Monday, May 16, 2022

Event planner Aleit Swanepoel (47) dies in his sleep.


by Thinus Ferreira

The event organiser Aleit Swanepoel who is the founder and chairman of The Aleit Group has died in his sleep during Sunday night. He was 47.

The event organiser and wedding planner was known for his TV series Tyd met Aleit on kykNET (DStv 144) that ran for 6 seasons.

In a statement, The Aleit Group says "It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our founder, Aleit Swanepoel".

"Aleit passed away in his sleep, and while there is no further information to share at this moment, we ask that you keep his family in your thoughts as they go through this difficult time."

"Aleit was an innovator, perfectionist, and creative genius whose flamboyant persona and dedication will be greatly missed. We will continue to uphold and nurture his great legacy through all Aleit businesses and entities."

Aleit Swanepoel forged a career in South Africa's hospitality industry where he worked in several hotels and also managed a 5-star restaurant in Stellenbosch, worked at a wine company and in PR after which hs founded the Aleit Wedding and Function Coordination in 2002.

By 2006 it became the Aleit Group that did wedding planning and bridal styling, including Aleit Munich as its first international branch, corporate events, an online shop, and the Aleit Academy offering an events coordination course.

His first book, 100 Words about Weddings, was published in 2007. He leaves behind an adopted daughter, Kateline.

Aleit Swanepoel who was born in 1974 in Worcester in the Western Cape and studied at Unisa, previously appeared as a presenter of DeKATtv across three seasons, and across shows ranging from Top Billing to Pasella. He became known as a celebrity wedding planner, managing the wedding of the former Miss SA and Miss World, Rolene Strauss.

eMedia's Openview adds The Home Channel+ from Arena Holdings as a spinoff home programming TV channel.


by Thinus Ferreira

eMedia Investment's Openview s has added The Home Channel+ from Arena Holdings to its satellite TV service on channel 113.

After it initially ran as a weekend programming block on Summit TV from May 2005, The Home Channel launched in October 2007 on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service with an growing slate of design, décor, food and home-related programming and has been available only on that platform for the past 14 years.

The Home Channel+, packaged as a spinoff channel, will now be on Openview with a lot of the same content that is and has been seen on DStv.

The Home Channel+ branded spinoff channel will show the usual favourites, as well as additional content that will be new to Openview viewers, ranging from local shows like Design for You, The GardenerSA’s Finest Homes and the Property Game with Proverb, to international series including Grand Designs, Escape to the Country, Property Brothers: Forever Home and Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals.

"The launch of The Home Channel+ is another step in our relationship with eMedia," says Mzi Malunga, Arena Holdings CEO.

"Our content business Ochre Media makes e.tv's top-rated series Scandal! while our film distribution division Empire supplies titles to the various eMedia movie channels and their eVOD platform."

"We see free-to-air broadcast as a growing business and look forward to exploring additional opportunities together in the future."

Vernon Matzopoulos, Arena's head of broadcast, says: "“We are delighted to bring South Africa's leading lifestyle TV brand to the Openview audience. With nearly 3-million households this significantly increases our reach. We look forward to inspiring a whole new audience to create their dream home space."

May highlights on The Home Channel + include:

All About Property
Covering the local South African property market, various real estate professionals and stakeholders shed valuable insight into all forms of property dealings – from buying and selling, renting and maintenance, to finance, legalities, disputes, technology, and so much more.

Grand Designs UK
Following intrepid home-builders as they pursue their architectural dreams. Designer and writer, Kevin McCloud is on hand to witness the trials and tribulations of those willing to put everything on the line to build homes they hope will transform their lives.

Ten Minute Kitchen
It's dinner time and there are hungry mouths to feed, but you're out of ideas and you only have 10-minutes to conjure up an amazing meal. The impossible is now possible with Ten Minute Kitchen - a celebration of creative, easy, family-friendly meals that anyone can cook at home.

The Gardener
If you're looking for inspirational gardens, practical DIYs and solutions for your garden problems, then join Tanya Visser for a brand-new season of The Gardener. Whether you’re into annuals, looking to maintain the perfect lawn, want to show off with spectacular orchids or garden on a small scale, The Gardener has you covered.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Russia Today channel back on South African television after China's StarTimes Media adds it to StarSat.


by Thinus Ferreira

Russia's state-sponsored TV channel Russia Today (RT) is back on South African television after China's StarTimes has suddenly picked up the channel despite international sanctions, with RT which is now available on StarSat on channel 260.

Russia Today has been widely criticised for its one-sided coverage of Russia's war with Ukraine. Observers have been faulting RT for presenting information as so-called news reporting although it's not factual or not fact-based.

