Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Idols, The Voice SA, SA's Got Talent and Strictly revived for SA's free-to-air viewers, Masked Singer SA renewed for 2 more seasons.

by Thinus Ferreira

Strictly Come Dancing SA and SA's Got Talent are being revived for new free-to-air audiences, with The Masked Singer SA renewed for a further two seasons, Deal or No Deal SA getting a second season, while both The Voice SA and the long-running Idols that ran out of steam on pay-TV is getting free-to-air oxygen.

Like it did last September for the first time, Primedia on Monday held another of its so-called "PrimeX" events where it touted some format reality shows that its expanding Primedia Studios is planning to bring to South African television.

As part of its growing entertainment content slate of reality competition and shiny floor shows, Primedia Studios has renewed The Masked Singer SA on SABC3 for another two seasons, renewed Deal or No Deal SA for a second season, is reviving SA's Got Talent that was on, is reviving The Voice SA that was on M-Net for a free-to-air audience, and is also taking over Idols that was cancelled as a pay-TV show and bringing it to free-to-air viewers.

Similar to The Masked Singer SA and the revived Deal or No Deal SA that Primedia brought to SABC1 and SABC3 over the past year and announced in September last year, Primedia now plans to bring back and revilatise Strictly Come Dancing SA, SA's Got Talent, The Voice SA and also Idols that stalled on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and is in its final season on pay-TV.

Primedia only told some media about its PrimeX event held at Montecasino in Johannesburg with Primedia CEO Jonathan Procter and issued no press release on Monday after the event. 

According to insiders, while several shows were touted on stage, some of the contracts are not yet in place.

As part of the second PrimeX presentation, Anele Mdoda who produced The Masked Singer SA under her Rose and Oaks Media production banner, also did an interview on-stage with comedian Trevor Noah, while Deal or No Deal SA host Katlego Maboe also made an on-stage appearance.

Production company Rapid Blue did eight seasons of Strictly Come Dancing that aired on SABC2 and later SABC3 until 2015. In 2018 the format was revived and taken over by M-Net with Rapid Blue producing a single season for M-Net but rebranding it under the show's American moniker of Dancing with the Stars SA.

Now the show will return to free-to-air - very likely SABC3 - and again as Strictly Come Dancing as the British version is also known as.

After 18 seasons on M-Net, then on M-Net and Mzansi Magic jointly and then on Mzansi Magic, Idols will also move from pay-TV where the show got cancelled, to free-to-air - very likely SABC1 in order to give it the biggest potential new talent pool and TV audience. 

With massively declining audience ratings, on pay-TV, Idols that has run out of viewership steam, has barely reached 403 818 DStv subscribers who tuned in during August. 

In earlier seasons before a dramatic viewership decline set in that co-incided with judge Somizi Mhlongo who was engulfed in scandals, Idols brought close to and over a million viewers on Sunday evenings to DStv.

SA's Got Talent, also produced by Rapid Blue, saw eight very successful seasons  between 2009 and 2017 - the first two of which were on SABC2 after moving to from the third season onwards. It's likely that SA's Got Talent could now re-emerge on SABC2.

The Voice SA will also jump to cater to a new free-to-air audience after M-Net had the reality talent competition for three seasons between 2016 and 2019 and where Anele Mdoda served as host for the third and last season.

M-Net announces yet another rhino poaching South African drama series, Endangered - sends press release to South African media last.

by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net on Tuesday announced that it's doing yet another South African crime drama series and yet another South African rhino poaching drama series but South Africa's film and TV industry and the wider public had to read that in American media, with M-Net's media liaison PR division that sent the press release of the general announcement about a South African show to South African media last.

South African media covering television had to read in Variety, an American publication, that M-Net is doing another crime drama series, Endangered, based on the South African crime writer Rudie van Rensburg's novel, Piranha.

Variety touted the information from the general press release that was given to it, as "exclusive".

M-Net and MultiChoice will produce Endangered - yet another rhino drama like its Trackers - together with Strong Studios, Convergent Media and ForLan Films.

From just a very quick check-in with various journalists and publications on Tuesday, many said they don't feel like reporting about Endangered or using M-Net's general press release.

Several noted immediately that they felt M-Net is disrespecting them and that M-Net shows through its actions that it doesn't value media relationships or want to build and properly maintain South African media relationships with journalists, editors and publications.

