Tuesday, January 31, 2012

BREAKING. TopTV CEO Vino Govender out at the struggling pay TV operator amidst pressure that he be removed; unhappiness over content.

OUT! I can spill that TopTV's CEO Vino Govender is getting the boot with the pay TV operator's beleaguered CEO that got shown the door as problems and pressure are mounting for On Digital Media (ODM) - today was the last day for Vino Govender who's getting replaced by Eddie Mbalo.

Insiders told me today about growing unhappiness from TopTV's angry board and incensed investors about TopTV's slow-growing subscriber numbers, content, and completely misguided porn package plans which are the primary reasons behind Vino Govender getting replaced. He will, according to sources, still be at the office tomorrow.

ALSO READ: ''Mutual separation'' negotiated between TopTV board and its CEO Vino Govender.
ALSO READ: Vino Govender out as CEO of TopTV with immediate effect as Eddie Mbalo takes over as interim TopTV CEO.

Vino Govender took over as ODM CEO in 2007 when the original founder Mergan Moodley became ill, but he's out now at the pay TV service which signed up over 300 000 subscribers at the end of last year before TopTV's titillating porn plan became know.

Vino Govender I'm told will be replaced by Eddie Mbalo, the former CEO of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) since 2001. For how long Eddie Mbalo will stand in as acting TopTV CEO is currently not know.

I can exclusively reveal that the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) apparently asked Vino Govender to be replaced as TopTV CEO - according to insiders they're allegedly not happy with the subscriber numbers or with TopTV's faltering content. The massive uproar over TopTV's porn plans and dramatic turn of the pay TV operator from family-friendly pay platform to wannabe porn purveyor and the reputational damage it inflicted, did not sit well with TopTV's investors and incredible pressure on the pay TV platform has been building behind the scenes the past couple of weeks.

The IDC is one of the major investors in TopTV since its launch. The IDC could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Meanwhile insiders are confirming what I've already told you - that TopTV has been coming in for severe criticism for its vast number of repeat programming, lack of new channels (and in fact losing channels since November) as well as a lack of following through on multiple promises like starting a sport channel.

There's also the severe reputational and brand damage inflicted on TopTV the past two months with wanting to start a porn package which lead to a public fight with South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the resultant court interdict (which was granted to the regulator), and the regulator eventually turning down the controversial application for TopTV to start showing hardcore pornography.

There is overall, huge unhappiness with TopTV's content and the pace at which the pay TV operator has been managing subscriber growth, I'm told.

I'm told that Eddie Mbalo, the current chairperson is replacing Vino Govender as TopTV CEO. I'm told that no ODM employees have been told about the news which will send a new seismic shock through the Woodmead Office Park building. With Vino Govender gone, ''they'll then be bringing in a consulting company to relook structure, position and skill sets but nothing has been communicated to the staff,'' an insider told me today.

TopTV's atmosphere and low morale is apparently one of fear and extremely scared and uncertain employees. ''Morale is down,'' said a source, saying ''staff are hearing rumours and no one is communicating what's going on. There's a lot of uncertainty and people are worried about their jobs.''

TopTV did not immediately answer media enquiries made about Vino Govender's exit from the pay TV operator.

Since TopTV's commercial launch in May 2010 Vino Govender has back tracked on several occasions regarding the companies plans - the promise to not run pornographic TV channels chief among them. Promises of TopTV's plans to have high definition (HD) channels, a PVR, and the addition of several new TV channels within months of launch have not yet come to pass, with constantly moving goalposts.

TopTV went through a restructuring exactly a year ago, recently lost the Hi Nolly and One Music channels, will lose the Current TV channel on 11 March (none of which have been replaced, despite promises to do so) and has meanwhile hiked monthly subscriber fees without offering anything more, better or new last year.

Meanwhile TopTV suffered a disastrous double debit order disaster early last year. Almost two years after launch TopTV subscribers are still complaining about lousy customer service and the pay TV operator regularly suffers from technical broadcasting problems.

ALSO READ: TopTV's porn problem: South Africa's leading reputational management consultant on how TopTV got it all so wrong.
ALSO READ: Analysis - Pondering porn: The fight for the heart of TopTV as the pay TV operator arrives at a crossroad.
ALSO READ: Analysis - TopTV's porn plans: a deeper look at the bigger problem with the pay TV platform.

HAPPY NEWS. Happy Ntshingila officially appointed as the new CEO of SuperSport.

Happy Ntshingila is the new CEO of SuperSport and will be reporting directly to MultiChoice South Africa group CEO, Imtiaz Patel.

Happy Ntshingila was Absa's former chief marketing and communication officer but recently resigned, and has taken over the reigns of the multi-national and pan-African sports broadcaster.

''With his extensive business experience and marketing expertise, Happy will be a valuable addition to the SuperSport team,'' says Imtiaz Patel in a press statement released late today. Imtiaz Patel was himself the former CEO of SuperSport.

In the same short statement, Happy Ntshingila is quoted, only saying ''I look forward to the challenges of my new role as CEO of SuperSport.''

Programming note: A splendid new 3 part documentary, Andrew Marr's Metropolis, coming to BBC Knowledge from 23 February.

A truly-splendid 3 part documentary series, Andrew Marr's Metropolis will start on BBC Knowledge (DStv 251) on Thursday 23 February at 21:00, looking at the ''anatomy'' of some of the world's most incredible cities and overall asking the question: how will our cities cope in the future as they keep growing?

