Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MultiChoice apologises to M-Net analogue subscribers after wrong notification about signal cut from 2015 confuses, scares M-Net subscribers.

MultiChoice is now apologising to M-Net analogue subscribers, a day after sending them a notification in error and telling them in a confusing email that they will lose their M-Net within 9 days and will have to "upgrade" to a DStv package.

TV with Thinus reported how MultiChoice confused M-Net subscribers who've never had DStv, with an erroneous notification on Monday, telling them that they will lose their pay-TV service at the end of the month.

It confused M-Net subscribers who've never owned a satellite dish, never had any dealings with MultiChoice and DStv, and were told they need to get DStv.

The notification was sent in error and was meant for DStv subscribers who channel their M-Net signal through a separate M-Net analogue decoder - a practice and subscription option which MultiChoice is finally completely terminating at the end of the year.

Existing M-Net analogue subscribers who only receive M-Net as a stand-alone subscription with no satellite pay-TV, don't need to worry and don't need to do anything.

"Please accept our apologies for the email, titled 'Notice of service upgrade' which you received on 22 December," MultiChoice is telling M-Net analogue subscribers a day later in a new email burst to these subscribers.

Many of these M-Net analogue subscribers were already on holiday and in a festive mood when they received the lump of coal - several of them upset, disturbed and confused as to what is going on, and what they have to do.

"This communication was sent to you in error," says MultiChoice is the new email.

"Your service will continue uninterrupted and you don't need to do anything. We thank you for your understanding and wish you and your family a blessed festive season," says MultiChoice.

Dear Valued Customer,

Please accept our apologies for the email, titled "Notice of service upgrade", which you received on 22 December. This communication was sent to you in error.

Your service will continue uninterrupted and you don't need to do anything.

We thank you for your understanding and wish you and your family a blessed festive season.

Best wishes,

The MultiChoice team


MultiChoice confuses M-Net subscribers on analogue with wrong notification telling them they must upgrade to DStv.

MultiChoice has sent out a notification in error to M-Net subscribers who only have an M-Net decoder and who are subscribing to the analogue M-Net service only that their service is going to get cut within days and that they will have to switch to DStv from January 2015.

MultiChoice sent out the notification to M-Net analogue subscribers on Monday who've never had DStv or a satellite dish on the roof.

It led to confusion and anxiety yesterday as consumers who have never dealt with MultiChoice before, were told they need to switch to a new DStv subscription option.

DStv told M-Net subscribers who have M-Net analogue as a stand-alone subscription that they're on the DStv Premium service" and can from January 2015 no longer get just M-Net since "it was intended for customers who still have M-Net analogue as a stand-alone subscription".

"This is such a shock and is giving me a fright," said a longtime M-Net subscriber in Claremont, Cape Town who received the notification. "What a downer during the festive season. I don't understand what this means."

"I've only ever had M-Net. Now MultiChoice is taking it away and forcing me to get DStv,"said another M-Net analogue-only subscriber.

MultiChoice says the notification was an error and not meant for M-Net analogue-only subscribers but for people getting M-Net analogue separately and a DStv subscription together, but without the M-Net channel on that DStv line-up.

M-Net analogue subscribers don't have to do anything, will not lose their M-Net subscription at the end of the year, don't have to upgrade or make any changes and can ignore the notification.

Dear Valued Customer,

You currently receive the DStv Premium service without the M-Net 101 channel. From January 2015, we can no longer offer you that package as it was intended for customers who still have M-Net analogue as a stand-alone subscription.

We would like to invite you to please get in touch with us to choose an alternative DStv package that suits your pocket and your viewing needs. The full DStv Premium package with M-Net 101 included is R665 per month but we have five other packages for you to choose from starting at R29 per month and offer a wide variety of entertainment, news and documentary, sports and kids channels.

To compare the price and channels on these packages, you can go to: http://selfservice.dstv.com/get-dstv/compare-packages/ or contact us on 011 289 2222.

Thank you for your understanding and your loyal support.

Best wishes,

The MultiChoice team

"The intention is not to prejudice M-Net subscribers. The only change is that M-Net subscribers who also subscribe to DStv, will have to select one of DStv's six advertised packages," says MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry.

MultiChoice says "an M-Net digital option will be available shortly".

"As soon as digital migration commences, we will communicate exciting changes to M-Net subscribers," says the Randburg-based pay-TV platform.