"We all have the internet. We have internet in Africa. We see what's happening," one person said.

I also asked M-Net why it only sent out the press release - a general show announcement - only after the press release had already been given to and published by Variety

Nadine Moonsamy, M-Net publicist, confirmed that the press release was given to Variety as an exclusive. M-Net then sent the general press release to South African journalists after it was already published.

Nadine Moonsamy says M-Net was "only able to go live at 15:30". It's not clear why M-Net has apparently relegated South African media to second-tier status when general press releases about new South African shows are published in overseas media first. 

Like Trackers which M-Net has already done, Endangered will also "explore controversial rhino poaching, the crime syndicates that control it and police and conservationists trying to stop it". 

Endangered will be filmed in 2024.

Jake Riddell is the screenwriter of Endangered tracking veteran detective Kassie Kasselman, who aggressively pursues rhino poachers from the Cape ganglands to the Kruger national park and Pretoria, trying to stop a syndicate of criminal gangs and poachers.

Endangered is produced by ForLan Films' Steve Lanning and Jake Lanning, Advantage Entertainment's Vlokkie Gordon, Strong Global Entertainment's Kyle Cerminara, Strong Studios' David Ozer and Scott Weinstock; Convergent Media's Dan Reardon and Santosh Govindaraju, as well as M-Net's Nicola van Niekerk, and Wikus du Toit.

Georginah Machiridza, MultiChoice's head of general entertainment, in a supplied quote in the general press statement, says "Endangered represents a unique opportunity for MultiChoice to support a project that not only promises gripping storytelling but also addresses a pressing global concern. It's a testament to the power of storytelling to make a positive impact, and we're excited to share it with our audience."

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Vodacom's new Enhance allows adding of game consoles and streamers to unified bill.

by Thinus Ferreira

Vodacom has launched "Enhance" for subscribers as a means to add things like gaming consoles, video streaming services and even phones and TV sets to their contracts in a unified monthly bill, whether it's for a subscriber or family members or friends.

According to Vodacom, Enhance allows contract customers to consolidate their bills by adding "as many products and services as possible" onto one unified bill. It's available to Vodacom customers and their families and friends, allowing them to pay it off over 24 or 36-month terms.

Vodacom says it is fast morphing from a pure telecommunications to a technology services company and is allowing customers to customise their contracts according to their lifestyle needs, especially in a world connected to the internet.

"As we transition from a telco to a technology player, we are bringing technological solutions that empower customers with a seamless and effortless experience, allowing them to focus on what truly matters in their lives," says Rishaad Tayob, Vodacom South Africa's consumer director.

"We are cognisant of the fact that in today's fast-paced world, consumers seek seamless solutions that make managing their daily lives easy. We believe that convenience is the ultimate sophistication.  In response, we have carefully designed Enhance to respond to the constant evolving lifestyle needs and behaviours of our customers."

Vodacom customers can add video streaming services like Netflix, MultiChoice's Showmax, Amazon Prime Video and Apple Music through the add-to-bill capability, can add Plug & Play Wifi and add UPS back-up offers to stay online during Eskom's loadshedding.

With Enhance it's also possible to add Sony PlayStations or a Microsoft Xbox for gamers, while fitness enthusiasts can add smart wearables to track and monitor their sports performance and health.

Warner Bros. Discovery's TNT ripped from StarTimes Media's StarSat without warning or any explanation.

by Thinus Ferreira

Warner Bros. Discovery's TNT channel has been ripped from subscribers of StarTimes Media's StarSat satellite pay-TV service without any prior warning, in the middle of a month, without any explanation.

TNT - one of the Warner Bros. Discovery TV channels available in South Africa to pay-TV subscribers of MultiChoice's DStv and StarTimes Media SA's StarSat - was abruptly taken down on StarSat last week on Thursday without any prior warning to subscribers who had already paid for it for the month, and without any explanation from Warner Bros. Discovery Africa, or StarSat.

Warner Bros. Discovery EMEA, through the BCW PR company representing WBD in Africa, was asked repeatedly since last week why its TNT channel was removed from StarTimes and StarSat in South Africa, but hasn't responded with any answer or explanation at the time of publication of this report on Tuesday morning.

StarSat was also asked why WBD's TNT channel went dark and why StarSat subscribers who had paid for the channel for September, got no warning that the channel was going to be removed. 