By 2050, two thirds of the Earth's inhabitants will live in cities. This seismic urban shift in the world's exploding population is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity and which is what Andrew Marr's Metropolis will eplore.

Megacities increasingly have more inhabitants than small countries, with far-reaching consequences: a growing wealth gap, widespread social unrest and increased mortality. The 3 three part documentary series looks at how these metropolises tick and the challenges they face.

Andrew Marr meets the engineers and technocrats who are in control, and the ordinary people who must live with their decisions. Meanwhile most megacities in the world currently lie at sea level, in seismic zones or in hurricane areas.

BREAKING. M-Net gets the broadcasting rights to the new drama GCB - but it will only be on the M-Net Series channel.

You're reading it here first.

I can break the news exclusively that M-Net has secured the broadcasting rights to the brand-new drama, GCB (already referred to as ''the new Desperate Housewives'') - and I can tell you that it will be yet another sparkling new high-buzz show that will not be on the M-Net channel (DStv 101) but which will only be seen on M-Net Series (DStv 110).

ALSO READ: M-Net secures the broadcasting rights to The River but puts the new Steven Spielberg drama on M-Net Series.
ALSO READ: M-Net has the broadcasting rights to the high-buzz, high-viewership new show Once Upon a Time but inexplicably dumps it on M-Net Series.

GCB - short for originally Good Christian Bitches, then Good Christian Belles - will only be seen on M-Net Series (therefore no high definition (HD) version for South African viewers) and the first season is set to start in America on 4 March. The starting date of CGB on M-Net Series is not yet clear.

GCB follows Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) who returns to Dallas with her children after her divorce. She meets up with all of her old high school friends (who all have husbands - and secrets), as well as her mother.

Programming note: Vuzu extending its foray into the bubblegum television genre with new local drop-in quote show, 10 Over 10.

Repurposing and adapting the show 10 Uit 10 already on kykNET (DStv 111) - the idea of which was taken from E! Entertainment (DStv 124) and that channel's Countdown shows - M-Net is now doing 10 Over 10 for Vuzu (DStv 123) where pop culturati bobble heads will do drop-in quotes on episodes built around themes like ''Celebs on Twitter'' and ''Best male beach bodies''.

I'm told bubble dial-a-quoters for 10 Over 10 who are all Johannesburg-based will include Mika Stefano, Uyanda Mbuli, Trevor Gumbi, Babalwa Mneno, Bonang, David Thale, Sade Giliberti and - interestingly - Nonhle Thema who used to be a V Entertainment presenter on Vuzu before all of that twitter madness.

10 Over 10 is produced for Vuzu by Rif Productions and will start on Vuzu on Wednesday 15 February at 19:30, with the show marketed as something that will turn ''a scalding hot spotlight on local celebrity culture''.

10 Over 10 will be voice-over driven but will include various commentators per episode.

Programming note: Debora Patta and the Muslim Judicial Council square off in a pre-recorded sit-down interview in 3rd Degree tonight on e.tv.

3rd Degree tonight at 21:30 on e.tv and the eNews Channel (DStv 403) with Debora Patta will most likely once again be one of those must-watch TV moments as Debora Patta will be squaring off with the Muslim Judicial Council's (MJC) executive member, Moulana Abdul Fataagh Carr.

I'm told it's a pre-recorded sit-down interview that viewers will see tonight in 3rd Degree.

After the massive public outcry and controversy swirling around the MJC after 3rd Degree's pork expose and non-Halaal meat scandal, the show ignited a firestorm the past 2 weeks with newspapers and the public demanding answers from the MJC.

In a sit-down interview tonight, the MJC under pressure, agreed to talk to Debora Patta in what e.tv calls a ''no holds barred interview''. 3rd Degree struggled for weeks to get answers from the MJC, the body that controls Halaal certification in the Western Cape.

SPECIAL REPORT. South Africa's leading reputational management consultant on how TopTV, with its porn plan, got it all so wrong.

From the moment news broke about TopTV's plans for a new pornographic TV package, everything for the South African pay TV operator started going disastrously wrong.

With mounting public criticism, a nasty and very public court battle with South Africa's broadcasting regulator, seemingly no control over the barrage of bad press or any intention to stem or be out in front of the news story in a simply voracious news cycle, TopTV has inflicted huge reputational damage to its brand, leaving South Africa's television industry wondering: How on earth did TopTV (un)manage to get it all so wrong?

I asked South Africa's leading reputational consultant Janine Lazarus, the owner of Janine Lazarus Media Consultancy in Johannesburg and our country's definitive thought leader when it comes to reputational management of brands and companies and personalities, what TopTV did wrong, what the pay TV operator should have and could do differently, and why the pay TV operator's plans for a new porn package wasn't managed more carefully.

Janine Lazarus works as one of South Africa's leading media skills trainers and as such, she deals primarily with individual and organizational reputation management. Adding even more apt context and incredible insight, is her stint as managing editor for Penthouse magazine as well as many years as a investigative hard news journalist, very well-versed with the relentless 24/7 news machine and the factors that drive it.

Here is her thoughts on TopTV's porno debacle, and why she says TopTV needs ''some serious rethinking and strategizing – that is if it isn't too late'':

'I personally have no issue with a television channel that offers adult content. As a journalist with 27 years of experience in the mainstream print and broadcast media, I am a fervent believer in freedom of expression – a concept our government cannot seem to wrap its head around.

