staff. And there's been very little relief from the government."

"The only thing for our business - I can't speak for any other business within our industry - we've received no relief from government besides TERS. That helped for staff salaries but for the day-to-day operations point of view to keep your doors open ... absolutely zero support".

'We make real what seems impossible'
"From an audience point-of-view, the majority of people don't know what goes on behind-the-scenes or give a thought about the staging," he says about what Just Sets and similar companies have contributed to the industry and the country's economy.

"Clients could come with some really out-of-the-world type of expectations and people like myself and colleagues within the industry are problem-solvers. We work and we create to make real what seems impossible in a meeting, to what is eventually very possible on stage."

"Just Sets has been well-respected within the industry for delivering. We tried to stay true to what we did. We didn't branch out into technical equipment. We wanted to be solely known for constructing sets."

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Netflix renews Shonda Rhimes period drama Bridgerton for a 3rd and 4th season as production of the second season is underway.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix has renewed Shonda Rhimes' Regency-era London-set period drama Bridgerton for two further season - a third and a fourth - shortly after it announced the renewal for a second season in January.

Production on the second season of Bridgerton is currently underway, with the new season that will focus on Lord Anthony Bridgerton's search for true love, with actor Rege-Jean Page who has now exited the series and his character of the Duke of Hastings.

Bridgerton is based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling series of novels and takes place within the Regency-era world of London's so-called upper-crust "ton".

It's here where a group of siblings try to navigate the social interaction rules obsessed community of 19th century London as they try to find love and romance.

"From the first time I read Julia Quinn’s delicious Bridgerton series, I knew these were stories that would captivate a viewing audience," says Shonda Rhimes in a statement.

"But the evolution of this adaptation would not be a success without the many significant contributions of the entire Shondaland team."

"This two-season pickup is a strong vote of confidence in our work and I feel incredibly grateful to have partners as collaborative and creative as Netflix. Betsy and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to continue bringing the world of Bridgerton to a worldwide audience."

Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s vice president of global TV, says in the statement that "Bridgerton swept us off our feet".

"The creative team, led by Shonda, knew the material and delivered a beautiful, emotional, romantic drama for our members."

"They have some exciting plans for the future, and we think audiences will continue to swoon for this show. We're planning to be in the Bridgerton business for a long time to come."

South Africa's 2020 total box office revenues plunged R1.2 billion to just R214 million compared to 2019 - the lowest in a decade - due to the Covid-19 shutdown.

by Thinus Ferreira

In 2020 South Africa's total box office revenue plunged by a massive R1.2 billion to a measly R214 million compared to 2019 - the lowest in over a decade - according to a shocking new industry report laying bare the devastation that the economic shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has wrought on cinemas as part of the country's struggling TV and film industry.

The report's research is further evidence as to why cinema chains like Cine Centre, Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor are struggling and have shed jobs and why Ster-Kinekor entered voluntary business rescue at the beginning of 2021, while the number of remaining independent cinemas in the country struggling to keep head above water.

According to the just-released South African box office 2020 report by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), South Africa in 2020 released just 96 films at the box office, 6 of which were locally produced films.

These 6 films earned a total of R7,6 million in box office revenues and had a market share of just 3.5%.

The highest-grossing films in South Africa during 2020 were Bad Boys for Life (grossing over R51,5 million), The Croods: A New Age (R12,5 million) and Dolittle (R10,6 million). 

Action, comedy and crime were the highest-earning genres, followed by animation, and then action/adventure films.

Due to South Africa's national lockdown that was announced on 23 March 2020, all cinemas had to close between 26 March to 27 August 2020, meaning that the data used to compile the shocking report stretches from January to March 2020, and then again from August to December 2020.

"The year started strongly, with January 2020 recording R86,9 million compared to R32,2 million in 2019," the NFVF report notes.

"In February and March 2020, figures began to decline as the news about the pandemic was spreading.
For the entirety of April to June 2020, there were no figures recorded as cinemas were closed at that time."

"Again, there were zero revenues in July 2020 as all cinemas remained closed. Cinemas started operating towards the end of August, enabling cinemas to re-open if they implemented new health and safety guidelines, including reduced seating capacity in most cinemas to comply with social distancing measures."

"Between October to December 2020, cinemas were able to operate. However, that did not result in more revenues as the restrictions only permitted a limited number of people at cinemas."

A total of 96 films were released in South Africa in 2020 - a massive drop from the 190 titles released in 2019. The total gross box office for 2020 amounted to R214 million, a shocking decline from R1.225 billion generated in 2019.

Out of the 6 local films, Afrikaans films did best. Vergeet My Nie (Afrikaans/English) with a cinema-run of 6 weeks (53 screens) made the most money in first place and earned a cumulative R3.71 million at the South African box office.

In the overall top 20 highest-grossing films in South Africa for the year, Vergeet My Nie also ranks 16th - the only local film to make the top 20.

In the local films group, Vergeet My Nie was followed by Toorbos (Afrikaans) in second place with a run of 9 weeks (34 screens) earning R1.48 million.

Poppie Nongena (Afrikaans/English) was third with a 4-week cinema run (42 screens) earning a cumulative R1.71 million from cinema-goers, followed by Bhai's Cafe (English) in 4th place that was available for 6 weeks (27 screens), earning R617 920.

Knuckle City (isiXhosa) in 5th place had a 4-week run (45 screens) and earned R558 936. In 6th place was Flatland (Afrikaans/English) that ran for 2 weeks on 19 screens and earned R26 835.

In 2020 many films planned for release were rescheduled for 2021, while others were released on subscription video-on-demand platforms like MultiChoice's DStv BoxOffice, for instance Moffie, Griekwastad, Seriously Single, Toorbos, Riding with Sugar, The Tree and New Material.