Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BREAKING. TopTV urgently needs cash; adopts business rescue as the pay-TV operator looks for a local business partner with deep pockets.

On Digital Media (ODM) running the TopTV pay-TV platform in South Africa has gone into "business rescue" under the Companies Act, saying the pay-TV company urgently needs cash - preferably from a South African industry player - since the board, looking into the future, feels that TopTV might possibly have problems in meeting its current payment obligations and those due within the next 6 months.

TopTV which started a major turnaround process with new interim CEO Eddie Mbalo earlier this year, says that the bottom-line of the struggling pay-TV business has improved, and that TopTV is "in the strongest position the company has been in since inception".

Yet TopTV, facing financial difficulty, now needs business rescue under section 129 of the new Companies Act to "provide a protective bubble around the company and buy it some time to complete the search for a strategic equity partner".

TopTV calls it "a precautionary measure". TopTV says the pay-TV operator will "function as normal" but refers to operating its pay-TV business as "continuing our battle".

TopTV needs more money urgently and has struggled to find a business partner willing to make a large cash injection into South Africa's second pay-TV business which started its commercial operations in May 2010.

"The business has always required a significant cash injection to recapitalise it in order to complete the turnaround and take the business to the next level of competitiveness," says Eddie Mbalo in a statement released late Wednesday night.

"The board, management and staff at TopTV are committed to the company, and we are determined to work together as a team to make it a successful business," says Eddie Mbalo.

"Good progress not withstanding, and as part of the turnaround process and good corporate governance, the board of directors of On Digital Media, the holding company of pay-TV operator TopTV, regularly assesses whether the company is in a position to meet its current obligations and those due within the nexy six months."

"Based on this ongoing assessment and precipitated by the difficulty in finding an appropriate partner, the board has prudently opted to adopt the provisions of business rescue as per the new Companies Act. This will provide a protective bubble around the company and buy it some time to complete the search for a strategic equity partner. The company will continue to function as normal," says Eddie Mbalo.

"Since the start of the turnaround programme, the bottom-line has improved and some limited funding has been sourced and injected into the business. However, the business has always required a significant cash injection to recapitalise it in order to complete the turnaround," says the company.

Now TopTV is making a public plea for a business partner - hopefully a South African one - with deep pockets. "The best source of such a cash injection would be a current industry player," says TopTV in the statement. "Such a partner would also be in a position to assist with other required strategic resources that would take time for TopTV to accumulate. Due to the competitive landscape locally and the legislative requirements that allow a foreign entity only a 20% share in ownership, the process of finding an appropriate partner has proved challenging for the start-up business."

"It is still very much business as usual at TopTV. While we are taking precautionary measures and being prudent with our current cash reserves, the board has taken this decision to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the company."

"TopTV has already made its mark in this space by providing healthy competition within the industry and giving consumers an alternative pay-TV experience. We further believe that this decision will cement our commitment to transparent business practices while we continue our battle on what we hope will become a more transformed landscape and a level playing field."

BREAKING. TopTV adding a new dedicated sports action TV channel in the first week of November; calls it the 'first of its kind in Africa'.

You're reading it here first. 

TopTV says the pay-TV platform will be adding a new dedicated sports action TV channel to its platform in the first week of November.

On Digital Media (ODM) which runs the TopTV pay-TV platform, has been struggling for over two years to add any significant sport content in either programming or channels to its platform.

TopTV which says that "access to mainstream sports content remains uncompetitive" but calls the new TV channel which TopTV plans to roll out, "the first if its kind in Africa".

Programming note: Fox News Channel becomes America's Election HQ next Tuesday for the American presidential election with rolling coverage.

This coming Tuesday, 6 November, is American presidential election day in America and Fox News Channel (TopTV 405) will have extensive hour-by-hour live coverage for South African viewers as the election unfolds.

Fox News Channel is branding its block coverage of the American presidential election America's Election HQ. On Tuesday next week America's Election HQ will preempt on Tuesday the usual shows such as Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox Report, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and On the Record.

America's Election HQ on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning will start at 00:00 (South African time) with  Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly as the presenters.

This rolling coverage will continue on Fox News Channel, with Shepard Smith taking over 4 and a half hours later at 04:30 next Wednesday morning (South African time), followed by Neil Cavuto, then Gregg Jarrett and Jamie Colby.

ALSO READ: MSNBC goes 'Decision 2012' on Wednesday for coverage of the American presidential election.
ALSO READ: CNN International has 'America's Choice 2012' from Tuesday at 23:00 for 18 non-stop hours covering America's presidential election.

Tech Report on the eNCA turns 1 year old as an ongoing local TV production; will celebrate by lighting a single candle Thursday night.

Tech Report on eNCA (DStv 403), the weekly magazine show devoted to gadgets and consumer technology, is a quality local TV production on South African television and a feather in the cap of the 24-hour news channel - and now this well-done TV show from Homebrew Films turns one year old this week as an ongoing local production.

Tech Report on Thursdays on eNCA (DStv 403) at 21:30 will this week be celebrating the show's first birthday as an uninterrupted, ongoing weekly show with a single candle.

Also in Thursday's episode, Tech Report will celebrate Halloween with some spooky apps, will investigate online security with internet security tips and will be checking out the long-awaited sequel to the game Angry Birds.

Chasing the Saturdays coming to E! Entertainment in 2013 as a new 10 episode reality show following the Britband.

Chasing The Saturdays will be coming to E! Entertainment (DStv 124) - the entertainment channel is doing a first season of 10 half hour episodes of a new reality show following the British pop group of five girls: Molly King, Rochelle Humes, Frankie Sandford, Una Healy and Vanessa White.

The show which will be starting on E! Entertainment in America in 2013 is sure to make its way to E! Entertainment in South Africa a while after that.

Chasing The Saturdays will be following The Saturdays as they take on life in Hollywood and begin working on a new album as they deal with husbands and lovers back in the United Kingdom.

"The Saturdays are a pop phenomenon with magnetic appeal and tremendous talent, and we are excited to capture their next chapter as they win over the hearts and playlists of America," says Suzanne Kolb, E! Entertainment president in a press release.