Anything less than freedom of expression will result in this country heading down the same slippery slope that we found ourselves in when I was a reporter in the 80's. And that is something not even worth thinking about.

There is undoubtedly a strong business case for adult content on television – whether the Mother Grundy's out there like it or not. And to create some sort of vague link between pornography and violent sexual crimes is nothing short of ridiculous. I spent years as a crime reporter interviewing some of the country's most diabolical serial killers, and not one of them ever alluded to the belief that pornography made them into what they had become.

It may be of some interest for you to note that when I left newspapers, I spent about a year working as deputy editor of Penthouse magazine. As a woman, I was never offended by either the material or the photographs.

The fact that MultiChoice and e.tv faced a similar public outcry when they flirted with adult content doesn't mean much. When one organization fails to get it right, it doesn't mean that another organization can't do better. BUT – and that's a big BUT – it all comes down to having a carefully considered plan when communicating your message. Making sure that all your t's are crossed and your i's are dotted is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity.

To my mind, the biggest fly in this ointment was the patent lack of communication on the part of TopTV. Being evasive is exactly what I caution delegates in my Media Training programmes to steer clear of. All ducking and diving does is to create a strong perception in the marketplace that you have something to hide.

Communicating – even over something as controversial as adult content – is absolutely critical. The last place the public should read about something involving any organization is in the newspaper. It is up to the organization to proactively communicate a uniform message that is clear and concise. Getting all key players to sing off the same hymn sheet is really all it takes.

For the CEO to first deny in May 2010 that TopTV would be doing any such channels, and then to go ''missing in action'' after that, is exactly what not to do. It creates a very real lack of integrity.

Decisions rest on CEO's. In fact, many organizations have been made or un-made by their executives. When a journalist wants a comment from the Head Honcho, palming then off to someone in sales or even in marketing doesn't quite cut it. It may not be comfortable for most people to admit that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword

Court interdicts, public hearings and fervent backlash all just results – if you'll forgive me – in an even sexier story. The media just love anything that smacks of sensation. And TopTV is providing the press with something that they can really sink their teeth into.

What cannot be pushed aside however, is the timing of the launch. The 20th of December ??? I think not. Something about jingle bells and Christmas pudding that just doesn't sit right. Just like location is important when buying a house, so is timing when starting a business venture.

Unfortunately, once the milk has been spilled, there is not much that an organization can do about it. Of course, not finding oneself in this unenviable position would have been first prize. But, failing that, there are ways in which to deal effectively with a crisis. The one sure-fast way to mitigate risk is it to connect with the issue.

Inaction spells even more disaster. The sad reality is that it will now be very difficult for the public to divorce the brand from the debate on pornography, and – even worse – the fracas surrounding getting Icasa's stamp of approval. What is needed now is some serious rethinking and strategizing – that is if it isn't too late.'

Janine Lazarus from Janine Lazarus Media Consultancy can be reached at http://www.janinemedia.co.za/ and 011 454 2499.

BREAKING. Paula Abdul, Steven Jones and Nicole Scherzinger all dumped from The X Factor by Simon Cowell.

In a zinger South African reality television viewers haven't seen since M-Net parted ways with presenter Liezel van der Westhuizen and judge Mara Louw in Idols, The X Factor is dumping presenter Steve Jones, as well as judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, none of whom will be back for the second season, Deadline reports - quoting insider sources.

Although Steve Jones and Nicole Scherzinger's departure from the reality show was rumoured, the dumping of Paula Abdul from The X Factor comes as a shock, given her close friendship with judge and executive producer Simon Cowell.

While the show had so-so viewership in America and fell short of expectations, The X Factor performed admirably for M-Net in South Africa. According to Deadline, noe of the 3 left by their choice.

''I won't be hosting next seasons X Factor which is a shame but I cant complain as I've had a great time,'' Steve Jones wrote on Twitter.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dan Arnall joins Bloomberg Television as the new executive producer of news for the business channel.

Dan Arnall has joined Bloomberg Television (DStv 411) as executive producer of news.

Based in New York, Dan Arnell will oversee Bloomberg Television's newsgathering and editorial content in America, the bulk of which is of course seen here in South Africa.

''Dan's extensive experience in covering business news and his passion for the beat, along with his creative production skills, will make him a crucial leader of the Bloomberg Television team,'' says Bloomberg Television in a statement announcing the appointment.

National Geographic Channel working on its own one-hour TV special on Italy's Costa Concordia shipping disaster.

Following in the footsteps of The Discovery Channel (DStv 121) that's commissioned and is working on a fast turnaround documentary on the Costa Concordia ship sinking disaster off the coast of Italy, is the National National Geographic Channel (DStv 260) now working on it's own Costa Concordia TV special the TV channel will show in South Africa very soon.

National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) has partnered with the Italian production house DOCLAB to produce a one-hour TV special on the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Isola del Giglio.

The National Geographic Channel special will piece together survivors' testimony along with footage taken during the ship's evacuation. The documentary will describe the collective tragedy through words and images captured on cameras and mobile phones during the journey and in the dramatic hours as the ship went down.

Footage and commentary from passengers and rescuers will be used to give a firsthand perspective and insight into what exactly went wrong.