Russia Today, which was carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service, abruptly went dark on 2 March shortly after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the war with its neighbouring country, resulting in a flurry of international sanctions and trade restrictions imposed against Russia.

Trade sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) saw Russia Today's satellite uplinking - a channel feed connection making use of European companies for transponder uplinking - cut off at the same time that Google and other companies blocked the propaganda channel's YouTube streaming.

For the past two months, MultiChoice has been showing DStv subscribers a title card on DStv channel 407 explaining how the EU blocking of Russia Today means that the RT signal is not available through Intelsat's IS-20 satellite transponder that MultiChoice is using and leasing space on.


China's StarTimes Media, operating as StarSat in South Africa, confirmed to TVwithThinus that it has acquired Russia Today and is now showing it on StarSat channel 260.

StarTimes says it's uplinking the Russia Today channel feed through SES S.A.'s SES-5 satellite transponder on which StarTimes/StarSat is leasing space for South and Southern Africa. 

Similar to Intelsat which has its corporate headquarters in Luxembourg, SES S.A. is a satellite and terrestrial telecommunications network provider also based in Luxembourg in Europe.

StarSat tells TVwithThinus in response to a media query it got TV channel application permission from South Africa's broadcasting regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to add Russia Today.

"We have received ICASA's approval on 10 May, therefore we launched this channel from 11 May 2022 and it's available in our Super package from R109 per month on channel 260".

Asked why it decided to add RT, a StarSat spokesperson says "StarSat as a platform takes pride in sourcing relevant and current content to enhance our packages, thus we regard RT Global as a 24-hour English-language news channel that focuses on all major economic, political and social issues of our time. RT is broadcast on the StarTimes platform in South Africa and the rest of Africa".

Asked how StarSat is able to show Russia Today although it was removed from transponder uplinking due to EU sanctions, StarSat says "After we reached a carriage agreement with RT, they deliver the feed to our uplinking station straightly, then we uplink to SES-5 and broadcast to our customers".

I've reached out to SES. S.A. with a media query on Thursday but didn't get a response by the time of publication which will be added here if received.

I've also reached out to ICASA about the approval process and a response will be added here if received.

In the United Kingdom where Russia Today was removed in March as well, the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom revoked RT's licence and said the channel is unable to comply with the impartiality rules of the UK's Broadcasting Code.

After 29 investigations, Ofcom said "RT is not fit and proper to hold a licence in the UK".

Last month Bloomberg reported that China's vice foreign minister Le Yucheng said that China will continue strengthening strategic ties with Russia despite Russia's widely-condemned war with Ukraine.


kykNET follows e.tv and adds Afrikaans-dubbed Turkish telenovelas to the kykNET & Kie schedule from July 2022.


by Thinus Ferreira

Following the massive success of eMedia's Afrikaans-dubbed Turkish telenovelas on its e.tv and eExtra channels, M-Net is ramping up its own dubbing efforts and is adding a Turkish telenovela block to kykNET & Kie (DStv 145) from July. 

More work are coming for Afrikaans actors and Afrikaans voice-actors, with M-Net's Afrikaans division that is ramping up its dubbing efforts, starting with two Turkish telenovelas for kykNET & Kie from July: In die Ysterhand se Greep and Kind van die Noodlot.

In mid-2017 FOX Networks Group Africa - since folded into Disney - started adding English-dubbed Turkish telenovelas to the then FOX Life channel on DStv and StarSat. 

FOX Life found little success and viewers, but the genre exploded when e.tv took a swing later that same year and added Turkish telenovelas for its e.tv-packaged channels on eMedia's Openview free-to-air satellite service.

These Afrikaans-dubbed Turkish telenovelas have been so successful over the past five years that they've spawned a whole new cottage industry of Afrikaans-language dubbing with new work for South African actors and voice artists, and successfully lifted ratings for e.tv and its Openview channels.

In April, Droomverlore on e.tv lured 1.66 million viewers (4.3 ARs / 19.2 share) as the channel's 13th most-watched show of the month, a phenomenal achievement for a foreign dubbed show, and one dubbed into Afrikaans.

The ratings success of the Afrikaans-dubbed Turkish telenovelas is hard to ignore, with kykNET now also setting up its own content pipeline for this content.

"kykNET is very excited to bring two top international telenovelas in Afrikaans to kykNET & Kie," says Waldimar Pelser, M-Net director of kykNET channels.

"These two series, produced in Turkey and dubbed locally, are packed with gripping storylines. The dubbing of such big series also creates dozens of job opportunities in the Afrikaans TV industry for talent behind the screens and in front of the microphone."

"The addition of these two Turkish series is part of a bigger renewal for kykNET & Kie which will also include various exciting and new locally produced shows."