Chasing The Saturdays is being produced by Comcast Entertainment Studios.

Jerseylicious on Style renewed for a 5th season and a further 14 episodes of animal prints, spray tans, fake nails and very real fighting.

There's no end to the animal prints, orange skin tan sprays and the fake nails: Jerseylicious on Style (DStv 173) has been renewed for a 5th season of 14 episodes.

Jerseylicious, produced by Endemol USA, will continue with a new 5th season.

South African viewers just saw the reunion show this week at the end of the 4th season, of course following after the shocker that Olivia plans to leave both Anthony and Gayle's salons to be an "independent consultant".

What will happen to Filippo as he pursues his dream career of being a male underwear model? Is Olivia really gone? What will happen with Tracy and her relationship with new fiance Corey? How will Anthony further expand his business?

TopTV is launching some or other new local show. But if a lot of TV critics don't even know about it, how will viewers?

TopTV is launching some or other new local production.

But of course TopTV's communication on things like this is actually so sh*t, completely unprofessional compared to industry standards, and basically so non-existent and below par when it comes to actually talking to journalists covering television, that even if I wanted to tell you about it, I can't.

Of course I know about Top Entertainment. But if TopTV doesn't care to talk about it to me and other journalists covering television, do not expect us to be favourable towards it, or to write about it.

You'd think that if you're in the business of making television and launching it, that you will tell people you're launching it, and then make sure and follow up that they get information. Apparently not TopTV.

This latest example of terrible, amateur and pathetic lack of knowing how to deal with, and talk to TV critics in South Africa is in my opinion really, REALLY getting tired. It's just so ... bad.

Summer Sizzle with Hilary Biller is the next brand-new show coming to The Home Channel from Monday 5 November for 13 episodes.

The Home Channel (DStv 176) keeps investing in producing local television content and the latest brand-new TV show is Summer Sizzle with Hilary Biller, set to start on The Home Channel on Monday 5 November at 14:00.

Summer Sizzle will run for 13 weeks. In this new foodie show, the food editor and author Hilary Biller will be showing viewers how to make delicious gourmet grills as Hilary Biller reinvents the South African weekend rituals of braais.

Summer Sizzle will have several weekly repeats (Wednesdays at 18:00, Thursday at 23:00, Friday at 10:00, Saturdays at 08:30 and 17:30 and Sundays at 12:30 and 09:30).

Hilary Biller will create wonderful dishes from succulent fillet to African lamb and Asian pork kebabs, and in her quest for the ultimate braai, viewers will be taken through all the steps from preparation to cooking and presentation. The show will advise on the best cuts for specific dishes and which rubs and marinades to use for maximum flavour.

Sean Robert Daniels becomes South Africa's first ever winner of a Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Well done and congratulations to Sean Robert Daniels of Laezonia, Gauteng who is a winner in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 2012 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. 

Th Academy tells me that it is the very first time ever that a South African winner gets this prize which is managed by the world's preeminent movie-related organisation which is also responsible for the Oscars.

Sean Robert Daniels' script, Killers, was one of five selected out of a massive 7 197 entries which the Academy received this year from around the world.

Sean Robert Daniels will participate in a week of industry events in Los Angeles hosted by the Academy and culminating in an awards ceremony in Beverly Hills on Thursday 8 November.

In Killers a hitwoman is called home by her mother who has a dying request ... one which the hitwoman cannot bring herself to honour.

Sean Robert Daniels is one of 5 writers who won, and each of them will receive $35 000.

Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that each of the 5 winners will complete a feature length screenplay during their fellowship year.

A STITCH IN TIME: Will Mzansi Magic's new special about Idols' Khaya Mthethwa's include the fence injury, medical drama and stitches?

Will the two-part TV special on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) when cameras followed the new Idols winner Khaya Mthethwa for 48 hours include any of the medical emergency drama, the mad hospital dash, and the seven stitches down his cheek Khaya Mthethwa received when an over-zealous crowd rushed him and he was cut open by a palisade fence when fans jumped on him in Umlazi?

Mzansi Magic has scheduled the two-part special, Move: The Rise of Khaya Mthethwa for Sunday 4 November at 16:00 and part two (a concert at uSkaha Marine World) for Sunday 11 November at 16:00 on the channel.

According to Mzansi Magic, the two-part TV special will "give viewers a glimpse into the life of South Africa's newest singing sensation". Cameras followed him for 48 hours as he boarded a plane to his hometown of Durban after winning Idols.

According to Mzansi Magic, part one will show Khaya Mthethwa doing press interviews, a mayoral convoy, authograph signing sessions as well as an open top bus procession around Durban. In part two entitled "The Homecoming Concert" Khaya Mthethwa performs for fans at uShaka Marine World which includes all of the songs he sang during his time on Idols as well as a sneak peak of his new album.

No word yet on whether the two part TV special includes a reality sneak peek of the cut on his face when fans stormed him and security guards had to whisk him away. That and the police escort to get him medical attention is probably part of what reality TV fans who watched this reality TV show might really be interested in actually seeing.

UPDATE Wednesday 17:10 - Mzansi Magic confirms to me that the medical emergency and the drama surrounding Khaya Mthethwa's head injury and the stitches he had to get will indeed be forming part of this TV special.

M-NET IS OUT OF TOUCH: Pay-TV broadcaster won't be showing South African viewers 13 episodes in the first season of Touch.

It's quite messy: On the DStv iPad app it says that Touch season 2 episode 1 is starting next week Monday (wrong) but season 2 is only starting in 2013. And when you search for Touch on the iPad, it shows that episode 13 is showing ... on Wednesday night at 00:00 (wrong again). And on the TV schedule it doesn't show anything.

That's what viewers are telling me about the drama Touch on M-Net and here is what is happening: The first season of Touch has 13 episodes but M-Net is concluding the first season of the new Kiefer Sutherland drama by showing South African viewers only 12 episodes and dropping the 13th episode of the 13 episode ordered Fox first season.