Subscribers who are affected are only those who are receiving both M-Net through their analogue decoder and have DStv and get their M-Net channel separately through the M-Net decoder and not as one of the channels on their DStv line-up.

"When DStv started, M-Net analogue subscribers were given the option of subscribing to DStv (without M-Net) and continuing to watch M-Net on their analogue decoders," says MultiChoice.

"M-Net is now preparing for the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) and this legacy arrangement is being discontinued - all this means is that a subscriber will subscribe either to DStv or to M-Net."

UPDATE Tuesday 23 December 2014 17:00 - MultiChoice is now apologising to M-Net subscribers, sending a new notification and an apology, saying the notification of yesterday was "sent to you in error".

"Your service will continue uninterrupted and you don't need to do anything," says MultiChoice.

Dear Valued Customer,

Please accept our apologies for the email, titled "Notice of service upgrade", which you received on 22 December. This communication was sent to you in error.

Your service will continue uninterrupted and you don't need to do anything.

We thank you for your understanding and wish you and your family a blessed festive season.

Best wishes,

The MultiChoice team


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BREAKING. SABC's lying chairwoman Ellen Zandile Tshabalala resigns following pressure on president Jacob Zuma to fire her.

The SABC's lying chairwoman Ellen Zandile Tshabalala has resigned today following pressure on her close friend and ally president Jacob Zuma to fire her, following the shocking revelations of her bogus Unisa tertiary qualifications and her months' long and scandalous protracted battle to halt a parliamentary enquiry which found that she lied and misrepresented herself.

The recalcitrant Ellen Zandile Tshabalala - whose erratic and bisarre refusal to step down following the revelations of how she faked qualifications, and heaped scorn and further scandal on the beleaguered SABC and SABC board - finally resigned this morning.

She is gone as SABC chairperson and gone from the SABC board where she pocketed a lot of money, while she never had the qualifications she claimed to have.

Backdoor machinations makes it clear that the disgraceful Ellen Zandile Tshabalala decided - and was perhaps ordered - to resign, in order to save, protect and prevent president Jacob Zuma the humiliation of having to do an all-out public firing of the SABC chairperson who he's friends with.

The search will now begin yet again, anew, to try and find a new SABC chairperson following Ellen Zandile Tshabalala who only served a disastrous year as chairperson atop the beleaguered South African public broadcaster, struggling to find stability.

Ellen Zandile Tshabalala is the next SABC chairperson now gone and out in a long line of controversial and scandal-riddled SABC chairpersons coming and going in succession, and seemingly unable to institute true reform, stability and solid, responsible and transparent governance at the SABC.

In a statement the Democratic Alliance's shadow minister of communications, Gavin Davis, welcoming the decision, says Ellen Tshabalala's resignation is "an elegant solution for president Jacob Zuma who was under pressure to suspend her pending the outcome of the parliamentary process".

"It has been 5 months since the DA requested a parliamentary inquiry into allegations that Ellen Tshabalala lied about her qualifications. It was an unnecessarily protracted saga caused by the various delaying tactics employed by Ellen Tshabalala and her legal team".

"Credit is due to all members of the communications portfolio committee, especially our colleagues from the ANC. They pushed ahead with the parliamentary inquiry, despite the well-known connections that Ellen Tshabalala has in the upper echelons of the party," says Gavin Davis.

More to come as the story develops ...

Comedy Central on DStv says sorry for dissing Santa and Christmas.

Comedy Central (DStv 122) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform is saying sorry for dissing Santa and Christmas and has removed a spiteful billboard saying "Santa isn't real".

Children read the red and white billboard alongside Witkoppen Road in Johannesburg and asked their parents about it, who in turn complained to Comedy Central Africa run by Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa).

VIMN Africa decided to take down the billboard.

"We know how important Santa is to kids and adults," says Evert van der Veer, the head of Comedy Central Africa in a statement to TV with Thinus

"The message on our billboard was a joke that was not intended to spoil Christmas for anyone, and we apologise wholeheartedly".

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hajra Omarjee, Tirrin Cosway dump ANN7 as the 'GuptaTV' news channel keeps bleeding on-air talent with ongoing staff exits.

Hajra Omarjee and Tirrin Cosway have now also both quit ANN7 (DStv 405) as South Africa's beleaguered third 24-hour TV news channel from Infinity Media, nicknamed "GuptaTV", keeps bleeding on-air talent in a shocking exodus of staff.