JimJam on TopTV goes to nature; buys My Animal Family for the preschool channel.

In a first for the TV channel, the kids channel JimJam (TopTV 256) has acquired a nature-themed TV series as part of a ''new direction'' for the preschool channel.

JimJam, run by Chello Zone bought 26 episodes of My Animal Family (15 minutes in duration each) from Big Media.

The nature show has wildlife documentary material with narration to suit preschool children's level, with episodes around a specicif theme or story such as a day in the life of animals such as elephants and chimpanzees.

ESPN will have Super Bowl XLVI live and exclusive for South African viewers on 6 February - but without the hot commercials.

ESPN (DStv 230) will have the biggest single, annual TV viewing event in America, the Super Bowl, live and exclusive for South African TV viewers very early in the morning of Monday 6 February from 01:00 to 05:00 - but it won't include any of the iconic buzz-worthy and wanna-see TV commercials.

Super Bowl XLVI will be repeated on ESPN for South Africa later the same day at 09:00 and again at 19:00 (South African time).

ESPN will have live coverage as the New England Patriots and New York Giants meet at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis with both quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Tom Brady both back to face each other again this year.

Madonna will be the performer at the Super Bowl halftime show and the former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson will sing America's national anthem.

ESPN says South African viewers will however not be able to see the much-hyped commercials for the game which sold out by November last year at an average price of $3,5 million per 30 second ad - commercials that's so funny, creative and special that viewers actually want to see them all.

The first teaser trailer for the second season of Game of Thrones set to start in April in America.

There's no word yet on when the second season of Game of Thrones will be starting on M-Net, although it will be kicking off in America in April.

The second season of Game of Thrones will have 10 episodes as well, and the teaser trailer just became available.

Current TV on TopTV closing down on 11 March; final documentary will be Shed Your Tears and Walk Away.

Current TV (TopTV 406) which will be closing down on 11 March and which means that the South African pay TV operator TopTV will lose another channel, will be going off the air with  the documentary Shed Your Tears and Walk Away as its final documentary.

''We are awaiting feedback from Current TV,'' TopTV tells me, with the pay TV operator waiting to get final word or the future or demise of Current TV's feed from the United Kingdom which is what South African viewers are seeing here.

Current TV has named 11 March as the end of its transmission period after which the broadcast of the channel will cease. It will be the third channel within months no longer being provided by TopTV after the channel providers close because of money issues.

''We have been overwhelmed by the passion of our supporters, viewers and producers who are flooding our message boards and others with their dismay about Current's likely closure,” said Current UK managing director Jane Mote in a statement.

''The depth of anger, disbelief and determination will ensure that the fight for democracy and plurality for independent film-makers will live on and grow long after Current has gone.''

Current TV's final documentary deliberately has an ironic title - Shed Your Tears and Walk Away. The film is set in the small Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge and follows a former heroin addict as he comes to terms with his own mortality.

90% of everything you watch on television now comes to your screen from just 7 companies.

90% of everything you watch on television - everything you see - comes to you from, and belongs to, now just 7 global companies: The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, News Corporation, NBCUniversal, Time Warner, Discovery and the BBC.

BREAKING. SABC ordered to stop the broadcaster's abnormal search for a chief operating officer by the minister of communications.

You're reading it here first.

It didn't take long for the SABC's new group CEO Lulama Mokhobo to make her first big mistake only weeks after landing the position, with the SABC and the SABC board immediately being ordered to by South Africa's minister of communications, Dina Pule, to suspend the current extremely narrow search for a chief operating officer (COO) in the form of a job advert that specifies that no academic qualifications are needed  and which was only advertised inside the SABC on Friday.

While South Africa's struggling public broadcaster said there's nothing wrong with the job advert (it was only advertised since Friday; people have only 3 days to apply; its only advertised internally on the SABC's Interkom newsletter; the COO position specifies nothing regarding any qualifications needed) Dina Pule has now ordered the SABC to immediately suspend the abnormal process.

''The minister immediately requested the SABC board to suspend the current search,'' says the department of communications in a strongly-worded press statement just issued, saying Dina Pule ordered the SABC to follow a ''normal and wider executive appointment process''. The department says the minister feels that the SABC board will ''handle all processes of appointments accordingly''.

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition has come out in vocal denouncement of the SABC's COO advertisment move, saying in a statement this afternoon that ''the integrity of the appointment process can not be underminded'' and that the SABC ''must strive to attract the best possible candidate, whether it is internally or externally,'' calling the already seemingly botched-first attempt by Lulama Mokhobo to advertise for a COO ''the first important test for our new group CEO's leadership skills''.

The SOS Coalition says ''the SABC board and group CEO needs to ensure that the appointment process follows scrupulous due process in terms of ensuring that that the job is advertised internally and externally; that the deadline for applications is extended to ensure maximum opportunity to participate; and that the SABC must ensure they find the best person for this important post.''

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No matric or tertiary academic qualifications needed if you want to be the SABC's chief operating officer.

The Sunday Independent's Moffat Mofokeng - a newspaper with a long strong insider's list of SABC sources very similar to mine - has a front page lead story today that's set to stir the pot with speculation that Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the extremely controversial SABC executive is going to be appointed as the permanent new chief operating officer (COO) of the struggling South African public broadcaster.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng's real job is as executive looking after stakeholder relations and provinces, although he has been appointed as acting COO and as acting group CEO at the SABC last year despite not having a matric certificate; never having finished matric; and lied about it according to a KPMG report that investigated irregularities at the broadcaster.