Upset viewers like this one asked me: It seems like M-Net thought that episode 12 of Touch was the final. The description in the information bar said 12 of 12, and in tweets they've said that the show Perception is replacing Touch when it's finished and will start on Monday 5 November. That's next week Monday. So basically no episode 13 planned, which is actually the final one. They even tweeted on Monday that the final is Monday night, and asking viewers what they think will happen..."

What happened is that M-Net didn't check to actually get the 13th episode and only has 12 episodes of the 13 episode first season of Touch. M-Net originally scheduled episode 12 and episode 13 to go out on Monday as a double bill, but had to change the schedule and remove episode 13 from its schedule later.

M-Net tells me that the 13th episode of Touch entitled "The Road not Taken" will air with the second season early next year on M-Net. "We are aware that internationally, the episode is listed as part of the first season, however we are licensed to air it as part of the second season."

BREAKING. Star Wars coming to Disney XD; Disney acquiring Star Wars sees the franchise as a TV property on this Disney channel.

Star Wars is coming to Disney XD (DStv 304).

My instantly big and perplexing question regarding what happens TV wise with Star Wars - with Star Wars The Clone Wars currently on the Cartoon Network but the Star Wars franchise being bought by Disney for $4,05 billion, has now also been answered a few hours later: The Walt Disney Company wants George Lucas' Star Wars for the Disney XD channel.

The only Star Wars currently on television is Star Wars The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network (DStv 301) - but the Cartoon Network is part of Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) which is Disney's big rival. Clearly Disney is not going to keep Star Wars in the future anywhere else than on Disney.

Now, hours after the very surprising announcement that Disney is acquiring LucasFilm Ltd from George Lucas and announcing that the Mouse house is set on making new further Star Wars films, is also the news that Disney wants Star Wars as a property for Disney XD - aimed at young boys.

Star Wars The Clone Wars, nearing 100 episodes on the Cartoon Network will probably conclude soon on that channel, because of the massive Disney deal with LucasFilm Ltd.

Disney will then start up at least one new Star Wars TV project for Disney XD (besides the long gestating live action TV drama series George Lucas keeps promising but hasn't so far done anything with, citing budgetary constraints).

After the big announcement, during Disney's conference call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger said besides building a stronger Marvel block on Disney XD, Disney also wants to bring Star Wars to this TV channel soon.

This means that the days of Star Wars The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network are numbered. Or it is also a possibility that future season(s) of Star Wars The Clone Wars could move to Disney XD.

"We really like Star Wars' potential on TV as well and we think Disney XD will be a strong home for that," Bob Iger said who didn't go into any further detail of what exactly the Star Wars programming on the channel would look like.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BREAKING. Star Wars Episode 7 coming in 2015; and more Star Wars films beyond that after Disney buys LucasFilm for $4,05 billion.

Now we know that it doesn't all end around jubilant fires lit at nighttime on the forest moon of Endor as the folksy music of those Ewoks rise to the sky: because Star Wars Episode 7 in 2015 and even more Star Wars films are coming.

Yes, this is not television news (although Star Wars The Clone Wars on the a Cartoon Network property and part of this ... franchise) but Disney just bought LucasFilm Ltd. for $4,05 billion and also announced in there a massive surprise: Star Wars: Episode 7 will be released in 2015.

Disney also said that more films after Episode 7 will be released in the Star Wars saga, originating from that galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: Episode 7 will clearly be set after everything moviegoers and viewers have already seen, since if you follow the established chronological order, Episode 6 was Return of the Jedi. "For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas (68), the CEO of LucasFilm in a statement.

"It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.  I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."

Disney will now own the Star Wars franchise. George Lucas was the sole shareholder of LucasFilm Ltd.

"LucasFilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger in a release announcing the deal. "This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value."

"Following the release of Episode 7 in 2015, our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years," said Bob Iger in the statement.

Disney acquiring does create some intracies. Star Wars The Clone Wars is currently seen on the Cartoon Network (DStv 301) - but the Cartoon Network belongs to Disney's competitor, Turner Broadcasting Systems, which is a division of Time Warner. Does the deal mean the end of the TV animation show soon? or the end of the show on the Cartoon Network and moving to perhaps The Disney Channel?

Also, Twentieth Century Fox was supposed to (it might still happen, it might not. Who knows now) release 3D versions of the existing Star Wars films. Since Disney will 100% not use Fox for future Star Wars films, where does it leave the Star Wars 3D versions?

BREAKING. Zone Reality channel to start changing to CBS Reality channel from 3 December in Africa and the Middle East.

Exactly as I wrote earlier this month, with sources telling me that the name-change of Zone Reality (DStv 132) to CBS Reality is set to take place sometime in December in South Africa, a press statement just out from Chello Zone and CBS Studios International says that the newly-rebranded channel will start happening from 3 December in Africa and the Middle East.

Zone Reality, to become CBS Reality, will be partially reprogrammed with library titles from CBS Studios, including the investigative show 48 Hours and the court show Judge Judy.

The Zone Reality name change in South Africa is part of a bigger change to more channels within the group which are not currently seen in South Africa. Besides CBS Reality, there is also CBS Drama and CBS Action as channels.

In August the announcement was made that Zone Reality is changing to CBS Reality after CBS Studios International and Chellomedia which runs these channels have reached an agreement whereby CBS gets a 30% stake in the channels in return for TV programming from its studios as well as its name.

"Chello Zone and CBS Studios International will launch the newly rebranded CBS channels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) on 3 December," says the just-issued statement. "CBS Reality, CBS Drama, CBS Action and CBS Europa will be reprogrammed to include hit series and movies from the CBS Studios International library. This includes 48 Hours and Judge Judy for CBS Reality," says the statement.

"It's an exciting time for the channels and our partnership with CBS," says Chris Sharp, Chello Zone's chief programming officer. "The CBS expansion into the EMEA territories will offer a greater depth and variety of programming from a library we know well. We're sure our audiences will  enjoy and embrace the new programming and the new branding."