Hajra Omarjee who joined from eNCA, decided to dump ANN7 after just a year with Saturday which was her last day; the future of the political talk show Political Edge which she hosted and which finished its first season in doubt following her exit.

Also a gonner is ANN7's primetime business anchor and social media reporter Tyron "Tirrin" Cosway.

Tirrin Cosway is gone from ANN7 just weeks after he said an on-air goodbye to ANN7 Prime's Chantal Rutter-Dros on 3 December, who quit and had been the face of ANN7 since the channel's disastrous launch in August 2013.

ANN7's flagship weeknight broadcast is in tatters and has now been dismantled and destroyed, leaving primetime sports anchor Peter Stemmet who joined the Midrand based news channel from eNCA, and morning anchor Peter van Onselen as the only remaining credible news presenters.

In just one year ANN7 - part-owned and run by Atul and Ajay Gupta and broadcast on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform and where it competes with eNCA (DStv 403) and SABC News (404) - saw the exits of Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon just months after her breakfast show Vuka Africa was launched with great fanfare.

It was followed by the demise of weekend show Between the Lines and its presenter Asanda Magaqa escorted from the building.

The exodus leaves the gutted channel with barely any well-known or respected on-air talent news brand names who viewers turn to when they seek out credible TV news reporting.

Behind the scenes general manager for operations at ANN7 Dave McGregor quit this year, so did assignments editor Clinton Nagoor, while the "weather girls" were dumped with weather forecasts now having no presenters.

According to reports, ANN7 is a fraught with unhappiness and staff discord behind the scenes, with personnel allegedly tired and fed-up with low pay, bad treatment, grueling working conditions and cost cutting.

Last month ANN7 told TV with Thinus "all employees are treated fairly". 

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) submitted a list of grievances to ANN7 management, alleging poor pay, forced overtime without pay, a shortage of vehicles to cover the news, no sick bay, unfair labour practices and ill-treatment of staff.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How SABC1 'broke' The X Factor South Africa; why the disappointing reality talent show failed to go big and capture the imagination - and viewers.

Several factors are to blame for the sadly uneventful, forgettable, buzzless, deflated, and frankly often embarrassing The X Factor South Africa - most of which is actually SABC1's fault.

The SABC, SABC1, and sponsor Vodacom, failed to properly invest, capitalise and maximise on a new TV show, shamelessly uncaringly diluting something right from the very beginning and all the way through which could have been amazing - instead handicapping it in almost every way possible to limp along to a gone and forgotten first season.

Will The X Factor South Africa be back? Who knows? Who cares? Certainly not viewers.

With a paltry 1.9 million who tuned in to the weekly show, and then around 2.6 million for the results show once that started, The X Factor SA was never - although it could and should have been - a top 10 show for SABC1.

TV channels want and need hits. When a live weekly show like The X Factor South Africa (which is expensive to produce and is supposed to be tentpole event television) neither generates the buzz and critical appeal and gets outdrawn in the ratings by something like Selimathunzi which costs less to produce  (or even the repeat of something like Skwizas on SABC2) it's not impossible that it would be back.

It just makes a second season unlikely and more difficult to justify on something like a public broadcaster like SABC1.

A lot of things went completely wrong with The X Factor South Africa's first (and who knows, only?) season of the international format show on SABC1 or South African television. (Perhaps another non-SABC channel could pick up or take over the show and give it the care, attention and exposure it deserves or could actually get?)

The faults and mistakes for The X Factor South Africa's failure to ignite buzz and South African viewers are numerous; at the end it all boils down to the SABC and SABC1's apparent lack of dedicated hands-on involvement and constant push to look at, support, work on and make the Rapid Blue produced show seem, and be, larger than life.

What must have been a hard-sourced, specially recorded message from Simon Cowell right at the beginning, before The X Factor SA had even started, calling South Africans to enter, held so much promise.

Instead the show never got the start nor the run it deserved.

Instead what could have been the year's biggest reality show in terms of viewer buzz, reams of press coverage, and a must-see show unearthing a South African Susan Boyle or Paul Potts everybody couldn't stop talking about,  was allowed to wilt right from the beginning into an "also-ran"; lost amidst the bigger-buzz and over-supply of other reality and talent-seeking TV competitions.