The COO position is the second most powerful position at the SABC and at other South African companies are filled by highly qualified executives who hold several academic qualifications and MBAs.

If Hlaudi Motsoeneng indeed is appointed as the SABC's permanent COO as the Sunday Independent speculates - a position long vacant at the broadcaster the past 4 years - the SABC will likely be the only billion rand corporation in South Africa where a top executive gets a job worth R2 million a year never having ever finished grade 12.

If this happens, the SABC will likely tout Hlaudi Motsoeneng's on the job experiential learning and skills acquired whilst working there as things making him suitable to be COO.

The SABC started to advertise the position of COO at the SABC on Friday. According to the Sunday Independent the position has only been advertised internally (I haven't seen it) and people only have until Tuesday to apply. Incredulously, no matric certificate is needed; neither is any mention of any academic qualifications made.

Personally I haven't heard anything or asked anybody about the speculation that Hlaudi Motsoeneng is apparently a shoe-in for the position but it will definitely spark a fresh row of comment about the SABC's ongoing apparent lack of strong top executive leadership, vacant positions and what the standards of executive excellence - or lack of it - at the public broadcaster is.

Amina Frense, the SABC's managing editor of television news and current affairs, marries South Africa's former spy boss Ronnie Kasrils.

Readers of TV with Thinus will be aware that television and South Africa's TV industry is covered intelligently, incisively here and not in the TV trash way some other publications pander with passes for news (get press release; publish and regurgitate press release with no original thought).

That includes not doing stories about people's personal lives and dishing personal dirt (and there's oh so much) - unless it impacts directly on their professional work life.

One piece of personal news to share though, is the wedding today of Amina Frense (59), the SABC's managing editor for television news and current affairs.

Amina Frense married Ronnie Kasrils today, South Africa's former minister of intelligence services, in an intimate wedding ceremony in Cape Town.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

SABC3's Isidingo cast in Cape Town on Sunday at the Cavendish shopping centre for a meet-and-greet with fans.

Cast members from Isidingo on SABC3 will be in Cape Town and at the Cavendish shopping centre in Claremont this Sunday, 29 January from 10:30 to 12:30 to meet fans of the soap, take photos with them, sign autographs and hand out Isidingo 2012 calendars.

Isidingo cast members who will be at the Cavendish meet-and-greet tomorrow will be Robert Whitehead (Barker), Kgomotso Christopher (Katlego), Vusi Kunene (Jefferson), Ashish Gangapersad (Prada), Jay Anstey (Charlie), Meshack Mavuso (Vusi).

Friday, January 27, 2012

BREAKING. In decision-reversal, SABC decided to show all remaining Afcon soccer games live using both SABC1 and SABC2.

In a major decision-reversal that comes with massive cost and detrimental advertising revenue implications for the SABC, the South African public broadcaster just announced that it will screen the remainder of the African Cup of Nations soccer matches live - a week after the SABC said that it won't be moving its biggest show, Generations to accomodate the continental soccer matches.

Last week the SABC said that it won't be moving South Africa's biggest TV show in viewership - Generations - to a different timeslot to accomodate Afcon matches which the SABC said it would broadcast delayed live. Generations is a cash cow for the broadcaster, raking in millions per month in advertising fees - much more than soccer matches which actually cost the SABC millions in broadcasting rights to secure.

The SABC, with new group CEO Lulama Mokhobo, has decided to reverse tact and will start broadcasting all of the remaining Afcon games live from tomorrow, Saturday 28 January by moving Generations on SABC1 and also using sister channel SABC2 for Afcon broadcasts.

''The decision was taken to respond to the public's plea to see all the games live,'' says Lulama Mokhobo. ''In order to achieve this, consultation was done with several stakeholders including advertisers, to be able to balance our mandate as a public service broadcaster, towards sporting codes of national and continental importance, as well as our business imperatives.''

''For us as a public service broadcaster, it was important to listen to our viewer's needs, and try to accommodate them, within our means,'' says Lulama Mokhobo.

Generations on SABC1 will be moving earlier to 19:00 from Monday 30 January to accomodate Afcon games starting at 20:00 on SABC1. Afcon games will also be shown at 20:00 on SABC2 from Monday 30 January on weekdays which means that SABC2 will be dumping its existing schedule from 20:00 and shows such as the popular Pasella on this coming Tuesday at 17:30.

BREAKING. Icasa turns down TopTV's porn package application; pay TV operator denied permission to start hardcore porno channels.

You're reading it here first.

I can exclusively break the news that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has refused TopTV's porn application for the pay TV operator to start a separate stand-alone, new hardcore pornographic package of channels.

It brings to an end an almost 3 month highly publicised battle during which the pay TV operator came under widespread criticism from wanting to introduce the Adult XXX, Playboy Europe and Private Spice channels in South Africa.

Icasa said it would provide reasons for denying TopTV's application within 30 days. TopTV's board indicated that it would accept Icasa's decision. Asked for comment, TopTV says the pay TV operator will ''wait for Icasa to provide their reasons for decling the channels. Until then we are unable to make any comments.''

TopTV ignited a massive firestorm when news broke that TopTV wanted to start a separate subscription porno package which dented the pay TV operator's brand reputation the past few months.