"It is exciting to grow and expand this venture and to offer audiences throughout EMEA the opportunity yo watch popular and classic series from CBS," says Armando Nunez, the president and CEO of the CBS Global Distribution Group in the statement. "We're looking forward to launching the new branded channels and developing programming strategies with our partners at Chello Zone to best reflect the individual channels and audience in their respective territories."

The press release was issued now, and I've made an after-hours media enquiry to MultiChoice, if there's possibly anything MultiChoice is saying on this upcoming channel rebrand, I will bring it.

TopTV's 100% rerun movie channels are still separate TV channels even though they're exact repeat programming, rules the ASA.

TopTV's separate, yet rerun movie channels are still separate and individual TV channels and can be counted as such, even though the content is 100% rebroadcasts.

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) said in a ruling following a complaint, that TopTV can count its separate time-shifted TV channels as separate channels on its bouquet offering, even though the content remains exactly the same.

While MultiChoice has no time-shifted TV channels on its DStv bouquet, TopTV has some of these so called time-shifted channels with "+1", "+2", "+12+ and "+24" channels which are very common on pay-TV platforms around the world. The exact same line-up of programming as on an original channel would always start one hour later, two hours later, or 12 or 24 hours later on these channels.

On Digital has the Top Movies +2 (TopTV 101) and Top Movies +24 (TopTV 102) channels on the TopTV platform. On these channels movies always start 2 hours later and 24 hours later than on the original Top Movies (TopTV 100) channel.

The ASA received a complaint saying that TopTV advertising 9 movie channels are misleading since the Top Movies +2 and the Top Movies +24 channels are merely duplicates.

In ad advert headlined "Take a defining journey with 9 movie channels on TopTV" TopTV also advertised Top One (TopTV 150) as a movie channel and not a general entertainment channel. TopTV admitted that this was a mistake.

The TopTV ad also included Star Gold as a movie channel, but that channel is only available on a separate subscription to the Indian TopTV bouquet. TopTV admitted that the advert was incorrect.

The ASA asked South Africa's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) for help and clarification regarding the time-shifted channels issue.

The ASA said in its ruling that the channels, although duplicates, are separate channels, since a subscriber would be seeing, at any given point in time, different movies on the various time-shifted channels.

"While the Directorate accepts that the complainant would have preferred three distinctly different TV channels with different content, the opinion from the NAB appears to suggest that this is a common practice," the ASA says in the ruling.

"The Directorate also accepts that this would ... potentially allow subscribers who were not able to record it, to still see their preferred movie, only at a different time or date."

Jon Sopel joining BBC World News as one of the permanent new lead anchors; will present a new afternoon show from early 2013.

The BBC just announced that the BBC News presenter and reporter, Jon Sopel will join BBC World News (DStv 400 / TopTV 400) as one of the 24-hour British news channel's permanent new lead anchors.

Jon Sopel will present a new afternoon show on BBC World News which will start early in 2013 from the BBC's new home at New Broadcasting House in central London.

Jon Sopel is currently one of the lead anchors at the BBC News channel in the United Kingdom where in the past few years he has anchored coverage from the Middle East during the Israel Lebanon war, Sri Lanka after the tsunami, New Orleans after Katrina, Beijing for the Olympics and South Africa for the World Cup.

Jon Sopel has also served as the Paris correspondent for BBC News and has reported on the Eurozone crisis and from the riots in Athens. He's also travelled extensively in the United States in the last two presidential campaigns and is currently in America covering this year's presidential campaign.

"I am absolutely delighted to be joining the channel to create a new show at a time when BBC World News is going from strength to strength, both in terms of investment and ambition," says Jon Sopel in a just-issued press statement. "I just can't wait to get started."

"We're delighted that such a well-respected presenter as Jon Sopel is joining the BBC World News team," says Richard Porter, the controller of English, global news at the BBC. "He has a wealth of experience, from his international reporting from Paris and the United States. I'm sure he will be a great addition to the team."

As lurid stories swirl, how is M-Net going to handle Elana Afrika who is in the news headlines and tabloids for all the wrong reasons?

"Elana's Shock Affair  -She's been sleeping with the boss!" "Elana's affair ends in drama".

As lurid newspaper and magazine headlines like these and others swirl around Elana Afrika and the former radio station programme manager Ian Bredenkamp and alleged indiscretions between the two, one cannot help but wonder: what is M-Net going to do about Elana Afrika?

The former I Wanna Be presenter has often been used by M-Net as the famous face for various corporate social investment projects of the pay-TV broadcaster as an M-Net Cares ambassador as well as an MC for press events.

The last event I attended where Elana Afrika was behind a podium, was at the end of September when Elana Afrika was used by M-Net and MultiChoice as the MC at the press conference when MultiChoice announced its channel number changes and new channels, and M-Net announced its new M-Net Movies channels addition.

M-Net now has exactly the same predicament as Discovery Networks which has been a sponsor of Lance Armstrong who is also making big news headlines for things which doesn't fit with Discovery's ethos and which drags Discovery into some scandalous stories and mentions which the company doesn't want as part of its image.

Will M-Net continue to use Elana Afrika as a brand ambassador and as an MC if her image (and the preceived change in the perception of her image) is now splashed on magazine covers and newspaper stories?

I asked M-Net on Friday what the pay-TV broadcaster is making of this tabloid coverage swirling around Elana Afrika, whether Elana Afrika will remain a M-Net Cares ambassador, and how M-Net sees this, or feel that these stories impact M-Net as a brand and for the projects M-Net has used her for.

M-Net responded yesterday and told me that "Elana has done a fantastic job on many M-Net projects and we would like to speak to her first before making any decisions".

Programming note: Today's live third-party American presidential debate on RT postponed to next Monday due to Hurricane Sandy.

The live third-party American presidential debate which would have been shown worldwide this afternoon on Russia Today (DStv 405) has been cancelled and postponed to Monday 5 November at 16:00 (South African time) due to Hurricane Sandy battering New York and Washington D.C.

The live transmission of the debate on RT was planned for today, however Russia Today and the Free and Equal Elections Foundation decided to move the event to 5 November.