After the show acquisition was announced - also only happening after word leaked that The X Factor SA would be coming to SABC1 - the burst of excitement faded when the SABC blatantly allowed, and did nothing, to keep the momentum going by taking weeks before announcing the host and judges.

Precious media excitement and interest were simply squandered as the press waited and waited, and then moved on.

By the time the broadcaster finally announced the judges, long after TV critics and viewers have already moved on, the pervasive mood was one of "Who are these people?" (Beyond anyone's control one judge, Zonke, couldn't even make it all the way to the end.)

The beginning episodes and audition episodes of The X Factor South Africa were really bad. (And where was the actually showing of mentoring?)

What should have popped and amazed, literally turned off viewers. The SABC seemingly couldn't care to invest both money and attention in the show.

It instantly became clear that The X Factor SA, set in Durban wasn't nowhere near the look and feel of The X Factor USA and The X Factor from Britain viewers have been used to seeing. It damaged the property and made it feel like a cheap-to-make knock-off.

And why would viewers not think so when they tuned in to be confronted with bad sound, sound problems, uninspiring sets at the beginning of the series' start and a main stage at the Olive Convention Centre later shockingly not even remotely close to the larger-than-life "arena-like" feel of how the overseas versions look?

When the top contestants were announced, again, it felt as if the real, right, best contenders were left off the list. Nobody popped - and the really bad styling didn't help to endear them to viewers.

There were no real contestants that galvanised a viewing nation to root for them and captured the audiences' imagination.

While M-Net flies the final contestants on a nationwide tour for Idols to drum up exposure and publicity just before the final episode, SABC1 and The X Factor SA publicity pale in comparison.

Where was the hoo-haa, raa-raa for The X Factor SA and its final set of contestants at the SABC's recent Summer TV press preview?  Why was The X Factor SA, if its presumably the SABC's biggest live reality TV show finale for the end of the year, not front and centre at the SABC's only TV programming upfront this year?

The SABC also couldn't be bothered, and was apparently too cheap, to get national TV critics - notoriously attention deficit driven creatures compulsively like moths seeking light and wanting to latch on to the next big thing - to consistently even attend the weekly show.

If you set a TV show with a weekly live broadcast and a live studio audience in Durban, what is your plan to actually get the media there to cover it? Was there even a plan? Or some type of a budget?

Instead the bulk of TV writers and critics wrote and tracked and covered Big Brother Africa, Idols, SA's Got Talent, MasterChef SA, Strictly Come Dancing SA, Ultimate Braaimaster and a slew of other shows which happened concurrently and made a bigger effort to break through the noise and clutter.

Largely lost among them in the fight for relevance, sadly, was The X Factor South Africa which could have been great but concluded on SABC1 on Saturday evening - a show in a sense neutered beyond recognition of what viewers expected or deserved.

It's a problem when newspaper lamp post banners countrywide scream things like "Domestic worker in MasterChef SA finale" for a much smaller TV show in audience, but which managed to capture and retain presence, and carve out attention.

The X Factor SA never really broke through in the large national zeitgeist and should have.

The X Factor South Africa didn't live up to the "standards" and expectations of international versions and it will probably make viewers - once burned, twice shy - reluctant to "trust" or tune in if there's ever a second season.

Why did SABC1 not ensure "bigger" and "better" judges who can articulate (and speak English fluently)?

What's the reason for SABC1's mediocre marketing and pushing of the show, the "meh" level of contestants, and the underwhelming "badness" of the first episodes before the hardly better live episodes?

Why was the supposed to be synergistic co-produced show The Xtra Factor dumped on SABC3? If SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 are supposedly different TV channels each catering to different audience demographics (and if they're not, why do they exist?) why wasn't The Xtra Factor slotted on SABC1 to bolster and support the main show?

It shouldn't have been, but The X Factor South Africa has become another example of how TV channels lose, and will lose out, if they take on TV shows that they don't appear to be willing to support with real budgets.

It feels as if The X Factor SA needed more money, more real time and effort, actual real in-time "war room" clever channel executives analysing and fixing things and working hard to get real buy-in from all the different stakeholders to try and make it a true success.

It's bad when something like Idols on M-Net and Mzansi Magic can have a spectacular, proper after-party for the winner and media at Carnival City sponsored by Telkom (Telkom!) as the show's sponsor, but you hear from journalists how they were apparently confronted with a cash bar at SABC1, Vodacom and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism's media launch party for the Top 9 acts at the Zimbali Fairmont Hotel.