While the pay TV operator became imbroiled in a separate bitter fight with South Africa's broadcasting regulator over regulatory approval procedures, a massive public backlash battered the company with widespread criticism from the public, united Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith-based groups, as well as the Film and Publication Board, the trade union Cosatu, and TopTV investors voicing strong opposition to the plan. The majority of TopTV's board last week in a urgent meeting, became decidedly negative over the company's porn plans.

TopTV didn't give an oral presentation at its public hearing for its channels application convened by Icasa last Monday and was strangely silent, while the Film and Publication Board said that the Broadcasting Act clearly stipulates that the distribution of pornography can be done only through licensed stores and classified videos. The Film and Publication Board said that the sale of pornographic content is only allowed to be made to people over the age of 18 and that hardcore pornography can't be broadcast on television.

TopTV which initially wanted to start the porn package on 20 December over Christmas, then moved the date to 20 January, then was prevented to through an urgent court interdict granted to Icasa to prevent TopTV from doing so before the regulator gave a decision; is now going to pay the price in two ways.

Firstly their is the fallout from the reputational brand damage, but TopTV is also facing a financial loss stemming from the carriage agreements TopTV already signed in September with Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd. before it even knew if it would get regulatory approval for the porn package, as well as the financial investment TopTV already made in bringing the package to launch, which will now not be happening.

TopTV CEO Vino Govender who, at the launch of TopTV in May 2010, initially said TopTV will not be carrying pornographic channels and that TopTV ''don't want to poison the minds of the millions of South African children out there'', appears to have underestimated the sensibilities of the general South African television audience and have not fully taken note of specific tonalities of South Africa's TV market.

Both MultiChoice running the DStv pay TV service who conducted research into the possibility of starting a pornographic TV package, as well as e.tv broadcasting the salacious Naked News programme came in for similar and severe public criticism in the past. Ignoring past history, it didn't detract TopTV from also attempting a porn launch which ignited a furore and landed the pay TV operator in a public relations nightmare.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

BREAKING. Inkaba with John Kani the new 208 episode long telenovella for Mzansi Magic that will start on weekdays late in March.

You're reading it here first. 

I can exclusively break the news that pay TV broadcaster M-Net's new telenovela TV series for the Mzansi Magic channel (DStv 107) - produced by Urban Brew Studios - is named Inkaba and will start late in March on the channel, running for four days per week from Monday to Thursday with a cast of 17 including veteran TV stars such as John Kani over the course of 208 episodes.

Inkaba has the veteran John Kani playing a family patriarg on screen but he is also the executive producer of the English telenovela which will be shown from Mondays to Thursdays at 20:30 on Mzansi Magic. Inkaba is the isiXhosa word meaning interconnectivity - or literally ''navel'' - the bond between parents and children.

Originally having the working title of Pride and Desire, the telenovella with a year's worth of episodes, will be called Inkaba and will be set in modern day Johannesburg in rich and poor suburbs centered around two fashion houses similar to The Bold and the Beautiful.

Tragedy recently struck the production with the death of actor Muzi ''Clive'' Mgwenya whose role has to be recast.

The telenovela will incorporate several flashback scenes set in the former lives of the characters. These flashbacks to the 1980s decade will occur in especially the first few episodes to give exposition to the earlier lives of some of the now older Inkaba characters.

Asked about the telenovela a while ago, M-Net today - without revealing the title or particular specific details - answered questions about the limited-run soap opera which M-Net called ''Mzansi Magic's biggest investment over the past and upcoming financial years''.

ALSO READ: Mzansi Magic working on a telenovela with the working title Desire.

Insiders called the story ''epic'' and ''a truly South African multi-generational tale'' saying that viewers will be pulled in ''by the interplay between rich and poor, the aspirational values of the fashion set and the tension that comes from the dynamic between parents, their children, and everyone's professional lives and dreams''.

M-Net said that Mzansi Magic is ''currently in pre-production for the telenovela which will launch on-air in March 2012'' (insiders mentioned a late March launch for Inkaba). Last year M-Net also put out a commissioning brief for a soap together with the telenovela, but said ''the channel is still finalising its strategy for long-running series, which will inform the way forward in terms of production and broadcasting of local soaps and telenovellas''.

Asked what the biggest challenges has been so far for these newly commissioned local programming and why Mzansi Magic is doing this, M-Net said the biggest challenge has been ''top explore all options to ensure that productions strengthen the channel's content proposition and schedule. It's also very important to ensure that each component in the big production machine is top notch - from the script, to casting, set design and other production components.''

''Schedule stability has been a key area of business for the channel over the past year,'' says M-Net, saying that Inkaba ''has all the ingredients to keep viewers hooked four nights in a row over a long period.

Inkaba and the new upcoming 8th season of Idols are the top programming priorities for Mzansi Magic, although Mzansi Magic has also put out a commissioning brief for a local reality show the channel would like to put on air. ''We are always busy exploring the best programming for the channel.''

Inkaba will have a limited run similar to South America soap operas and will be 208 episodes of 24 minutes each to fill a half hour per day from Mondays to Thursdays for a year. Inkaba episodes will be recorded about a month in advance. ''The telenovela will be filmed in studio with a small portion of material being shot on location''. The cast is at 17 people, including the main and secondary cast. ''There are a large number of featured extra roles and smaller cameo parts over and above this,'' says M-Net of Inkaba.