RT came to an agreement with the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, the organizers of the presidential debates between third-party candidates, to hold this fascinating debate in the RT studios in Washington D.C. The Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson will face off with the Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

The debate will also be carried on and RT's YouTube channel.

Meanwhile production has been halted on several American TV shows filmed in New York and which South African viewers see, including Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit, 30 Rock, The Good Wife, Smash, 666 Park Avenue, Gossip Girl, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods, Nurse Jackie, The Big C

Both The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central did not record episodes last night.

Next week South African viewers will see The Late Show with David Letterman on Sony Entertainment Television without a studio audience. He did last night's episode as one long monologue without a studio audience.

Monday, October 29, 2012

BREAKING. Another brand-new TV drama is coming to South Africa soon; oh, it's also going to be on Fox on TopTV exclusively.

Yet another brand-new, big-buzz, upcoming international TV drama will be coming to South African TV viewers and Fox International Channels (FIC) has secured the broadcasting rights of the new crime drama Jo for Fox on TopTV on South Africa.

No-one in South Africa will say it, but I will: By getting, exclusively, and for first-run showing (and continuing with seasons of) The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, Copper, The Listener, Archer and several other shows, FIC Africa and Fox International Channels has become the strongest, most distinct competition to M-Net within the pay-TV programming area that South Africa's TV industry has seen in over two decades.

Suddenly pay-TV viewers are no longer 100% guaranteed that the very best TV shows will all be available on just one pay-TV platform within South Africa. And from a consumer point of view that's actually a good thing.

With Fox' flagship channel Fox Entertainment and FX both only aviailable on TopTV, those two channels alone are already making TopTV's offering much more appealing. These two channels programmed by FIC are consistently delivering to TopTV subscribers quality TV dramas and comedies - and also incredibly fast after episodes are shown in America and elsewhere in the world. That makes both these channels not just strong content delivery conduits but also now strong and sought-after TV channels.

FIC has now also acquired the first-run pay-TV rights to Jo with Jean Jeno which will roll out the show in more than 120 territories including South Africa. Jo is produced by Atlantique Productions and sold by Red Arrow International. Production started in July.

The upcoming Jo is about a veteran detective in Paris' elite Criminal Brigade who stops at nothing to solve the most challenging murder cases.

''We are delighted to be partnering with Red Arrow International on this prestigious new series," says Jason Simms, the senior vice president of global acquisitions at FIC. "The combination of Jean Reno's irresistible presence, Rene Balcer's distinctive storytelling and the splendor of Paris will make this a must-watch addition to our schedules from Seoul to Santiago."

"The pick-up by Fox International Channels reflects the strong global appeal of the series," says Axel Bohm, the director of fiction acquisition at Red Arrow International. "Now viewers from Europe to Asia, Africa and South America can watch Jean Reno in his new role as elite cop Jo hunting down killers in Paris."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

VENUS FLY TRAP? How much is too much of Venus and Serena Williams on SABC3 and their South African tennis match?

It's just too much - and why?: The massive amount of total overexposure which SABC3 will be giving to the American tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams who are going to get basically blanket coverage from the SABC on SABC3 from their visit and televised tennis match in November.

The amount of coverage - the sheer audacious number of TV time on South African public television given as free publicity to the Williams sisters for their upcoming celebrity tennis match in November seems, to this TV critic, just not quite right.

Besides major editorial TV news coverage which is a given on SABC News bulletins on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 of the Williams sisters; as well as the live broadcast of the match including a pre-match special which combined will run into several hours of TV time, SABC3 plans an unprecedented number of opportunities for Venus and Serena Williams to appear on the TV channel.

In my three decades of watching SABC television, this TV critic can't remember a single visiting American sport star getting such a deal on South African public television.

Even with the SABC as a broadcast sponsor and media partner of the Breaking the Mould (BTM) tennis match event of the Williams sisters, it feels like SABC3's upcoming coverage and exposure is disproportionately far too much given the nature of the event - which is, just to keep it in perspective, not an event of national importance like lets say the death of a president.

It's a tennis match by American celebrities for an organisation to promote a social and societal cause.

My guess would be that the SABC board and SABC3 top management would probably be getting front row seats to the match as well as the best tables at the gala dinner for all this almost-blanket coverage.

Look at this and ask yourself: Too much?

Expresso, SABC3's weekday morning show will have an insert on Friday 2 November about Venus and Serena William's South African tennis match. Expresso will again have a highlights news package on Monday 5 November about the tennis match.

Venus and Serena Williams's South African visit and tennis match will be mentioned in Isidingo, SABC3's weekday primetime soap on the same days two days - both on Friday 2 November and yet again on Monday 5 November.

3Talk with Noeleen, SABC3's weekday local talk show will be interviewing Venus and Serena Williams on Saturday 3 November, with Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu's interview with the sisters which will be broadcast on 3Talk with Noeleen on Thursday 8 November.

Of course there is the actual Venus and Serena Williams tennis match and a special pre-show which will be shown on Sunday 4 November on SABC3, lasting several hours.

Meanwhile Top Billing, SABC3's weekly entertainment magazine show will cover the gala dinner of Venus and Serena Williams and will broadcast that as a big insert on Top Billing on Monday 12 November.

It adds up to hundreds of thousands of rands of on-air exposure on a public TV station.

(Besides SABC3, and although I don't cover radio as a medium, Radio 2000 from the SABC will also be interviewing the Williams sisters, broadcast from their tennis clinic, as well as again from their gala dinner, and will be broadcasting the actual match as well. But wait there's more. The SABC radio stations MetroFM and SAfm will also be interviewing Venus and Serena Williams during their South African visit.)

Too much? ...

A fascinating TV debate coming on Tuesday on RT between American presidential candidates who are NOT Democrat and NOT Republican.

The 24-hour news channel Russia Today (DStv 405) or RT will be televising on Tuesday 30 October at 16:00 (South African time) a fascinating TV debate between the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party candidate Jill Stein who are both, as members of other parties besides the Democrats and the Republicans, running in America's upcoming presidential election.

