Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Larry Madowo taking over as latest presenter of African Voices Changemakers on CNN International.

by Thinus Ferreira

CNN which is currently going through a global staff reorganisation process has announced that Africa correspondent Larry Madowo will be taking over as the presenter of its long-running weekly African Voices Changemakers magazine show on CNN International (DStv 401).

The Kenyan Larry Madowo based in Nairobi, replaces Nigeria's Arit Okpo who took over hosting duties of the show three and a half years ago in August 2019. 

While the show's format, content and focus have changed over the past 10 years, it continues to interview various trendsetters across Africa to tell inspiring stories.

Larry Madowo's first episode of African Voices Changemakers will be on 25 February in which he will be interviewing and profiling various people across Africa making positive change on the continent.

African Voices Changemakers profiles entertainers, creatives, athletes, and members of the public who are making a difference and impacting their communities through various initiatives and cultural contributions. 

"I’m looking forward to highlighting outstanding stories and incredible people from across the continent and showing the world these remarkable African changemakers. Having featured on the show before joining CNN, this is a full circle moment for me," says Larry Madowo.

Ellana Lee, CNN International senior vice president and global head of features content, says "Larry is a uniquely experienced journalist with enormous energy, expertise, and skill. He is also incredibly passionate about Africa, and I know is excited by the chance to bring its many varied experiences and stories to a global audience through one of CNN’s longest-running and most successful programmes".

"Larry also has a large and highly engaged social following, which presents a great opportunity for us to further interact with our African Voices Changemakers audience, as well as gain new fans for the show."

Monday, February 6, 2023

M-Net axes Idols after 19 seasons.

by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net has cancelled the long-running Idols with the upcoming 19th season on its Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel which will be the last for the [SIC] Entertainment-produced reality singing competition show following viewership fatigue and a massive plunge in ratings.

M-Net is calling the upcoming 19th season of Idols on Mzansi Magic - with Gavin Wratten as director and executive producer, along with Anneke de Ridder and host ProVerb (Tebogo Thekisho) as co-producers - its "farewell season", meaning that with South Africans will have one last chance to enter and audition for the show.

Idols started 21 years ago in 2002 on the M-Net channel. 

It became a simulcast show on M-Net and Mzansi Magic in 2013 from the 9th season, and a Mzansi Magic only show in 2016 from season 12 onwards after M-Net decided to migrate the show to open it up to a bigger DStv audience on lower-tiered packages. 

The cancellation of the South African version of the Fremantle format follows after a dramatic ratings plunge for Idols in season 17 that coincided with a relationship scandal involving Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo after his ex Mohale Motaung made serious allegations of emotional and physical abuse.

While Idols started off its 17th season in South Africa in July 2021 with 1 018 607 viewers as the 4th most-watched show on all of DStv for the month, it suddenly plunged to 10th place on DStv's most-watched list with 693 760 viewers at most in August 2021, shedding 32% or a third of its viewers

In October 2021 Idols fell to a season-low of just 683 814 viewers, and finished the season in November 2021 with 753 367 viewers at most.

After the very large drop in viewers and in an effort to revitalise Idols, M-Net's general entertainment channels division and [SIC] Entertainment decided to retain Somizi Mhlongo for 2022's 18th season and axed judges Randall Abrahams and Unathi Nkayi whose contracts were not renewed and were replaced by artists Thembi Seete and rapper-producer JR Bogopa.

About Idols' revamp attempt to lure DStv subscribers back, Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, told TVwithThinus ahead of the 18th season last year that "To have such longevity in such a fast-changing industry is no small feat, and we're proud to keep giving our viewers what they love. One of the key components in having staying power is evolution, and our new-look panel is part of that".

Asked whether the changes in judges for the 18th season were done to try and reverse the show's declining viewership, Nomsa Philiso said that "In part it is to get the ratings back and also to attract new audiences, right. So, you would know that from around 2017 we started seeing some level of fatigue - some level of viewer fatigue in terms of Idols".

"Part of us refreshing the judges is also us trying to say that we're going to give you guys a much bigger and better Idols".

When the 18th season started, Idols ratings on Sunday evenings fell furtherfar off from the over a million viewers it managed to pull in years past for season debuts, reaching a meagre 743 516 viewers during July last year. 

Last year's Idols season ended with 739 426 viewers at most during November. The winner's recording contract was also quietly reduced from an album to just an EP.