''The sets are possibly some of the most innovative elements of the show as they offer 360 degree shooting in a studio as opposed to the 'flat' tradisional way of shooting.''

M-Net says Inkaba has been created ''in such a way that we can retain our older audiences but also attract younger viewers''.

BREAKING. New show, The Edition, starting on the eNews Channel for 13 episodes from Wednesda 8 February at 21:30.

You're reading it here first. 

I can exclusively break the news that a new locally produced show is coming to the eNews Channel (DStv 403), and will be entitled The Edition.

The Edition (or who knows, possibly spelled The edition, or The e-dition in keeping with the channel's small cap ''e'' livery) will be a limited-run series with a first season of 13 episodes, I'm told.

The Edition will be a half hour show and start on the eNews Channel on Wednesday 8 February at 21:30 for 13 weeks, I'm told.

Another actor leaves M-Net soap The Wild. And viewers will finally see tonight who it is.

So. I've known for months and deliberately didn't write about it, waiting. Wanting to see if anybody, anyone who's supposed to be covering television actually knew and would be writing about it.

M-Net's soap The Wild was the first soap to be picketed by actors who feel the contract system is unfair and had actors leave the show because of it.

Well, viewers will finally see who the latest actor is who is no longer involved with M-Net's soap The Wild in tonight's episode. I'll give one clue and it starts with the first letter of my own name.

TOLDJA! - Update Thursday 20:10 - So, the episode has been shown and it was the character of Tiro (told you it starts with a ''T'') who bit the bullet after actor Putla Sehlapelo left M-Net's The Wild. And this is one soap where those shot dead won't come back.

Putla Sehlapelo was already the second actor to portray the role of Tiro after Tony Kgoroge left last year due to unhappiness with M-Net over contractual unhappiness regarding actors' fees. Putla Sehlapelo is repped by Moonyeen Lee's MLA.

I asked M-Net back in 2011 about it when insiders sent me word that Tiro is getting killed off. M-Net didn't want to comment and with the barrage of bigger news, I decided to no longer bother - although on-set sources kept me informed about the death, and even earlier this year that it's finally coming and will be happening three days after the wedding. Here's the final on-screen moments:

South Africa to be left un-Touch-ed by the new Kiefer Sutherland drama when it starts in America and 100 countries worldwide from 19 March.

You're reading it here first.

South African viewers, once again it seems, will be left out cold when the new high-buzz TV drama Touch with Kiefer Sutherland that's been acquired by M-Net gets a global roll-out and will be starting in most of the world at the same date in March ... but just not here.

Touch has been developed as a TV show by Tim Kring who did Heroes and is being produced with a highly integrated social media component: Part of the TV show's dynamic will be that a global TV audience will be talking about it in real-time through all kinds of social media at the same time and about things happening inside episodes and from episode to episode as the story progresses.

FIRST LOOK: Watch the Touch trailer.

That means that it's absolutely crucial for the episode to be seen at the same time or within days in South Africa for M-Net viewers to actually experience and enjot the TV show to its fullest effect and how the production actually intends for Touch to be ''consumed''.

M-Net has the rights to the new show with Fox International Channels (FIC) Africa handling distribution, but I can reveal that M-Net is not currently going to start Touch here when it starts in America as a new weekly show on 18 March and simultaneously in 100 countries worldwide from 19 March.

The worldwide watching is exactly what Tim Kring and Kiefer Sutherland wanted for their new show - a global, unified worldwide audience to watch, discuss and talk about it at the same time.

FIC Africa had great success last year by showing The Walking Dead as well as Falling Skies op TopTV within days of episodes of both shows being broadcast in America. It made it possible for South African viewers to have an instant same-time social following and conversation about the show - as well as not being exposed to spoilers because there weren't any.

The 13 episode Touch is about a man (Kiefer Sutherland) whose son never speaks, but sees the world through mathematical formulae. Then he discovers that his son may have the power to see the future. The mute 11 year old son possess the ability to see things that no one else can and the patterns that connect seemingly unrelated events.

The date of 18 March - when the show starts in America and 19 March when the show starts globally to connect with a world wide audience - features very prominently in the pilot episode of Touch. That makes it even more important for M-Net to storywise and in keeping with the real-time feel of the show, start showing it then in South Africa. Britain, Germany, Israel, Russia and a huge number of countries in South America, Asia and Europe will start seeing Touch immediately.

At Mipcom's TV market in October last year Tim Kring said Touch borrows some elements from Heroes, in that this new drama will tell stories with an ''international scope through characters around the world who are interconnected in various ways. ''It's the emerging story of our time: we are more connected than we ever dreamed, both biologically and spiritually.''

Asked again earlier this week when exactly M-Net plans to start showing Touch and whether South Africa will also form a part of the 100 countries outside of America where Touch will start at the same time with coordinated worldwide distribution during the week from 19 March, M-Net didn't give an exact date.

''The global marketing campaign for Touch is relevant for territories in America, Latin America, Europe and Asia,'' says M-Net. ''M-Net and/or DStv will create its own awareness, publicity and marketing campaigns respectively, as and when the strategy comes into the channel's carefully planned schedule.''

''This is also determined within the agreement with the distributor with whom M-Net negotiates the licence.''

