Friday, March 24, 2023

INTERVIEW. Voetspore's Johan Badenhorst: A travel connoisseur on season 12's South America Cono Sur.

by Thinus Ferreira

Trouble and unexpected surprises are never far from the horizon when you're an intrepid adventurer - both of which cross the path of the explorer raconteur Johan Badenhorst off on his latest adventure, this time through the southern parts of South America, in the 12th season of the Afrikaans adventure travelogue series Voetspore on SABC2.

In the new 13-episode season, the expedition sets out to drive through Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina - the southern cone or "cono sur" of the continent. But, as every seasoned traveller well knows and can expect, not everything goes according to plan.

This time the Voetspore team visits some of the survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash, travels to the Iguazu Falls, the Chaco in Paraguay, The Atacama Desert, see the Pacific Ocean and cruises through the wine region of Mendoza.

There's a visit to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno glacier, Torres del Paine, the southernmost city Ushuaia, visiting the Afrikaans-speaking community of Sarmiento, the whales of Puerto Madryn and even the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires in another eye-popping and unforgettable journey of dramatic landscapes, exquisite food and wine, exceptional landscapes and interesting communities.

TVwithThinus sat down with producer, director and traveller Johan Badenhorst to find out about the travels, troubles and surprises waiting in the 12th season.

Who's the team this time?
We're always a team of six people. With me this season is Nina Badenhorst my daughter looking after the logistics. 

In the second vehicle was photographer Gideon Swart and with him is new cameraman Adam Heyns. In the third vehicle are cameraman and editor Stefan Sonnekus and Norbert Coetzee also looking after logistics.

The last time we sat around a campfire and I asked, you said for the next season you're looking at either Russia or South America as the next overseas destination. But that was before Covid and then Russia's invasion and war with Ukraine.
We were on our way to Russia, everything was organised and we did the recce. 

Then the war happened. So we had to switch. Russia would have been one adventure and journey. This is going to be three different journeys, since South America is simply too big to complete and see in one go. 

On short notice, we decided to switch Russia for South America and this latest season is the first leg of three different journeys and travel adventures through that wonderful continent.

You arrive in South America from South Africa but immediately there are issues which viewers see play out across the first three episodes. You can't get your vehicles because of issues with customs. You're there but you can start your travels?
It took us 24 days before we could start travelling, simply due to bureaucratic red tape and requirements in South America which are totally different that the rest of the world. We discovered it there!

It made it much more difficult and cumbersome. Our vehicles stood in the harbour but we couldn't get them before the paperwork wasn't absolutely "perfect", and translated and - it was so complicated.

I say about South America, it's the easiest continent to drive in but the most difficult to get into. Once your there it's so easy - especially crossing borders. As South Africans you barely need a visa for most of the countries. But to just get going...

Episodes one and two deal partly with the frustration. On the other hand, we show you what we did with our time and used it while we had to wait. There's a lot to do and discover there.

How stressful was that because time is money in production and travelling and you're sitting in another country very far from home? To what degree did you think things might not work out or were you adamant that it must just happen since you're there now?
We were sure that it would work out but it becomes a frustration, especially after the second week.

The first week you accept it as what normal is. If I return now I'll take an extra week just to get your bearings. The second week we got more and more aware of the issues. By week three it wasn't a joy anymore. 

Luckily by week four we started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Things started falling in place and on day 24, day 25 we finally started travelling through South America. 

There was never doubt but it was frustrating. you get a bit worn down from staying in one place the whole time and waiting for paperwork and couriers to arrive with documents, waiting for translations.

'Your jaw is on the floor.
 I've never seen or experienced
 anything like it ever in my life.'

How does this new season differ from those awe-inspiring seasons like going to India and what you experienced in South America? Is there also such a big cultural difference between South America and South Africa?
There are a lot more touchpoints in a certain sense between South Africa and South America but on the other hand the language is a much bigger issue. 