Following the conclusion of Idols' 18th season, Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director of local entertainment channels, said that "Idols is a brand that we believe in and is a brand that connects us to our youth in the country. It promotes nationalism and healthy competition while it gives young people a stage to showcase their talent".

Sunday, February 5, 2023

SABC2's Muvhango cast and crew go on strike for second time in 3 months over non-payment after being told the SABC didn't pay and Word of Mouth Pictures fired CEO Mandla kaNozulu over alleged mismanagement.

by Thinus Ferreira

The cast and crew of Muvhango on SABC2 has gone on strike for the second time in three months after they have once again not been paid their salaries, with SABC legal busy with an investigation after the Word of Mouth Pictures show fired CEO Mandla kaNozulu over alleged mismanagement of millions of rand.

City Press on Sunday reported that the Muvhango cast and crew went on strike after they were called to a meeting on Tuesday this past week where the SABC were once again blamed for non-payment.

The ongoing non-payment to the show's talent and behind-the-scenes crew is highly embarrassing since it keeps happening regularly without whatever issues are causing it, being sorted out by the SABC and Word of Mouth Pictures.

Adding to the embarrassment is that the non-payment issue comes on the back of Word of Mouth's botched so-called "Silver Jubilee" 25-year anniversary celebration for Muvhango in 2022, the SABC constantly saying it is improving payment issues to Muvhango and other production companies supplying content, as well as Muvhango's plummeting viewership on SABC2 which TV ratings continue to fall.

The current Muvhango cast and crew strike comes within three months of the last Muvhango cast and crew stay-away in November 2022 when they were also not paid.

"We were told that our salaries will be paid later and there is a delay once again because the SABC has delayed paying the company and that affected our salaries," a Word of Mouth Pictures staffer who works at the Johannesburg office of the production company told the newspaper.

Meanwhile the SABC's legal department is busy investigating the alleged mismanagement of over R14 million of Word of Mouth Productions' money by former CEO Mandla kaNozulu who was fired in December 2022 after two years on the job.

Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson, told TVwithThinus that "The SABC can confirm that the payment to Word of Mouth Productions was effected as per the agreement between Word of Mouth and the SABC".

Conditions on Netflix's Squid Game: The Challenge reality show 'were absolutely inhumane' - report

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix's reality game show version, Squid Game: The Challenge, based on the Korean hit series Squid Game with 456 contests from all around the world, has been branded "absolutely inhuman" by contestants who are speaking out in a new report about the horrific treatment they've been subjected to by the producers.

Produced by Studio Lambert and The Garden and filmed in the United Kingdom, the British press last month revealed the horrific real-life treatment of contestants who were left in a massive aircraft hanger in Bedford as freezing temperatures plummeted, with some contestants collapsed while they were forced to stand still for hours.

Netflix put out a statement about how much the streamer "deeply" cares for the contestants on the show and admitted that while it was very cold "participants were prepared for that".

Studio Lambert and The Garden in a statement said "We care deeply about the health of our cast and crew, and the quality of this show. Any suggestion that the competition is rigged or claims of serious harm to players are simply untrue. We’ve taken all the appropriate safety precautions, including after care for contestants – and an independent adjudicator is overseeing each game to ensure it’s fair to everyone."

In a new deep-dive, Variety reports that contestants are pushing back on Netflix underplaying the horrible on-set treatment, saying what really happened in Squid Game: The Challenge is "definitely not as minimal as is being conveyed by Netflix".

The industry trade spoke to contestants who were part of Squid Game: The Challenge who revealed that while they were told the one game would take two hours to film at Bedford’s Cardington Studios, a large former aeroplane hangar north of London, it turned into a 7-hour ordeal which saw contestants collapse from the freezing cold.

A contestant told Variety that "The conditions were absolutely inhumane". 

About playing one of the Squid Game games where contestants had to stand in below-freezing temperatures holding poses, a contestant says one "just buckled, and you could hear her head actually hit the ground. But then someone came on the [microphone] and said to hold our positions because the game is not paused. After that, people were dropping like flies".

Another contestant said: "You can’t tell people they have to stand in below-freezing temperatures in just a tracksuit and two pairs of socks".

Saturday, February 4, 2023

1Magic: M-Net confirms the Tshedza Pictures produced The River won't run through it after 6 seasons.

Thinus Ferreira

M-Net confirmed industry whispers that the Tshedza Pictures produced telenovela The River for its 1 Magic (DStv 103) channel will be ending with the upcoming 6th and final season that will start on 6 February.