The X Factor South Africa was disappointing television because it doesn't appear as if the SABC and SABC1 was willing to support the show with the resources it needed to be the "big" show it could have been.

SABC1's The X Factor South Africa is one of those shows which will only work if it follows the slogan of "Go big or go home". Sadly the SABC didn't go big enough.

Friday, December 12, 2014

BREAKING. SABC1's fired Generations cast now going to High Court; demand that the SABC stop broadcasting 'new' Generations by 10 January 2015.

With plummeting ratings and having lost millions of viewers more drama is waiting behind the scenes for SABC1's beleaguered restarted soap with the fired principal cast now taking their cast to the High Court with help from a former SABC CEO and demanding that the SABC stop broadcasting Generations: The Legacy at the latest by 10 January 2015.

While viewers have soured in their millions and turned on the soap which restarted at the beginning of last week after a break of two months due to acrimonious infighting behind the scenes between the fired principal cast and the SABC and MMSV Productions, the Generations Actors Guild (SAG) is now going to challenge their dismissal by producer Mfundi Vundla in the High Court.

In the ever-widening scandal they're helped in their battle against the SABC and Mfundi Vundla by none other than the former SABC CEO, advocate Dali Mpofu

They've now withdrawn their case from the CCMA and is going to the High Court instead.

The SABC's now acting CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng promised the fired Generations cast three year contracts in June 2013 which more than a year later didn't materialise.

They also never got payment, known as residuals – and specified in their existing contracts – for the multiple rebroadcasts in South Africa and resales of the soap internationally. They eventually embarked on a stayaway and were promptly fired.

The scandal dominated TV and entertainment headlines since mid-August when the cast was fired, with ugly mudslinging between Mfundi Vundla and the SABC and the fired cast – something which has not been lost on viewers. 

The reset soap – sans the familiar faces – had a debut last Monday of 7.5 million viewers 15 and older – the demographic most coveted by advertisers, but plunged to a shocking 4.1 million viewers by this past Friday.

Now the Generations Actors Guild says the SABC, Mfundi Vundla and MMSV Productions breached some of their rights as defined in the South African Constitution. 

The Generations Actors Guild delivered a legal letter demanding that the "new" Generations be taken off SABC1 by the SABC no later than 10 January 2015.

Dali Mpofu told the Generations Actors Guild that besides labour rights, their issue involves contractual and constitutional issues.

"The decision by MMSV Productions and the SABC to create a new show while the case with the Generations cast was as yet unresolved represents a breach of the contractual and fundamental constitutional rights of the actors and they both did so knowing there was a pending dispute and hence it was at their own risk," says the actors' attorney, Bulelani Mzamo.

"The cast had always expressed their desire to return to work. Their withdrawal of services was taken as a last resort, based on the fact that this agreement was continuously violated."

"The actors consistently expressed their willingness to return to work. Nonetheless, MMSV Productions hired new actors and commenced with a new production, Generations The Legacy, knowing that they have not resolved the fundamental contractual issues with the cast of Generations. It is on this basis that we are taking the cast to the High Court."

"Generations The Legacy should never have been produced and aired while the current dispute was still unresolved."

"This is going to be an important case – not only for defining the rights of the actors, the production company and the SABC, but also the interests of the licence-paying public and the millions of Generations fans across the country and the continent," says Bulelani Mzamo.

BREAKING. Durban assistant train driver Roxi Wardman wins 3rd season of M-Net's MasterChef South Africa, wants to open a café and pâtisserie.

Roxi Wardman (26), a train driver assistant from Durban, was announced the winner of the third season of MasterChef South Africa on M-Net (DStv 101) in the reality show which concluded with a live winner's announcement, beating out fellow contestant Siphokazi Mdlankomo (39), a domestic worker from Cape Town.

Roxi Wardman wins R500 000, a Volkswagen Tiguan, R100 000 worth of food from Woolworths, a trip to the French winelands, a year's wine from Nederburg, and a holiday in the Seychelles.

The final episode saw Roxi Wardman and Sipho Mdlankomo duke it out in an intense three-part cook off with a celebrity chef appearance by the British restaurateur and TV chef Marco Pierre White.