In Russia for instance I've seen more English roadsigns than in the whole of South America. There's simply nothing in English. And the further you venture outside of the cities, the less and less anyone is capable of speaking or understanding English.

We with our broken Spanish ... it was a little bit frustrating but lekker in a certain sense to make yourself understandable/ Of course things like Google translating helps. 

There are many touchpoints. The people like braaiing like us. We ate a lot of meat. We drank a lot of red wine which is amazing in South America. The people are incredibly warm and friendly and inviting and jovial. 

You know, a policeman will stop you at a roadblock and interrogate you and want to know where you're going. The same with customs searching your vehicle. But they do it in such an incredibly friendly way. Usually, you sigh when you reach a roadblock. Not here.

These people are friendly and welcoming. Compared with through Africa, what was different with South America - it's a continent of landscapes, as opposed to wild animals.

Their wild animals are more restricted than what we have but their landscapes are dramatic and beautiful - the Andes which we travelled through is absolutely spectacular.

You also visit the Afrikaans-speaking community of Sarmiento. What was that like?
I was pleasantly surprised. I thought there'd be four or five people still speaking Afrikaans. We discovered a lot more and viewers will see!

They are getting older but through the internet they do have more contact with South Africa. 

It was stunning to find people who have never been in South Africa, speaking Afrikaans. it's a different form of Afrikaans, more archaic in a sense - almost a bit Dutch. Remember, they left here 120 years ago and lived there in almost isolation. But it's absolutely one of our biggest highlights of this season's travel.

Surely there will be a lot of surprises again this season. What would you say is one surprise viewers need to watch this season for?
We were at the Perito Moreno glacier. We went to Torres del Paine. These are two very prominent landscapes. Your jaw is on the floor. I've never seen or experienced anything like it ever in my life and I've been in the Himalayas and a lot of other places in the world. This is astounding. 

The surprise is really the majestic beauty of the landscapes and nature. You think when you see photos of Patagonia, the southern part of South America, that some of the colours must surely be doctored and filtered - the blues are simply too blue and astounding.

That is until you arrive there and you're shocked to discover that that is really how it looks. That is really how it is. Nothing on the photos are altered. The colours are intense and vibrant and mesmerising. It's a great, great surprise. 

We hoped to see and experience certain things, and getting there it's even so much better than what we had hoped for!

'As a traveller you should always
 be prepared that you will be
 surprised by the situation.'

This season is called South America Cono Sur. You're a widely-travelled and experienced traveller. As a travel connoisseur, what did you learn about travel this time around journeying through Cono Sur?
The Cono Sur of course "southern cone" in Spanish, distinguishing it from the rest of South America.

I think as a traveller you should always be prepared that you will be surprised by the situation and circumstances. I thought we were 100% prepared to go to South America and experience it will all our paperwork in place - exactly as we had travelled through the rest of the world.

It wasn't the case. You must always be aware as a traveller there are surprises around the corner. Bring patience to adapt to unexpected travel surprises. You will be successful eventually, just don't ever give up.

I've learnt a great lesson from one of the people who is a survivor of the Andes flight disaster 50 years ago, Dr Roberto Canessa. He said in Spanish to me "Un paso a la vez" - one step at a time. You can't rush life or travel. It's one step at a time. 

It's 23 years we've been doing this and I've learnt anew that you've got to be patient and wait and eventually there will be success.

Finally, travelling with kids - as a dad, you journey through the world with your kids alongside you across the seasons. What does that mean to you?
For many years my son Streicher Badenhorst joined us; he's now in the corporate world - not that this isn't a real career. It still remains such an incredible privilege for me to travel with my children. It's something I can encourage anyone to do. 

When you open your eyes, life has passed. Consciously focus on making time to spend time with those who are close to you. 

When you travel with your kids you learn a lot. You think you're teaching and showing them things but in truth, you learn a lot from them. They see and experience the world through different eyes.