StarSat publicist Luyanda Cele didn't answer any of the questions but sent an image which StarSat posted to its Facebook social media page and said "please see the attached for your referral".

The image simply says "Unfortunately due to a sudden change in broadcasting rights, TNT is now exclusive to a competitor. StarSat may no longer broadcast the TNT channel to its viewers."

"StarSat would like to apologise to its customers for the inconvenience and regrets to inform them that the situation is beyond our control. StarSat is assessing options to replace the channel as soon as possible."

StarSat failed to respond to the question as to why paying StarSat subscribers were not given any prior warning or notification, since, if the reason is true, StarSat itself would have received prior notification from Warner Bros. Discovery that TNT was getting removed.

Pay-TV channels are hardly ever scrapped mid-month with channel distributors and pay-TV operators removing axed TV channels at the end of the month. 

Warner Bros. Discovery's silence and inability to answer a basic question about something that its executives looking after Africa knew was going to happen is also disgusting and shows a completely lack of respect and disdain to paying pay-TV customers. 

It would also be extremely weird if TNT did become an "exclusive" TV channel to MultiChoice's DStv platform since TNT isn't a premium category TV channel - it's an average general entertainment and movie channel with a lot of non-premium and repeat content and those types of TV channels on pay-TV line-ups are hardly ever exclusive.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Showmax adds Boetie Boer as 5-episode true-crime doc series from October about Port Elizabeth's notorious 1990s serial killer.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice's video streaming service Showmax continues to load up on true-crime documentary South African content and commissioned Boetie Boer: Inside the Mind of a Monster about a Gqeberha serial killer. 

The 5-episode documentary series is from Stage 5 Films and Fifth Floor Films, follows after true-crime documentaries like Devilsdorp and Rosemary's Hitlist.

Showmax once again gave the general show announcement press release about the series to the American outlet Deadline as an "exclusive" press release, before it will send the same general information to "announce" it to South African media in the coming week.

Boetie Boer: Inside the Mind of a Monster which will debut on 18 October, tells the story of the South African serial killer Stewart Wilken who murdered young children and prostitutes in the Port Elizabeth area during the 1990s and who was arrested in 1997.

Allan Sperling, Showmax head of content, says "Even if you are over 18 and a fan of true-crime documentaries, we strongly advise viewer discretion. This is not for sensitive viewers, especially hearing the description of the crimes in the killer's own words".

Monday, September 11, 2023

SOS Coalition: SABC's axing of multicultural 7de Laan damaging to democracy.

by Thinus Ferreira

The SOS Coalition says the South African public broadcaster's axing of the multicultural soap 7de Laan on SABC2 is bad for democracy and that the SABC's inability to pay local productions is a very big problem.

The SABC that is deep in the red financially and made another annual loss of R1.1 billion for the 2022/2023 financial year is struggling and juggling the payment of all its biggest shows, known as the "Big Five" - Uzalo, Generations, Skeem Saam, Muvhango and 7de Laan - with 7de Laan that got axed in July after the broadcaster can no longer afford to keep it on the air.

Last week Monday, Danie Odendaal Productions abruptly shut down filming of the show at Sasani Studios on the outstanding 45 episodes still to be delivered to the SABC over the broadcaster's failure to pay the producers which are owed millions of rand.

After the SABC found some more money to pay the show on Wednesday, production resumed on Thursday last week for the show that lost three whole production days in the time left on the contract until 24 October to film the remaining episodes. 

The final 7de Laan episode will be broadcast on SABC2 on 26 December but if the production loses more days before 24 October the show will have to end sooner due to fewer episodes.

"As the SOS Coalition we are deeply concerned that the financial crisis at the SABC is unfortunately affecting the production of local content," says Uyanda Siyotula, SOS Coalition coordinator.

"The grim state of the public broadcaster's finances has been made apparent by reports of the immediate shutdown of production on one of South Africa's longest-running television programmes, 7de Laan."

"Even though it has been reported that following partial payment by the SABC, Danie Odendaal Productions will resume production of 7de Laan until the final season is concluded in December as intended - the financial crisis remains worrisome."

"Media reports also revealed that the SABC is struggling to pay producers of some of their popular shows," Siyotula says.