"I'm no longer a train driver assistant, this is what I want to do," said Roxi Wardman. "As soon as I get back to Durban I'm going to be looking for premises and be looking for a really kick-ass team. I want people with no formal training to create jobs and I need them to think out of the box. I want to open a café and pâtisserie combined."

"It's something I've wanted for so so long," said Roxi Wardman, who's no longer an assistant train driver. "It proves that you're never too old to follow your dreams and no matter what your background is. Nothing can stop you if you put your mind to it."

Roxi Wardman revealed that she's quit her job as a train driver's assistant where she did routes from Durban up to the North coast and South Coast to Port Shepstone - grueling, hard work and 12-hour shifts in what she calls "a man's work".

"I worked day shifts, night shifts, early mornings where you actually start at midnight. It was quite hard. It was fun at the beginning but then I started hating every single day that I went to work."

"Basically if anything happened en route I would then have to get out the locomotive and walk the line back by myself and check for any faults. You are put in that man's world and they won't treat you any different."

Siphokazi Mdlankomo, who acknowledged that she's become an inspiration for millions of South African domestic workers on the pay-TV broadcaster programme, said "hopefully I will have my own TV cooking show. It's one of my biggest dreams".

"A lot of domestic workers, they have been supporting me. I'm a role model for them now. Everywhere I go they ask me, 'Sipho, how do you do it?"

"The house where I work, you will find every single recipe book. I try every recipe that there. That's how I'm learning. Every Taste magazine, every food and home magazine, I have to try it. So that's how I cook."

Siphokazi Mdlankomo said she would entertain offers from hotel groups, restaurants and places who perhaps want her to come and work for their establishments as a chef.

She didn't have DStv but took out a contract after she became a top 12 contestant in order for her mother and son to watch her in MasterChef South Africa, the Shine International format produced for M-Net by Lucky Bean Media and Quizzical Pictures.

"We could see from the beginning how great they were, but still they had to fight for their positions and that was really amazing to see," said MasterChef SA celebrity chef and judge Reuben Riffel. "For me I'm really proud to say that the two best cooks made it to the end."

Victor Eckard, M-Net channel director told TV with Thinus that the growth in social media has elevated MasterChef South Africa.

"Everybody in South Africa loves to cook, so the engagement when it comes to recipes is huge with people who get access to these kinds of recipes, and to watch TV and PVR it and watch it while you cook it yourself is big. It really works well for the audience and is doing good for M-Net," said Victor Eckard.

"Social media is great focus research for us. We track it to see and listen what people say say. There's lot of ideas coming from people. We get a sense of what the audience wants and actually helps to determine the challenges coming up. So it's a very useful tool," said Donald Clarke, executive producer from Lucky Bean Media.

Donald Clarke said MasterChef SA added the live winner's announcement for the first time for the 3rd season "to capture the energy that we had last year when Kamini Pather was crowned the winner because the atmosphere was electric".

Speaking about the progression of the show - from bigger and bigger challenges, an island mystery location, and surprising guest chef appearance in the latest season - Harriet Gavshon, executive producer from Quizzical Pictures told TV with Thinus that "every season we say 'that was great, but now how are we going to raise the bar?"

"So we challenge ourselves. And the audience expects us to be better and better. It is constantly challenging and interesting."

Celebrity MasterChef South Africa starts on M-Net on Sunday 8 February on M-Net at 18:00 with local celebrities competing for their charities and another season of Junior MasterChef Australia is also starting soon.

On Thursday 18 December Feast starts on M-Net, a 4-part special in which the three MasterChef SA judges and Marco Pierre White show their homes and share recipes and hosting ideas with viewers for the festive season.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ster-Kinekor launches Cape Town's first IMAX at Cape Gate shopping centre after long absence, South Africa a key market for IMAX again.

Cape Town has an IMAX movie theatre again with IMAX now saying that South Africa is, and will remain a "key focus" for the big screen company.

On Wednesday night Ster-Kinekor officially launched the city's first new IMAX cinema at Cape Gate shopping centre in Brackenfell, the third one countrywide after Gateway in Durban and The Grove Mall in Pretoria.

Guests watched the riveting conclusion to the final film in the The Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies in 3D on the massive screen.

Johannesburg will get South Africa's 4th IMAX through Ster-Kinekor during the second half of 2015 at the Eastgate shopping centre.