Voetspore Suid-Amerika Cono Sur is on Fridays on SABC2 at 19:00, starting 10 March 2023

BBC puts Top Gear on pause after Freddie Flintoff car crash, will make decision on future of car magazine show 'later this year'.

by Thinus Ferreira

The BBC has decided to pause production on the 34th season of Top Gear following presenter Freddie Flintoff's car accident in December 2022 and who is reportedly leaving the show, with the BBC saying it will only make a decision on the future of the car magazine show later this year.

In South Africa, Top Gear is shown on BBC Brit (DStv 120) with Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Freddie Flintoff as the trio of presenters, with the BBC saying it is now doing a "health and safety review" of the show.

Freddie Flintoff (45) was injured at the Top Gear test track in Surrey in December and had to be airlifted to hospital with facial injuries and broken ribs, with the former cricketer and presenter who told friends, according to various British media reports, that he has decided to quit the show.

According to The Times, Freddie who joined Top Gear in 2019, told friends he is too traumatised to continue playing daredevil any longer, with the Daily Mail reporting that he told friends he's "lucky to be alive".

The BBC now in a statement says "We have sincerely apologised to Freddie and will continue to support him with his recovery. Under the circumstances, we feel it would be inappropriate to resume making season 34 of Top Gear at this time".

"We understand this will be disappointing for fans, but it is the right thing to do, and we'll make a judgement about how best to continue later this year. This has also impacted the production team, who we continue to support".

"Finally there will be a health and safety review of the show, in line with our procedures."

Thursday, March 23, 2023

kykNET to debut Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande in April.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice, M-Net and NBCUniversal Formats are continuing their reality TV expansion of The Real Housewives franchise with Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande set in Stellenbosch's upper-crust wine estate wives community which is becoming the 9th African version and the second Afrikaans offshoot.

Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande - the second Afrikaans version in South Africa of The Real Housewives franchise - will start on kykNET (DStv 144) on Thursday 20 April at 20:00, similar to Die Real Housewives of Pretoria which made its debut in 2022.

kykNET is not yet releasing the identities of the women who have been filming the past few months and will be appearing in the winelands version.

Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande follows after South African versions of The Real Housewives of Johannesburg, The Real Housewives of Cape Town, The Real Housewives of Durban currently in its third season, and The Real Housewives of Gqeberha currently in its first season.

MultiChoice Africa and M-Net also produced two Nigerian versions - The Real Housewives of Lagos, and The Real Housewives of Abuja currently in its first season - as well as The Real Housewives of Nairobi in Kenya also currently in its first season.

Die Real Housewives van die Wynlande will follow the champagne catfights and soirĂ©e-filled social circles of a new group of Afrikaans-speaking women, all living and gossiping in South Africa's famed Cape winelands region around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, known for its "old money" and its centuries-old, multi-million rand family-owned wine estates.

According to kykNET, the Cape winelands offer "wealth, vineyards and wine" but it is also here where the tongues are wagging in the high-society social circles over the latest and never-ending gossip in the region over the ins and outs of this conspicuously wealthy community.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Last week MultiChoice toppers Imtiaz Patel, Jim Volkwyn and Byron du Plessis cashed in R9.6 million in shares before the pay-TV company announced lower revenue expectations this week which saw it share price tanking.

by Thinus Ferreira

Three MultiChoice directors - chairman Imtiaz Patel, MultiChoice Africa director Byron du Plessis and non-executive director Jim Volkwyn - last week sold R9.6 million of their MultiChoice shares, luckily before the pay-TV company's share price tanked yesterday after it announced this week that its revenue expectations are now lower.

On 7 March MultiChoice announced that on 6 March Imtiaz Patel had sold R7.63 million of his MultiChoice shares, while Jim Volkwyn sold R725 000 in shares, and Byron du Plessis R1.28 million of MultiChoice shares - collectively R9.6 million of MultiChoice shares.

On Monday evening, in a voluntary trading update issued after the markets had closed, MultiChoice announced that its 2023 revenue expectations are now lower.

MultiChoice warned that its revenue is dragged lower because of the debilitating and increasing Eskom electricity blackout crisis, having a "significant impact" on its DStv subscriber base's activity levels.