"We want to offer our viewers the best of both worlds – international glamour in Afrikaans, as well as local stories and entertainment anchored in Afrikaans communities," Waldimar Pelser says.

kykNET will start off with In die Ysterhand se Greep known as Asla Vazgeçmem in Turkey.

In the story, Yiğit is a successful businessman who doesn't believe in love and is responsible for an accident that leaves his wife, Iclal, in a coma for years. 

"Denying her existence is the only way he can cope, and their small son, Mert, believes his mother is in heaven. Then Yiğit meets Nur, and they fall in love. Unaware of Iclal, Nur agrees to marry him. But on the day of their wedding, Iclal wakes up," the show's logline reads.

The second Turkish telenovela of 148-episodes is Kind van die noodlot, known in Turkey as Belahan Jiwa Kahraman.

According to the official description, "Kahraman Yorukman are super rich, but they don't have any children. Their family rejects them because of this, and Defne starts looking for an alternative way to give her husband an heir. She decides to hire a surrogate mother to have a baby for them".

'Today we mourn': A Red Wedding of TV cancellations hit several American shows.


by Thinus Ferreira

There's blood in the TV water after a string of overnight TV show cancellations in America that saw multiple series seen in South Africa getting the cancellation axe.

Most cancelled TV shows are from the small CW network owned jointly by Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount that faces a future of very likely being sold off to Nexstar in the United States. 

Another factor playing a role in the cancellations is that the studios making shows for CW used to earn multi-million-dollar revenue from licensing and selling that content internationally, to for instance Netflix, which is no longer happening since these Hollywood studios like CBS Studios are keeping the shows "in-house" and channelling them to their own video streaming services to help drive subscribers growth to their own new services.

The supernatural institution of the Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted is no longer accepting applications with Legacies, seen on M-Net (DStv 101), which has been cancelled after 4 seasons. 

Set in the same universe as The Originals (which lasted 5 seasons) and The Vampire Diaries (which ran for 8 seasons), it brings an end to a 13-year run of The Vampire Diaries world.

Executive producer Julie Plec on Twitter, referring to the shocking and infamous bloodbath killing scene in Game of Thrones, only said: "It's the Red Wedding at WBTV/CW today. Much more to say, but not today. Loads of gratitude coming from fans and cast and crew in future tweets. But today, we mourn".

With Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow, also seen on M-Net, were also cancelled earlier this month, the cancellation bear on Thursday also bit and killed off the reboot of Dynasty (seen on Netflix SA) after 5 seasons, Charmed seen on M-Net (after 4 seasons), Roswell, New Mexico seen on M-Net (after 4 seasons), the reboot of 4400 and Naomi (after its first season).

The Endgame from NBC that just started on M-Net in April has also been cancelled after its first season, as well as In the Dark seen on M-Net (after 4 seasons), and Magnum P.I. (seen on M-Net) after 4 seasons. 

United States of Al and B Positive also both seen on M-Net were both cancelled after their second seasons, with series Good Sam and How We Roll also getting cancelled after their first seasons.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Disney's Descendants film franchise expands with The Pocketwatch Disney+ musical movie, will introduce Cinderella's rebellious teenage daughter Chloe.

by Thinus Ferreira

Disney has announced that it's expanding its Descendants film franchise with a prequel-set musical movie for its Disney+ video streaming service with The Pocketwatch as its working title.

The Pocketwatch will expand the world created by the Descendants with filmmaker Jennifer Phang set to direct as co-executive producer, with a script by Dan Frey and Russell Sommer, and will include 7 new songs and Disney classic songs.

The Pocketwatch will introduce Red, the teenage daughter of the Queen of Hearts, as well as Chloe, the teenage daughter of Cinderella, and Prince Charming from Cinderella.

The music- and dance-filled original movie from Disney Branded Television will see production designer Mark Hofeling return.

"With a captivating script and Jennifer Phang's directorial vision, we're setting a new high bar of creativity and imagination, with a movie that ups the ante on story, song and dance to entertain young viewers, their families, and the global fan base that grew up with the aspirational story of Descendants, says Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television, in a statement.

"We join them in anticipation as we prepare to deliver a great new entertainment experience to Disney+."

Jennifer Phang says "The Pocketwatch presents a delightful canvas with fantastical world-building. Musicals sparked my imagination when I was a kid and are a huge part of what drew me to filmmaking".

"I think that's because they have a way of conveying these lovely, nuanced ideas through song and expressive movement. I'm also always inspired by the diversity of families that exist all around the world. So I really jumped at the chance to craft a supercharged musical experience and explore some new, invigorating themes inside an expansive Disney universe."