Where America's mainstream media for all intent and purposes block out any parties besides overwhelming coverage to the duopolic Republicans and Democrats, the truth is that several other parties exist who never get any exposure or airtime.

The debate on Tuesday will take place in RT's Washington studio.

"I'm sure the discussion between Gary Johnson and Jill Stein will spark much public interest," says RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.

"It's the equivalent of a sad joke that Americans must rely on Russia Today in order to watch their own presidential debate," says the United States magazine Examiner. These concerns are echoed by The Wall Street Journal's headline: "Kremlin's TV seeks to overcome US Information Blockade".

Margarita Simonyan called the American mainstream media's disregard for giving exposure to other parties "troubling".

"Because of the information blockade of these candidates by the media, many Americans don’t even know that they can vote for someone besides Obama or Romney."

The debate will also be available on RT's YouTube channel as well as on

Shemane Harris, Susan Booyens both back on Kwêla on kykNET from Wednesday as guest presenters for the next few months.

Both Shemane Harris (right) and Susan Booyens (below) will both be back from this Wednesday at 19:30 on Kwêla  as regular weekly guest presenters on the weekly Afrikaans magazine show I'm told.

Of course it most probably in part has to do with Rozanne McKenzie who will in all likelihood appear a bit less with the sudden increase in her daily workload as from Monday 5 November since she will then appear as one of the weekday presenters of the Afrikaans satellite channel's new morning breakfast show, Dagbreek.

Shemane Harris who've moved mostly behind the screen, but still working for kykNET the past few years, has been the producer and presenter of show's such as Wat's die Storie? for kykNET.

Susan Booyens has spent the past five years in Scotland where she's been the online content editor for the community websites for s1 in Glasgow at The Herald & Times Group.

Both Shemane Harris and Susan Booyens will appear on Kwêla again regularly over the course of the next few months.

Friday, October 26, 2012

BREAKING. Mzansi Magic producing Clash of the Choirs South Africa with Bonang Matheba as the host of this local version.

Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) is producing a first and local season of the format reality show Clash of the Choirs entitled Clash of the Choirs South Africa with Bonang Matheba as the host.

Auditions for choirs across South Africa will kick off next month for the reality show in which singing groups compete against each other for a prize of R250 000.

Choirs get a celebrity choir master over the course of nine weeks, competing against each other to try and not be eliminated. Clash of the Choirs SA will also have a panel of three judges who will judge the various choirs.

Auditions details for Clash of the Choirs South Africa for November will be announced by the channel soon and will take place in seven provinces with seven musical celebrities who will also visit the provinces. Successful choirs will return to Johannesburg with their celebrity choir masters.

"We are excited to introduce Clash of the Choirs South Africa," says Yolisa Phahle, the director of special interest channels at M-Net. "We felt that it was the right time to celebrate choral music given that this type of music is heavily rooted in South African culture."

"This is a bold step for Mzansi Magic and we would like to encourage people to make their way to the auditions. This particular format will allow viewers to experience great choral music with a twist," she says. "The show is guaranteed to be entertaining and packed with all the elements of a great reality show."

The Walking Dead now TV's biggest global hit with massive viewership around the world for the 3rd season of the zombie drama.

The Walking Dead seen in South Africa on Fox FX (TopTV 110) on TopTV on Tuesdays at 21:15 is now television's biggest global TV hit with the third season of the zombie drama luring massive viewership across the globe.

The third season of The Walking Dead, with South Africa just days behind, raked in huge viewership numbers through Fox International Channels (FIC) around the world with it's strategy to make episodes of the show available as soon as possible to viewers.

In America The Walking Dead on the AMC channel is now the number one TV show in all of television (pay-TV as well as free-to-air) in terms of viewers 18-49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. Within a week of The Walking Dead starting in America, the third season started in 122 countries worldwide across Europe, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa to more than 16,2 million viewers.

In Latin America The Walking Dead is the number one TV show on pay-TV under viewers 18-49, on FX in the United Kingdom, Spain and Australia the show's third debut was also number one on pay-TV. Even in the Phillipines, The Walking Dead broke all previously held performance records for Western general TV entertainment.

In South Africa where pay-TV viewers mostly turned to M-Net the past two decades for high-buzz, brand-new American TV shows, it is now an edgy Fox TV channel on the smaller pay-TV competitor TopTV and which has the exclusive broadcasting rights to the show which viewers have to turn to, to see the zombie drama which has invaded popular culture.

In the show which follows after a zombie apocalypse, a ragtag bunch of human survivors constantly flee in a search for safety, lead by an unwilling police officer Rick Grimes.

"The Walking Dead is without a doubt the biggest global TV hit of the moment," says Hernan Lopez, the president and CEO of Fox International Channels. "Our viewers can't get enough of Dead."

"This incredible global success is the result of a unique partnership and collaboration between FIC, AMC and The Walking Dead's talented team," says Sharon Tal Yguado, FIC's executive vice president of scripted programming and original development.

"For a third consecutive season we are bringing this highly anticipated show to viewers in more than 120 million countries a day after it airs in the United States. We've made a strong committment to the show's hungry and loyal fans and it paid off big time."

"The figures are a great stamp of approval for the quality that we believe our now-universally recognized series has," says Thandi Davids; FIC Africa director of marketing and sales.

Season three of The Walking Dead is already receiving rave reviews with the New York Post stating that the series is the "flat-out scariest, best, most unusual show to ever hit the small screen". Newsday states that season three, "doesn't disappoint".  The Houston Chronicle said that "in less than two years, The Walking Dead has jumped into a crowded pop-culture pool of serial killers, vampires and dragons to become a darling of the horror fantasy set."

TERRIBLE PROGRAMMING. Vuzu AGAIN shortchanges viewers by messing up the finale of yet another reality show.

Vuzu (DStv 116) and the channel's apparently brain-dead programmers has again messed up the finale of yet another reality show, this time the finale of the latest 4th season of RuPaul's Drag Race.