"As the SOS Coalition, we are concerned about the impact this financial crisis will have on the local production sector. When the SABC cuts down on local content production, the detriments are not only limited to local producers but the creative industry at large, including actors and writers."

"Further, cutting down on programmes such as 7de Laan that kept citizens entertained by playing a critical role in promoting cultural diversity and fostering social cohesion, is a threat to our democracy."

The SOS Coalition says that "we have recently also witnessed how these financial constraints affected securing of the 2023 Rugby World Cup broadcasting rights."

"The SABC board must communicate with the public its plan to pull the SABC out of the financial crisis it finds itself in. There must be transparency and accountability from the SABC along with a way forward."

SABC+ crashes during first 2023 Springbok Rugby World Cup match.

by Thinus Ferreira

The SABC+ video streaming service crashed on Sunday night from just before the start of the first Springbok clash in the 2023 Rugby World Cup tournament with users unable to use the digital stream of SABC2 to watch the match. 

Multiple potential users started to complain on Sunday evening from just before the start of the match between South Africa and Scotland that they were unable to get access, got an error, or a black screen on SABC+.

SABC+ was unavailable on computer and mobile browsers and as an app. 

Meanwhile massive confusion remains under consumers who don't know why and can't understand why the Rugby World Cup matches are blocked on the SABC2 version carried on eMedia's Openview satellite TV services, with the matches only available on the SABC2 channel version carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service.

The contract between MultiChoice and SuperSport for the sublicensing of the 2023 Rugby World Cup matches to the SABC - 16 matches in total, including the ones in which the Springboks will be playing - stipulates that the SABC is not allowed to show it on its SABC TV channels carried on eMedia's Openview.

It means that besides SuperSport on DStv, free-to-air viewers have to watch the linear broadcast of SABC2 on DStv, use the SABC+ app streamer, or watch the terrestrial SABC2 signal.

"Is anyone else not able to access SABC+? Too many users? Eish, but SABC cries for not being able to 'bring' rugby to the nation. Shortage on capacity," wrote Willem de Villiers on X, previously known as Twitter, on Sunday evening.

"Wow SABC Sport and SABC2, you had one job. SuperSport did their bit but once again you ruined it for the average South African," Shafeeqah said.

They echoed the complaints from a large number of people who tried to use SABC+ to watch the first Sprinboks match but we're unable to get access.

Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson, in response to a media query says "The SABC has noted some users experienced disruptions in transmission on the SABC+ app".

"The corporation can confirm that there was a huge peak within 5 minutes before the start of the game which caused performance and bottleneck issues for those users. A temporary solution was implemented during the games and we are in the process of resolving the problem with a permanent fix."

The SABC launched SABC+ in mid-November 2022 after taking over and rebranding the TelkomOne platform of Telkom. Last week SABC executives told parliament that SABC+ has fallen short of expectations and has not reached the projected number of sign-ups and users and that there have been problems around integrating advertising functionality as well.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

MultiChoice's global co-productions for M-Net are in English, crime stories and in beautiful South African settings.

by Thinus Ferreira

When four upcoming drama series on DStv, all done as co-productions with international partners, unspool in the coming months on M-Net, they'll have three things in common: They're crime stories, they're in English and they're in beautiful South Africa settings.

These three factors are what's in vogue right now for South African co-productions, what works, what viewers in South Africa and worldwide want to see when they watch a South African series, and what MultiChoice and international partners are looking for when doing South African co-prods together.

Devil's Peak, launching on 29 October on M-Net (DStv 101), is a 5-episode crime thriller set in Cape Town - an international co-production from Lookout Point and Expanded Media Productions together with MultiChoice Studios and BBC Studios Distribution distributing it internationally.

Spinners - launching on 8 November on MultiChoice's streamer Showmax and 13 November on Canal+ in Africa - is an 8-episode drama set in the crime-infested Cape Flats resembling Paris' banlieue and Brazil's favelas where a 17-year-old gang getaway-driver dreams of escape through an eclectic motorsport subculture called spinning.

Spinners is a co-production between Showmax and Canal+ with SutdioCanal handling international sales.

Meanwhile filming is underway in KwaZulu-Natal on the second season of the crime drama series Reyka for M-Net - a co-production between Quizzical Pictures and Fremantle - and the two companies are also working together and are filming the crime thriller White Lies also done in scenic Cape Town.