According to Disney, the Descendants movies unfurled an imaginative mythology of two new lands, idyllic Auradon and ragtag Isle of the Lost, home to the teenage progeny of Disney's most iconic characters and notably, its most notorious villains. 

"The bold new story of The Pocketwatch returns to these lands and also takes audiences through the rabbit hole to the hostile unincorporated territory of Wonderland, a magical, mysterious place made famous in Alice in Wonderland."

"The expansive new story introduces Red, the whip-smart and rebellious teenage daughter of the Queen of Hearts and Chloe, the perfectionist and athletic daughter of Cinderella and Prince Charming."

"In order to prevent an impending coup in Auradon - one that looms during the celebration of a new royal baby Red must join forces with Chloe to travel in back in time, through the White Rabbit's pocket watch, to stop an event that would lead to grave consequences."

Jennifer Rogers Doyle, senior vice president for franchise and integrated planning for Networks, Disney Media Entertainment and Distribution, says "The fan engagement and high demand for extensions of Descendants continues because viewers have a very special relationship with the core characters and not just because they love the way they look, but because they are relevant, heroic figures, and soon, they'll be invited to meet Red and Chloe."

Production starts on Disney+'s Star Wars Ahsoka series with Rosario Dawson.


by Thinus Ferreira

Production has started on Disney+'s latest Star Wars series, Ahsoka, with Rosario Dawson reprising her role as seen in the other Disney+ Original, Star Wars: The Mandalorian.

The start of production was revealed through Star Wars' Twitter handle on social media, posting an image of the director's chair with the name Ahsoka printed on the back, and producer-director Dave Filoni's trademark black cowboy hat draped over the one side.

Hayden Christensen will be appearing in Ahsoka reprising his prequel role as Akshoka's former Jedi master Anakin Skywalker.

Hayden Christensen is also appearing as Darth Vader in the upcoming new Disney+ miniseries Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi launching on 27 May on Disney+ - with Disney+ launching in South Africa on 18 May just in time for South African viewers to watch the show without it getting ruined by spoilers.

The rest of the Ahsoka cast includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ray Stevenson.

The first season of Ahsoka will premiere on Disney+ in 2023.

Twitter teams up with E! News for new live-stream show While You Were Streaming on the social network with Danielle Robay discussing television series.


by Thinus Ferreira

The Twitter social network and NBCUniversal's E! (DStv 124) channel is partnering up, with E! that will be doing a new, "made-for-Twitter", live-stream series, While You Were Streaming from its E! News division.

While You Were Streaming will have Danielle Robay as presenter, who will be joined by rotating guests. 

While You Were Streaming will discuss various TV series, both on traditional television as well as those seen on video streaming services.

"The Twitter timeline is where highlights hit first. It's the place people come to watch, debate and participate in the biggest moments across sports, news, gaming and entertainment every day and we're so excited to announce an incredible line-up of new content opportunities," said TJ Adeshola, Twitter's head of global content partnerships.

South Africa's TV industry set for worst ratings damage ever in 2022 due to Eskom's electricity blackouts and analogue signals switch-off.


by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's television industry and broadcasters - already struggling with sagging TV ratings due to millions of TV households getting cut off from the ability to receive TV signals in the government's switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television - are facing the worst TV ratings damage ever in 2022 because of Eskom's debilitating electricity blackouts.

Bloomberg reports that South Africa is set for the worst year of power cuts as the country's decrepit Eskom power stations continue to fail and that at the current rate of Eskom electricity blackouts, South Africa is on track to have a record Eskom electricity blackout year in 2022.

Eskom's euphemistically called "load-shedding" has an immediate and destructive impact on South Africa's Television Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS) system, with Eskom's rolling power blackouts wiping millions of viewers and TV households from the measurement grid whenever the struggling monopoly power utility is forced to start stages of unplanned power cuts in the country.

Eskom is on track to exceed the annual record for staged electricity cuts, according to South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. 

The record Eskom load-shedding will therefore translate to record TV ratings damage which is monitored by Nielsen SA and the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA).

Besides Eskom power cuts wiping millions of TV households from the ratings grid and affecting everyone - from pay-TV operators like China's StarTimes operating as StarSat and MultiChoice's DStv, to the SABC and eMedia's e.tv and Openview - the country's broadcasters are also seeing viewers evaporate in the government's push to switch off analogue Sentech signals.

eMedia has once again taken South Africa's minister of communications to court over her suddenly rushed analogue signals switch-off schedule, while the SABC's TV ratings has started to sag from month-to-month over the past half a year since Sentech signal distribution got cut in province after province, with decreases in viewership in turn affecting advertising revenue.