This answer from M-Net would indicate that South African viewers will not be seeing Touch at the same time as the rest of the world as a weekly show starting between 19 and 26 March. It would seem unlikely that Touch appears on the latest M-Net schedule for March which is where this new TV property would maximise the best value for M-Net on its investment and would work best for viewers as content consumers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2012 suddenly extends the deadline for entries to 22 February. I wonder why ...

There's probably not been enough entries.

Or probably not enough journalists within Africa who actually knew about it for a long enough period to be able to enter.

Journalists within South Africa (like me) who usually write about this Awards certainly haven't been getting any information or press releases about it like in past years and in November I remarked RIGHT HERE that as a result, there might not be a lot of South African entries for this competition this year.

Now, after initially saying the entry deadline of 31 January will definitely not be extended, the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2012 has suddenly extended the entry deadline to 22 February.

Speaking as a journalist who used to cover this, and covered it thoroughly in past years and attended the award ceremonies (until MultiChoice didn't bother, or maybe didn't want to, invite me last year) something seems to have very seriously gone wrong with the communication aspect of the latest CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2012. It's simply way below par the professional image the competition usually tries to convey.

Now with the sudden deadline extension, its again not like I or other journalists within South Africa who cover television was actually told by either CNN International or MultiChoice South Africa or anyone else for that matter that the deadline's been extended. Who knows who's in charge of actually managing the actual communications aspect with media and press of this journalism competition?

After I've been pro-actively covering this premiere awards event for years that actually supports journalism in Africa - which is a very worthwhile cause - I think I'm at the point where I'm just going to sit back and do nothing if I get nothing.

Terra Nova starting tonight on M-Net doesn't seem to be too terribly important to the pay broadcaster.

Terra Nova, the new TV drama starting tonight at 20:30 on M-Net doesn't seem to be of any terrible importance to M-Net.

The pay broadcaster acquired the broadcasting rights to the Steven Spielberg produced show about the Shannon family time travelling back millions of years to prehistoric times to join a fresh start for humanity.

M-Net has however not issued any press release about Terra Nova since the acquisition announcement last year. The pay channel didn't issue any specific press release or press pack regarding the show or made a programming advisory about the show that kicks off with 2 hour premiere this evening.

M-Net didn't make available any advance screener episodes of Terra Nova to South African TV critics and writers, making it impossible to review the show. A media enquiry made last week to M-Net asking whether there would be any advance screener of Terra Nova yielded no response.

ALSO READ: Dino-drama as the postcard marketing proposal for M-Net's Terra Nova elicits an ''outayamind?'' tongue-lashing from Dinotopia creator James Gurney.

BREAKING. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange getting his own TV interview show on RT from March entitled The World Tomorrow.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is getting his own TV interview show on the 24 news channel RT (DStv 405) entitled The World Tomorrow starting from March.

"We're proud to host Julian Assange's new project,'' says Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of RT, in a just-issued press statement.

''RT has rallied a global audience of open minded people who don't take things around them for granted. Our viewers are open to the discussions that will be presented through Julians' show on our channel''.

In The World Tomorrow, Julian Assange will talk to political players, thinkers and revolutionaries and figures who - in his opinion - are shaping the political agenda of tomorrow.

Julian Assange is filming The World Tomorrow from the location of his house arrest where he has been confined, with no charge, for 413 days. Filming of his new TV show will start a week before his Supreme Court hearing.

''Upheavals and revolutions in the Middle East have commenced an era of real political change that is still unfolding,'' says Julian Assange. ''Wikileaks, as the world's boldest publisher, has been at the frontline of this global movement for change, and our project is designed to catalyse the global discussion about the world of tomorrow. Through this series I will explore the possibilities for our future in conversations with those who are shaping it''.

SAY WHAT? It's correct if your answer in an American TV game show is that an airline pilot will be holding 'his schlong' during a flight.

Poor gramma's face! You will not believe what one of the answers are in the American game show Family Feud to the question what a pilot might be holding in his hand during a flight.

Programming note: SABC3 broadcasting the 35th J&B Met this Saturday live from Kenilworth in Cape Town with a fashion pre-show.

SABC3 will be broadcasting the 35th J&B Met horseracing event in Cape Town live from Kenilworth on the channel this coming Saturday from 15:00, with a pre-show starting at 14:30 focusing on the racecourse fashion.

The SABC didn't broadcast the race last year which marks the official start to the glitterati's social calendar in South Africa, but will once again have an official presence at the socialite horseracing event this year.

More executives gone from KidsCo as NBCUniversal looks to grow its stake in the children's channel.

The exodus of executives at the international kid channel KidsCo (TopTV 255 / DStv 308) is continuing with Anna Pak, the executive commercial director who left on Friday following Chris Nicholls out the door who was the children channel's global head of advertising and marketing.

The exists are continuing after KidsCo co-founder Paul Robinson was pushed out at the end of last year, and as NBCUniversal is trying to increase its control of KidsCo which is currently a joint venture between NBCUniversal, Cookie Jar Entertainment and Chorus.

C21Media reports that Anna Pak left this past Friday. It comes as TBI Vision reports that NBCUniversal's international boss, Jeff Shell, said that the company will not be buying Corus' share in KidsCo.

According to both trade publications that leaves the share of Cookie Jar's stake in KidsCo which NBCUniversal could be after, and about which NBCUniversal isn't talking.