MultiChoice also warned that contributing to the lower revenue forecast is that MultiChoice is having to spend more money in increased costs for its planned new Showmax streaming service relaunch after partnering with NBCUniversal, and that operating conditions in South Africa has worsened.

On Tuesday morning MultiChoice shares tanked - dropping almost 15% in the morning and wiping out close to R8 billion in shareholder value, before recovering somewhat during the course of Tuesday, and closing down around 14% lower.

In its trading update, MultiChoice said that "Sustained high levels of loadshedding are having a significant impact on the activity levels of the customer base." 

While not specifying it directly, investors and analysts are taking MultiChoice's trading warning to mean that its top-end DStv premium subscriber segment - its most valuable and biggest contributor to ARPU (average revenue per user) - is very likely falling again, as the number and overall percentage of DStv Premium and DStv Compact Plus subscribers are possibly continuing to decline.

MultiChoice warned in its trading statement that its trading margin has been lowered to between 23% to 28% instead of earlier market guidance of between 28% to 30% for its 2023 financial year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

MultiChoice warns: 2023 revenue dragged lower over Eskom blackouts having a 'significant impact' on DStv subscriber base and additional Showmax costs due to NBCUniversal team-up.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is warning that its 2023 revenue is being dragged lower due to South Africa's debilitating and increasing Eskom electricity blackout crisis which is having a "significant impact" on its DStv subscriber base's activity levels, and also because MultiChoice is having to spend more money in increased costs for its planned new Showmax streaming service relaunch after partnering with NBCUniversal.

MultiChoice now warns that its revenue growth is going to be below expectations.

In a trading update, the Randburg-based pay-TV operator has joined the chorus of South African companies warning about deteriorating economic conditions because of continuing electricity blackouts in the country - called "loadshedding - that is negatively impacting on consumer spending.

MultiChoice says that when it reported its half-year results on 10 November 2022 it was looking forward to subscriber growth in the second half of its financial year in 2023 and it "being buoyed by the broadcasting of the FIFA World Cup from November to December 2022 and festive season momentum".

"Although the FIFA World Cup delivered subscriber numbers broadly in line with expectations, the operating environment in South Africa has deteriorated beyond expectations over the past few months," MultiChoice now warns.

"Sustained high-levels of loadshedding are having a significant impact on the activity levels of the customer base. Combined with the negative effect of a weak economy on consumer spending, and thus on the group's customer mix, indications are that second-half revenue growth in the South African business will be below expectations."

"Given a largely fixed cost base, as well as the additional Showmax costs incurred in relation to the recently announced agreement with Comcast, this will result in the segment's financial year 2023 trading margin being between 23% to 28%, which is below the market guidance of 28% to 30%."

"Due to the positive impact of increased scale, supported by good second-half subscriber growth over the festive season (especially in Nigeria), the Rest of Africa (RoA) business remains on track to return to trading profitability this year."

"As a result of an ongoing focus on cost controls, the MultiChoice Group expects to exceed its financial year 2023 cost savings target of R0.8billion, while the benefits of its hedging policy should also impact positively on earnings in a weaker South African rand environment."

Friday, March 10, 2023

MultiChoice and M-Net doing M-Net Movies Action HQ as the next DStv pop-up channel for 2 weeks from 17 March.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and M-Net are running another DStv pop-up channel, with M-Net Movies Action HQ which will have action films running for two weeks from 17 March.

The DStv pop-up channel M-Net Movies Action HQ will run from 17 March to 2 April on DStv channel 111, with films about "the big bosses of action".

M-Net Movies Action HQ will include films with Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves, The Fast and the Furious franchise, Matt Damon, Unchartered with Tom Holland and Mark Walhberg, among others.

No communication from MultiChoice or M-Net about M-Net Movies Action HQ yet to the media, although the Randburg-based pay-TV operator told DStv subscribers about the upcoming pop-up channel. 