The River starring Sindi Dlathu and Hlomla Dandala and that introduced various new on-screen talent to viewers over the past half a decade, launched in February 2018 as a prime-time drama vehicle to anchor M-Net's 1Magic channel.

1Magic made its debut on DStv at the same time as The River which was positioned as the channel's flagship show, with the channel which was created as a premium version of the existing Mzansi Magic channel for higher-tiered DStv subscribers. 

The loss of The River set in the fictitious Refilwe, leaves 1Magic without an announced replacement, which means that M-Net is set to announce a new telenovela for the channel later this year to revitalise the channel's programming line-up after the end of The River.

Created by Phathu Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon, re-versioned for adaptations in Nigeria and Angola and winning 26 Golden Horn statuettes at the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas), show star Sindi Dlathu also transitioned to become series co-executive producer.

Tshedza Pictures is now producing Gqeberha: The Empire which recently started on Mzansi Magic as the first telenovela being filmed in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.

M-Net in a statement confirms that "1Magic's The River is coming to an end with its upcoming sixth season".

"At M-Net local entertainment channels we would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to the cast and crew of The River for a memorable five years," says Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director for local entertainment channels.

"Their hard work, dedication and brilliance have led to the telenovela's success. The final season is going to be the show's most epic one yet. The drama will be bigger and better, setting the stage for the ultimate finale".

Showrunner Phathu Makwarela says "When we created The River seven years ago, we knew that we wanted to tell a story that will have a definite ending".

"Now on its sixth season, we feel the time is right to bring the story of these beloved characters to an end, on our own terms and when viewers still treasure the show. As the saying goes, 'a good dancer always knows when to leave the stage', and now it's that time for The River."

Friday, February 3, 2023

MultiChoice combines two M-Net channels divisions under new premium content team led by Waldimar Pelser as Jan du Plessis is set to retire.

by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net is combining two of its three South African TV channel groupings, with the M-Net channels and Afrikaans kykNET channels getting consolidated under a new so-called "premium channels" division under oversight of Waldimar Pelser, coming as the director for M-Net channels, Jan du Plessis, is retiring at the end of March after 28 years at the Randburg-based company.

Waldimar Pelser, one year in the seat since February 2022 as new M-Net director for kykNET channels, will now oversee both his existing portfolio, as well as the M-Net channels which have been under Jan du Plessis purview.  Shirley Adonisi remains as M-Net director of local entertainment channels.

Waldimar Pelser's title will change to director of premium channels as the two sets of management teams are getting combined.

"The new leadership structure supports our vision to give the best premium offering to our subscribers on the M-Net channels," says Georginah Machiridza, the MultiChoice Group's executive head of general entertainment channels, in a statement announcing the management change and consolidation.

"We have seen a complimentary nature in viewership for the kykNET and M-Net channels, and this new structure offers us the opportunity to better curate and promote our strong bouquet of channels."

"It is with great admiration and heartfelt respect that we bid farewell to Jan du Plessis while we welcome and support Waldimar in his new role. Since his appointment as director of kykNET channels, his collaborative management approach has showcased a strong drive to take our premium proposition into the future."

"Jan is someone whose guidance and perspective many of us have had the pleasure of experiencing over the years."

"I have deep admiration and respect for him, and he has achieved much more than we could fit into a few words. His passion for local productions has played a key role in game-changing strategic decisions he has taken during his tenure."

"We wish Waldimar the best in his new role, and we will support him as he embarks on this new journey. We look forward to his direction at M-Net."

As a highly respected and extremely knowledgeable veteran executive who is also widely liked across the TV and film industry, Jan du Plessis joined M-Net in 1994 where he grew and evolved the M-Net brand and channels in various capacities over the past 28 years. 

This included the launch of the kykNET channels as director in 1999. He was also part of the teams that secured the rights to produced localised versions of international formats, leading to shows like Big Brother and Idols in South Africa.

Jan du Plessis was appointed director of M-Net channels in 2016, where he was responsible for channels including M-Net, M-Net City and the various M-Net Movies offerings.

"This has been an incredible and unforgettable ride," Jan du Plessis says in the statement. "As someone deeply passionate about film and television, being part of the M-Net family has allowed me to work closely with many film and television makers over the years – a dream career for a film lover such as myself."

"I am grateful for everything I have been part of. When I started at M-Net in 1994, it was to secure and expose our local viewers to the best international content and titles."