The reality show crowning drag queens had episode 13 in its regular Tuesday night timeslot this week, but the show actually concludes with a reunion special and 14th episode in which drag queen RuPaul announces the winner. It seems that either Vuzu wasn't aware that there was actually a 14th episode, or discovered it belatedly.

So suddenly that 14th episode of RuPaul's Drag Race was hastily shown last night the channel tells me this morning.

How normal viewers, who've been strung along on yet another reality show and who've committed 13 hours to watch a TV show without getting a pay-off will react, is anybody's guess.

Vuzu tells me there's been a sudden schedule change and that announcements were made on the entertainment show V Entertainment and in other ways. Yet no mention was made during or at the end of episode 13 on Tuesday. And definitely not to TV critics.

Even I as a TV critic who track and follow all of these myriads of strands of different shows and scheduling changes by devoting countless hours every day to this, wasn't aware of this abrupt change. And I proactively try to find out and keep up with things. How normal viewers are supposed to know when terrible programming changes like these are done, is anybody's guess.

Viewers tuning in on this coming Tuesday night on Vuzu to see the next episode will get a very nasty surprise from the channel due to the shoddy scheduling. Of course there is already the surprise of the gossip rag also actually spoiling the winner on a latest cover for viewers who are waiting to see the winner being announced on Tuesday - which of course is not going to happen.

I hate it when ordinary viewers of TV shows are treated with such either careless arrogance or deliberate idiocy. Vuzu of course also messed up the finale of True Beauty last year.

CANCELLED. All Access Mzansi on Mzansi Magic cancelled; Top Ten a gonner too as the TV channel 'moves towards a new period'.

Broadcasters simply loathe using that word but I can tell you that All Access Mzansi on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) has been cancelled and won't be back; My Top 10 on Mzansi Magic is a gonner too.

The Mzansi Magic channel's top brass feels that both shows have run their course.

All Access Mzansi, produced by Homebrew Films, used to be All Access on M-Net before that show was cancelled after just over two years on the air by the pay-TV broadcaster on the M-Net channel (DStv 101).

A derivative, repurposed show for a black urban audience under the banner of All Access Mzansi was then started for Mzansi Magic with new presenters. Now after another two years All Access Mzansi is also over.

"All Access Mzansi and My Top 10 have enjoyed a great run on the channel since launching two years ago and as Mzansi Magic moves towards a new period, we look forward to launching more exciting content," the TV channel tells me.

Vuzu grabs Million Dollar Listing New York; the new spin-off jumps from Universal Channel to Vuzu to start on 29 December.

You're reading it here first. 

Million Dollar Listing New York is coming to Vuzu (DStv 116) and I can reveal that the estate agent reality show spin-off with three new estate agents is set to start on Saturday, 29 December.

South African viewers of course saw the first three seasons of the original, Million Dollar Listing, now retitled Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles on The Universal Channel since 2010.

The fourth season of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, the first one with the longer name, has not started on The Universal Channel (yet), and whether that show might now also move house to a new chnnel such as Vuzu is not know.

Million Dollar Listing New York is the spin-off which was commissioned and filmed at the beginning of this year and which has been renewed for a second season. Similar to the original, it follows three real estate agents in the Big Apple, selling and buying expensive properties for clients.

The first season, which is incredibly funny and has several jaw-dropping must-see moments, follows the quirky yet cutthroat (well, at least two of them are) Ryan Serhant, Fredrik Eklund and Michael Lorber as they buy and sell properties for clients throughout New York.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Giuliana Rancic COULD have visited South Africa at the end of August, but cancelled in February because of the arrival of her baby boy.

You're reading it here first. 

Giuliana Rancic and her husband Bill Rancic could both have visited South Africa at the end of August - but cancelled.

The E! News presenter and managing editor of E! Entertainment (DStv 124) had the opportunity to visit South Africa but cancelled because of the arrival of their baby boy Edward Duke who was to arrive at that time.

In their reality show Giuliana and Bill on Style (DStv 173), cameras were present when Giuliana and Bill, in the back of a car, got a call from Giuliana Rancic's friend and manager Pam who told her that a South African trip - Giuliana's first - is now a possibility, and would include a five day stay and a safari if she agreed to two speeches.

Tonight's episode, halfway through the latest 5th season on Style, was filmed in mid-February in Chicago just after the Grammy Awards, which is when Giuliana Rancic cancelled on South Africa.

By that time the Rancic's haven't told anybody about their baby and the pregnancy which was in the first trimester. Since Pam is Giuliana's manager, Giuliana Rancic couldn't decline a South Africa visit without a very good reason and explanation. She and Bill decided to tell Pam over the phone about their baby news.

"Not only do I have to cancel South Africa, I have a baby shower to throw," said Pam.

Edward Duke was born at the end of August. George Kotsiopoulos from Fashion Police on E! Entertainment ended up visiting South Africa during the last week of August.

Studio Universal on DStv tripled its audience in South Africa in the past year; now second most watched movie channel in the country, says UNI.

Since launching a year ago in October 2011 on MultiChoice's DStv pay-TV platform, the South African viewership of the Studio Universal (DStv 112) channel has more than tripled, making it the number two most watched movie channel in the country, says Universal Network International (UNI).

Studio Universal got upgraded to a high definition (HD) channel on DStv at the beginning of this month, as well as The Universal Channel (DStv 117) which is also run by UNI.

"The HD launches correlate to remarkable viewership growth for both channels across Africa and demonstrate UNI's ongoing committment to the African market," says UNI in a statement.

The Universal Channels' audience has grown consistently year-on-year for the past three years, increasing by 60% in January to September 2012, compared to 2010.

"The entire UNI portfolio - which includes Studio Universal, Universal Channel, the recently refreshed E! Entertainment (DStv 124) and Style (DStv 173) - has gone from strength to strengh, with strong year on year growth in audience share," says UNI.

"The [Studio Universal and Universal Channel in Africa] channels' high-quality international series and movies, tailored to the local market, have resonated with the African audience and we will continue our investment in the region to further enhance viewer experience," says Colin McLeod, the managing director for emerging markets at Universal Networks International.