UPDATE Friday 10 March 2023 12:21 - M-Net publicist Lucky Mangela has now sent a press release. M-Net says that M-Net Movies Action HQ will be available to DStv Premium.

The channel will also be accessible as part of the "Add Movies" package for R99, for DStv Compact Plus, DStv Compact, DStv Family and DStv Access subscribers from 17 March 2023 until 2 April 2023. The movies will also be on DStv Catch Up until 2 May 2023. 

Some of the films on M-Net Movies Action HQ will include Top Gun Maverick, John Wick Chapter 2, Taken with Liam Neeson, Unchartered, and Die Hard.

Disney boss Bob Iger: Fewer show and films but higher quality, will licence shows to broadcasters like MultiChoice, M-Net and again.

by Thinus Ferreira

Revealing what the Mouse House has learnt from the video streaming wars, recently-returned Disney boss Bob Iger says The Walt Disney Company is going to reduce the amount of content it produces when it comes to TV shows and films - including for Disney+ - but that what is being made will be of higher quality and that Disney is open to licensing premium content to broadcasters again.

Bob Iger also hinted that Disney+, in the chase to add subscribers and gain scale, has been priced too cheap, hinting that price corrections in the form of price hikes are coming down the pipeline.

He said that Disney will very likely once again start licensing certain Disney content to broadcasters.

This will be good news to South African broadcasters and pay-TV companies like as well as MultiChoice and M-Net (DStv 101) that could no longer acquire Disney content after Disney decided to keep back its own content to build out its Disney+ video streaming service which it also launched in South Africa in 2022.

On Thursday Bob Iger spoke at the 2023 Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco and according to American media reports explained that Disney is drastically slashing costs and scaling back on the volume of TV shows and films, saying Disney is now rather refocusing on quality content instead.

"It comes in the form of reducing the expense per content, whether it’s a TV series or a film, where costs have just skyrocketed in a huge way and not a supportable way in my opinion," he told delegates.

"As we look to reduce the content that we're creating for our own platforms, there probably are opportunities to license to third parties. For a while that was verboten or something we couldn’t possibly do, because we were so favouring our own streaming platforms."

"But if we get to a point where we need less content for those platforms, and we still have the capability of producing that content, why not use it to grow revenue? And that’s what we would likely do."

Bob Iger said "I think it's already clear to us that the exclusivity that we thought would be so valuable in growing Disney+ subs, while it has some value, wasn't as valuable as we thought".

"Content can actually exist on the traditional platform and on the streaming platform quite well without doing damage to either one, because actually a very, very audience is consuming on those platforms."

More picky about projects
About films and franchises like the Marvel universe and Star Wars, Bob Iger said "What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel storytelling, but how many times we go back to the well on certain characters".

"Sequels typically work well for us, but do you need a third or a fourth, for instance? Or is it time to turn to other characters? There's nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand. I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we are mining."

"If you look at the trajectory of Marvel over the next five years, you’ll see a lot of newness. Now, we're going to turn back to the Avengers franchise, but with a whole set of different Avengers, as an example."

"With Star Wars we made three what we called saga films, which is obviously the successors to George Lucas' first six."

"They did very well at the box office - tremendously well as a matter of fact. We've made two so-called stand-alones in Rogue One and Solo.

"Rogue One did quite well, Solo was a little disappointing to us. It gave us pause just to think maybe the cadence was a little too aggressive. And so we decided to pull back a bit. We still are developing Star Wars films. We're going to make sure that when we make one, that it's the right one, so we are being very careful there."

Bob Iger says quality content is a differentiator in the video streaming wars.

"There's so much consumer choice right now, and it comes back to, 'What is differentiated?' That's one thing obviously we have talked about, is those brands: Star Wars, Marvel and Disney and Pixar, for instance. But quality is also a differentiator."

"I think HBO proved that well in their halcyon days when high-quality programming made a big difference, and not volume."

"Because the streaming platforms require so much volume, one has to question whether that's the right direction to go, or if you can be more curated, more - I used the word 'judicious' a few times - but I guess, more picky about what you're making, and to concentrate on quality and not volume."