"As my roles changed, we at M-Net were able to hone and develop the local industry leading to our bold co-productions where we are exposing the international market to our world-class local talent and stories. I couldn't have asked for anything better than working on one of the best local brands in South Africa, M-Net."

The Real Housewives of Gqeberha on the show's drama and tears: 'If you put 5 queens in one room there's going to be fireworks'.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Real Housewives of Gqeberha starting tonight on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 20:30 promises explosive fights between the women but also more humour than some of the other versions and tears flowing in the first episode - with one of the housewives underscoring the drama that's going to be dished up, saying "if you put five queens in one room, there's going to be fireworks".

The GOAT Original with Jemma Ford as showrunner, was largely filmed over the past year in Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth, and across the Eastern Cape province as the latest South African version of the NBCUniversal Formats franchise.

As to the decision to do a version also set in Gqeberha, Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director of local entertainment channels, who spoke at the show's media launch on Thursday night in the city, says "it was a no-brainer".

"We have so many other franchises of The Real Housewives, yet because we're so diverse as a country and a continent, there are many spaces that our audience don't get to see and each province has its own nuances, its own cultural differences, it's own unique flavour so to speak."

"So you can't compare The Real Housewives of Johannesburg to The Real Housewives of Durban - it's a totally different flavour."

"We really felt as M-Net we would love to explore this part of the world - it's beautiful the scenery, the culture. It's just been an amazing adventure to just find these ladies, find their stories. We really didn't want anything fake about it."

About criticism that there are now too many The Real Housewives versions in South Africa and across the continent, Shirley Adonisi says "I don't think too many are ever a bad thing. I think we've all been in a space where we didn't have choice. I think Covid had taught us that where we had no choice but to stay home".

"I think as MultiChoice, as a company that has productions all across Africa, our aim is actually to expose as many corners of our continent as possible to people. When we find a format that we believe works for this space, why not?"

"I think the beauty is that you have a choice as the viewer. You can choose which franchise is your favourite. From our end, our aim is to entertain and in a way educate. You see the glitz and the glamour but then you also see that they are real people."

"They are mothers, they are wives. They cry, they fight, they are honest with each other. And how brave you have to be to be authentic, but also the power of sisterhood."

Jemma Ford says the selection process to find and cast the women started in December 2021. She says viewers can expect "spice"."There's a lot of spice, coupled with humour".

Salon owner Unathi Faku, and wife of the city's former mayor, says "what happened between us I didn't expect. You have to watch and see. I was so surprised".

Socialite Liz Prins says "I have met a wonderful person on this show - an awesome, awesome friend that I think will be a friend for me for life. I didn't come into the show expecting to make friends. I know what the show is about, I know that the ladies don't really like each other. But I've met someone and she's classy and beautiful."

"And they deserve each other," quips businesswoman Buli G Ngomane. She adds: "Regardless of what happens in terms of action and drama, it is important that women are showcased in all of their fabulousness, at every turn, in every way - regardless of whether we get along or not".

Events planner at the Nelson Mandela stadium, Norma Nicol says "if you put five queens in one room, there's going to be fireworks. And then it always ends up with who's left standing". 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Tonight TLC debuts MILF Manor: A jaw-dropping American dating reality show with an unbelievable and uncomfortable twist.

by Thinus Ferreira

Another jarring new American dating reality show, MILF Manor, is starting tonight on TLC (DStv 135) at 22:00 with a shocking twist that needs to be seen to be believed.

Warner Bros. Discovery is bringing MILF Manor to Africa as an Express from the US title with South African viewers who will be three episodes behind the daring new reality show which started on 15 January with an unbelievable twist.

Although there is absolutely no connection between the two, the NBC comedy series 30 Rock once had a fictitious in-show reality series called "MILF Island" in which moms went looking for love like The Bachelorette franchise.

The setup of MILF Manor, somewhat similar to Netflix reality shows like Too Hot to Handle and Dated and Related and ITV's Love Island, eight single women between 40 and 60 are whisked away to a luxury villa in Mexico where they will be given the chance to date and kiss-and-tell before the cameras, as a group of hunky men vie for their attention and love.

The women are all older and have been moms for years, hence the not-safe-for-work acronym "MILF", and they will all be introduced to much younger men. 

Then various challenges follow like the women, blindfolded, feeling the shirtless men's torsos for the winner to get a night in a hot tub with a romantic partner. In the second episode, contestants have to guess each others' "deepest sex secrets".

MILF Manor however comes with a very big twist which is revealed in the first episode.