Popular South African co-productions on M-Net and for DStv premium subscribers generally now have three things in common, Nicola van Niekerk, MultiChoice's head of content for premium channels and co-productions, says: "It's crime, it's English and it's in a beautiful setting. We can tell that those work the best".

Nicola van Niekerk was a panellist this week at a MIP Africa session in Cape Town about how TV and film producers in Africa can work with MultiChoice to unlock co-production opportunities with international companies interested in telling and showcasing South African and African stories.

Waldimar Pelser, channel director for premium channels at MultiChoice, was also a panellist and said "The most productive conversations we have are with producers that consume our content and on a visceral level know who our audience is. Our partners have to understand who they're making content for."

He mentioned that content that can only be made locally in South Africa - and that viewers would not be able to find elsewhere - reap the most success.

Tebogo Matlawa, head of scripted content for the middle and mass market for South Africa at MultiChoice, said "producers should also look outside the bubble of their own existence" when working on content but cautioned that while action and dramas have seen success "there isn't much of an appetite for violence".

"Always think, would you watch this with your grandmother?" he advised when considering pitches for scripted content for middle and mass markets.

Victor Sanchez Aghahowa, head of production for MultiChoice West Africa, said "Compelling characters in compelling situations that anybody can relate to – that's what we're looking for. Anything inauthentic will immediately be sniffed out by our younger audience".

Nicola van Niekerk's advice to production companies are for producers to have an in-depth understanding of both the local and the international audience before pitching a project.

"As a producer, you need to assess your story and say, 'Where will this story work?' Will it work in a very specific demographic hyper-locally in South Africa, but where else will it work? Which other broadcaster will like that? And to know that you need to understand all of the broadcaster's strategies on a global level."

Lerato Moruti, senior manager for reality and entertainment for the middle and mass market at M-Net, said that successful reality TV shows provide a sense of "tabloid voyeurism, with family-based reality shows that rate high with viewers".

"South Africans look for meaning in content, and respond well to 'help TV', like the Mzansi Magic reality show Abandoned about orphaned children that seek out family members later in life."

SABC blames data prices and ad integration problems for underperforming SABC+ that 'hasn't grown to levels anticipated'.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster's SABC+ video streaming service it launched in November has not performed to expectations, marred by problems around trying to add advertising and with the SABC blaming high data prices for not enough people signing up and using the service.

After late out of the racing gates, the SABC suddenly announced in mid-November that it was taking over Telkom's TelkomOne streaming service which had been in existence for two years, and which was suddenly rebranded as SABC+.

The SABC inherited just over 150 000 users and said it had an "aggressive plan" to reach 2 million SABC+ users by December 2023 but will likely fall short of that target.

As a late market entrant SABC+ has been facing an uphill battle in the hotly contested video streaming space in South Africa.

SABC+ has to compete for time, attention and users against the likes of MultiChoice's Showmax which will be relaunched within months in partnership with Comcast's NBCUniversal, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, eMedia's eVOD and smaller players like PCCW Media's VIU, BritBox SA, Marquee TV, PrideTV and CineMagic.

Besides these, Paramount Global's Paramount+ as well as Warner Bros. Discovery's relaunched Max is yet to launch in South Africa.

Nada Wotshela, acting SABC CEO, told parliament's portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday that the SABC+ "performance is not quite what we had expected" and has fallen short of performance targets.

"It's a platform we acquired from a third party because the process to acquire our own OTT platform was taking too long. So we entered into an agreement," she said.

"It's a platform we had to perfect as we go along. For instance, the functionality for placing adverts has been an issue. We've had to acquire this service from an external service provider. There have been some issues there in terms of the contract and other technicalities."

"SABC+ hasn't grown to the levels we had anticipated," Nada Wotshela told parliament. "One of the issues is the cost of data in South Africa. A lot of the audiences that we are targeting cannot afford to just afford on the over-the-top (OTT) platform to watch the programmes."

Ian Plaatjes, SABC COO, told parliament that SABC+ had to pivot from being an SVOD platform to being an advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) platform and service.

"We took SABC+ over from Telkom and TelkomONE was a subscription-based platform. We had to redevelop it for an advertising base."

"We changed strategy - we can't compete with our competitors with launching new channels which they did to mitigate the impact of loadshedding and we actually used SABC+ for that."