Bob Iger said he "generally bullish on streaming as a great consumer proposition, as a really robust platform to deliver high-quality content" and that "eventually, I think everything will migrate to streaming,” including ESPN as a direct-to-consumer offering".

"Now it's about getting our content pipeline right, making sure that we're making the right decisions and making sure that we’re making the right number of decisions in terms of how much we're making."

"Then it's really being mindful of a world that is not getting any less complicated, and in fact that technology only is going to disrupt more, and making sure that we're positioning those great brands and this great content-generation business in the right way to deliver the kind of value that shareholders need long term."

Disney+ too cheap
Bob Iger said at the conference that in the chase to sign up Disney+ subscribers, the streamer has probably been priced too cheap and will be adjusting the pricing.

"In our zeal to grow global subs, I think we were off in terms of our pricing strategy, and we're now starting to learn more about it and to adjust accordingly."

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Yandiswa Nkonde now Urban Brew Studios' permanent head of channels.

by Thinus Ferreira

Urban Brew Studios in Johannesburg has solidified Yandiswa Nkonde's role as head of channels with the exec now permanently in the position from 1 March 2023.

Yandiswa Nkonde took over as Urban Brew Studios' acting head of channels in August of channels in August 2022.

Yandiswa Nkonde previously worked for the SABC and pay-TV operators like M-Net, TopTV and Kwese in roles ranging from scheduler, planner, assistant brand manager, movie manager, programme buyer and channel manager.

Urban Brew Studios packages channels like 1G and Dumisa carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service.

"Her passion, experience and leadership complement our strong performance-oriented culture, and we believe her impressive ability for execution and achieving results makes her the right choice to lead UBS Channels, One Gospel and Dumisa TV as we prepare the business for the next phase of profitable viewership growth," says Calvin Sefala, Urban Brew Studios CEO.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

2023’s 44th Durban International Film Festival set for July with online and in-person presentations.

by Thinus Ferreira

The 44th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is set to take place over 10 days at the University of KwaZulu-Natal from 20 July, with more than 3 000 films from 137 countries which entered this year's edition, for an online and in-person presentation.

The 44th Durban International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in South Africa that made its debut in 1979, will do a live-screening at the CineCentre in the Suncoast complex, with other venues which will be announced closer to the start of the festival.  

The 44th Durban International Film Festival will make use of both online and in-person presentations for film lovers in South Africa.

Durban International Film Festival manager Andrea Voges - after working at the Joburg Film Festival, Red Sea International Film Festival, Realness Institute, Ucuru Media, National Arts Council of South Africa and the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa (NFVF) as a project coordinator - has returned to the DIFF where she worked between 2010 and 2014.

The Durban International Film Festival says the 2023 programme "will showcase the works of filmmakers who place their imaginations, voices, creativity and lenses at the centre of creating films that inspire, confront, challenge and provoke audiences".

"The programming team will look out for innovative storytelling that will connect storytellers with audiences," says Andrea Voges.

The film shorts programming team comprises of the founder of Alfreda's Cinema, Melissa Lyde (US), curator, filmmaker and historian Greta Morton (Australia), filmmaker, visual artist, and film festival programmer Yanyu Dong (China) and the curator, cultural programmer and producer Mitchell Harper (South Africa).

The documentary programmers are film director and curator Ygor Gama (Argentina/Brazil), line producer and programme coordinator Egar Ntanyi (Nigeria) and film director, producer and director of photography Inadelso Cossa (Mozambique).

Writer and director Indranil Banerjee (India), curator, producer, director and broadcaster Andrea Cals (Brazil), festival programmer and distributor Safa Morad (Egypt) and film critic, programmer and journalist Tara Karajicoa (Serbia), will make up the programming team for the features category.
The 44th Durban International Film Festival from 20 to 30 July will be followed by the 11th kykNET Silwerskermfees Film Festival taking place in Camps Bay in Cape Town from 23 to 26 August.