The moms include a personal trainer, a former ballerina who owns a gym, a surgical nurse, a paralegal, two event planners, a fitness coach, and a mom who works in the hospitality industry.

The guys include a college American football player, a musician, a bartender, a postman, a model and actor, a singer in a rock band, and one who works in the fitness industry. 

2023 to kick off with a Nguni TV news war as MultiChoice's DStv takes on the SABC with a Mzansi Wethu bulletin for Zulu and Xhosa viewers in the same timeslot as SABC1.

by Thinus Ferreira

A TV news war for Nguni viewers is coming to South African television at 19:00 with M-Net taking the SABC head-on by launching a daily isiZulu and isiXhosa TV news bulletin from 27 February on DStv at the same time as SABC1's news bulletins in these languages which have surged to record ratings. 

The buzzword for early 2023 in South African television news is a renewed push for an increase in news content in vernacular languages, with Mzansi Wethu (DStv 163) which will add a daily isiZulu/ isiXhosa TV news bulletin from 27 February.

Meanwhile the SABC is forging ahead with plans to launch its second SABC News channel, SABC eKhaya, in April.

With the surging TV ratings of the isiZulu and isiXhosa TV news bulletins on SABC1 rising to record levels in 2022 of over 2.4 million nightly viewers each - now by far the two most-watched TV newscasts in the country - M-Net asked the existing TV news channel Newzroom Afrika carried by MultiChoice on DStv, to produce a dual Nguni language TV news bulletin for its Mzansi Wethu channel.

Newzroom Afrika started advertising and staffing up in November 2022, when it looked for field reporters, bulletins editors and executive producers to do isiZulu and isiXhosa news content from 2023.

Izindaba Zethu/Iindaba Zethu will be carried on Mzansi Wethu from Monday 27 February at 19:00 taking SABC1 head-on in the news ratings race in the same extremely competitive timeslot, hoping to lure some of the highly-prized viewers to DStv with an alternative vernacular news option.

With Mzansi Wethu available for lower-tiered DStv subscribers and upwards, it means that the isiZulu and isiXhosa TV news bulletin will be available to the vast majority of the pay-TV service's customers. 

The Nguni news supply deal is structured similarly to the long-running multiyear deal that M-Net has with eMedia's eNCA TV news channel to supply the daily half-hour eNuus TV news bulletin in Afrikaans for the various kykNET channels on DStv at 19:00. 

The former SABC News TV anchor Thabile Mbhele will be the isiZulu news anchor on Mzansi Wethu, while Dicksy Mdlalose who is also known to SABC viewers, is the weather presenter. Khethukuthula Makoatsane is the sign language interpreter. 

For the isiXhosa bulletin Lisakhanya Pepe who was on the SABC will be the anchor, with the SABC weather presenter Thabile Makapela who will appear on Mzansi Wethu. Pumza Sikumba is the sign language interpreter.

"We're proud to offer the news in IsiZulu and IsiXhosa as we take another step forward on our journey," says Thabile Ngwato, Newzroom Afrika CEO.

Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, says the addition of Nguni news to DStv will add a greater diversity of views.

"We are excited to provide a platform for Newzroom Afrika's Nguni news. This will offer our viewers access to a news offering in Nguni languages and add to the diversity of news on our platform."

SABC eKhaya in April
The SABC meanwhile plans to launch its SABC News spinoff channel, SABC eKhaya, meaning "SABC at home" in April, which will be done in South African languages besides English which is catered for on the main channel.

SABC eKhaya "is our response to the demand from millions of our viewers yearning for extensive news coverage and a dedicated channel in their own languages," says Moshoeshoe Monare, SABC news boss.

The SABC used to carry and repeat all its terrestrial TV news bulletins in vernacular languages shown on SABC1 and SABC2 on its existing SABC News channel but ended the practice in April 2015 when MultiChoice extended the footprint of the SABC News channel beyond South Africa's borders.

Unlike SABC News, SABC Ekhaya will not be available on DStv on StarSat despite the country's must-carry regulations from Icasa, with SABC eKhaya which will be available on its streaming service SABC+ and as a digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel.

"This public news channel is an added platform to serve mainly communities that are not necessarily reached by mainstream commercial media. These are millions of viewers who wait until the evening to watch less than half an hour bulletins in their own languages," Moshoeshoe Monare says.

"SABC News is well-positioned to rise to this challenge because of its decades of experience in public broadcasting in indigenous languages."