Sony Max grabs the first season of Man v. Food Nation as well as two accompanying specials for South Africa and Africa.

Sony Max (DStv 128) in Africa and South Africa on MultiChoice's DStv has acquired the broadcasting rights to Man v. Food Nation in a deal with distributor Passion Distribution.

Adam Richman is the presenter of the show and Sony Max acquired the first season of Man v. Food Nation as well as two accompanying specials.

"Africa is becoming a hugely viable market for Passion and one we are seeing a lot of growth in," says Rebecca Thomas, sales manager for Passion Distribution in a press statement.

"We are continually doing business with countries across the continent by focusing on the individual territories as well as the larger pan broadcasters, in order to continue this growth into 2013 and beyond."

Programming note: US election campaign moves one episode each of Ellen, Revolution and Partners on M-Net Series and M-Net.

M-Net (DStv 101) and M-Net Series (DStv 114) just advised about the following short notice scheduling changes affecting a few American TV shows which broadcasting dates follow closely behind America.

Due to the election campaign running in the United States and some preemptions the following is going to happen:

Tomorrow, 26 October at 18:30 M-Net Series (DStv 114) will repeat an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show which has previously been shown on the channel.

Next week Thursday, 1 November at 20:30 M-Net Series (DStv 114) will not be showing a new episode of Revolution as scheduled. The new drama series will be replaced by episode 4 of Perez Hilton for the week.

Next week Friday 2 November at 18:00,M-Net (DStv 101) will not be showing a new episode of Partners as scheduled. The sitcom will be replaced for one week by On The Red Carpet.

BREAKING. Oprah's new talk show coming to South Africa on 26 Nov as Oprah's Next Chapter goes global with Justin Bieber special interview.

You're reading it here first. 

Oprah Winfrey's new and very successful weekly talk show in America, Oprah's Next Chapter, is coming to South Africa on 26 November as Oprah's Next Chapter is going global with an upcoming episode in which Oprah Winfrey is interviewing popstar Justin Bieber and which will be shown in 100 countries around the world on TLC (TopTV 453 / DStv 172).

South African TV viewers' first glimpse of Oprah Winfrey's new talk show will happen on 26 November.

It comes on the heels of last month's Oprah Winfrey special TV documentary going inside her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls which was broadcast on TLC in South Africa before it was shown on her OWN TV channel in the United States.

South African viewers will see the episode of Oprah's Next Chapter on Monday 26 November on TLC on DStv and TopTV, just one day after it is broadcast in America on Sunday 25 November. Europe will see it on 27 November.

While Oprah Winfrey's new talk show is doing incredibly well on OWN in America, neither SABC3, M-Net, Top One, TLC or any other broadcaster in South Africa so far tried to get and show it for viewers.

In June the Associated Press asked who is filling Oprah Winfrey's shoes and getting all the big must-see "gets'" now that she's ended her daytime talk show? The answer was .. Oprah.

From the Kasdashians, to 50 Cent, from Michael Jackson's daughter Paris to Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina, and a broad range of celebrities, it is still Oprah Winfrey who snags the biggest exclusives and sit-down interviews first in addition to running her TV channel.

Now South African viewers will be exposed to Oprah's Next Chapter, although just one hour long episode for now, which will be seen in 100 countries around the world.

Discovery as a co-owner in Oprah Winfrey's OWN, is going to show the 25 November American episode of Oprah's Next Chapter in 100 countries around the world with Discovery Networks International using its TLC channel to show the episode.

For the episode Oprah Winfrey attended Justin Bieber's concert at All-State Arena in Rosemont, Illinois last night before chatting to him at the RL Restaurant in Chicago.

Justin Bieber talks about the pitfalls of fame and living in the spotlight after they go shopping at the Ralph Lauren store in Chicago. Justin Bieber then surprises thousands of curious onlookers with an impromptu acoustic performance.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bessie Tugwana is back as the permanent channel head of SABC2, following her stint as the acting head of television at the SABC.

You're reading it here first. 

Bessie Tugwana is back as the permanent channel head of SABC2, I can report.

Bessie Tugwana who used to be the SABC2 channel head, was elevated at the beginning of 2011 to the newly created position of head of television at the SABC (but in an acting capacity) when the SABC's top brass decided to reorganize the SABC's services from a public and commercial services separation, to a radio and TV division.

Previously there was the public TV channels SABC1 and SABC2 on one side with public radio stations, with the commercial TV channel SABC3 and the commercial radio stations of the public broadcaster on the other side.

At the beginning of 2011 as part of the SABC's turnaround strategy, all three TV stations were lumped together with a new head of television; and all the radio stations were grouped together with a head of radio.

When Bessie Tugwana was given the position in an acting capacity, Pulane Tshabalala took over in February 2011 as the new acting channel head of SABC2.

Bessie Tugwana is now back as the "real" channel head of SABC2, following the appointment of Veronah Duwarkah at the end of last week, and with immediate effect as the new permanent head of television at the SABC.

Al Jazeera cuts back on news staff across the globe as the Qatar based 24-hour news channel keeps paying big bucks for sports rights.

The TV news biz has been abuzz over Al Jazeera (TopTV 401 / DStv 406) slashing news staff across the globe as the Qatar headquarter based 24 hour news channel from the Middle East is forking out massive amounts of money to acquire sports rights.

The cost of sports rights has meant cuts in the news side of the business, with the authoritative Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporting that Al Jazeera English, the language channel feed which South African viewers can see on MultiChoice's DStv and On Digital Media's TopTV, has cut or relocated at least 200 staff members as part of budget cuts.

According to reports plans Al Jazeera to start that Swahili language news channel offshoot has also been dumped as Al Jazeera is centralizing its editorial control in Doha.

Al Jazeera is now paying big money for European soccer rights as the country prepares to host the World Cup in 2022, and grabbing exclusive broadcasting rights to popular soccer games in the United States and France. The channel has spend half a billion dollars on soccer rights in France so far.

About 80% of Al Jazeera staff in Kuala Lumpur are gone and half of Al Jazeera staff in Washington DC are gone.