"This is a big screen but it's much more than just the specifications and words like 'in-theatre geometry' and difficult things we had to overcome to ensure that when we promise great moments at their greatest, we deliver exactly that," said Doug Place, Ster-Kinekor marketing executive.

"International expansion has been a key focus for us and South Africa is, and will be, a key market for our films," says Giovanni Dolci, the vice president for theatre development, for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region at the IMAX Corporation.

"Next year we have an amazing slate of really powerful titles, films like Jupiter Ascending in February, Fast & Furious VII in April, the new Avengers and then ending at Christmas with the new Star Wars VII."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BREAKING. Concern over shocking viewership plunge as SABC1's Generations takes a ratings nosedive to 4.1 million viewers in primetime.

You're reading it here first. 

They no longer like you Karabo. TV with Thinus can reveal that the SABC's reset primetime soap Generations The Legacy on SABC1, once the unassailable viewership behemoth of South African television, is in a shocking ratings tailspin, going down fast and losing millions of viewers as its former TV audience flee the new iteration which started on Monday last week and is now down to just 4.1 million viewers.

Meanwhile major concern is mounting over what was once the SABC's now apparently broken crown jewel and what it means for the South African TV industry, the public broadcaster and advertisers.

While returned stars like Connie Ferguson and Rapulana Seiphemo have been branded "sellouts" by viewers, the former loyal and large Generations audience who made the show the most watched programme on South African television are also turning their backs on the inexperienced actors roped in at short notice and the new story.

Generations The Legacy which started on SABC1 at 20:00 last Monday after a two month absence lured an unimpressive 7.5 million viewers, shedding a whopping million viewers to 6.5 million on Tuesday, fell to 6.1 million on Wednesday, dropping to 5.4 million on Thursday and plunging to an unprecedented 4.1 million viewers aged 15 and older this past Friday according to the latest consolidated ratings information.

Monday: 7.5 million
Tuesday: 6.5 million
Wednesday: 6.1 million
Thursday: 5.4 million
Friday: 4.1 million

Viewership is generally lower on Fridays but not for this 20:00 timeslot on SABC1 which is now averaging only an eye-popping 5.9 million viewers.

Generations The Legacy now pulls lower numbers than the third season of Skeem Saam which replaced it in the 20:00 timeslot for two months.

The soap is in fact no longer the most watched programme on South African television, with SABC1's longrunning Soul City and SABC2's weekday Venda soap Muvhango both now vying for the ratings champ crown, each roughly pulling in 4.5 million viewers.

MMSV Productions, caustic executive producer Mfundi Vundla and the SABC, in a controversial move, fired the entire principal Generations cast in August after they embarked on a stayaway after numerous requests for the three year contracts the SABC's Hlaudi Motsoeneng promised them in June 2013 and which never materialised, as well as the residuals from rebroadcasts and resales of the soap their existing contracts called for but which they'd never received over decades.

"Having been South Africa's top rated soap for several years now, the power that Generations had was unparalleled," Cheryl Dube, media strategist at Carat SA told TV with Thinus on Wednesday.

"We all know that the relationship that people have with their soapies. Such a significant dip in viewership for this particular timeslot and show is concerning not only for the SABC but for advertisers as well who invest a lot of money to reach this particular audience because they are aware that it performs well," says Cheryl Dube.

It now appears that millions of viewers feel robbed of a show that they loved. "Now to build up that kind of loyalty and rapport again is tough," says Cheryl Dube.

"Perhaps it does not show a lack of interest but rather the sense of loyalty that people had towards the old version of the show. After 20 years of watching a story, building relationships with the characters and engaging every day to all of a sudden having the soap end abruptly with so many cliffhangers and unanswered questions about the characters that South Africa loved so much - that's just reckless, especially for such a popular show," says Cheryl Dube.

"The new story line is completely new, so building that relationship again will be difficult for some but you do have those die-hard supporters who still love the Generations brand," says Cheryl Dube.

Meanwhile in the TV waters the sharks are circling having smelt blood. e.tv will attack SABC1 and the 20:00 timeslot early in 2015 with its own telenovela blatantly pitting it against Generations The Legacy in the same timeslot with its buoyant soap Scandal! on a viewership and critically acclaimed rise serving as the lead-in.

"I believe that this is an optimal time for the likes of Skeem Saam, Isidingo, Muvhango and Mzanzi Magic's Isibaya to capitalise on their already existing popularity," says Cheryl Dube.

"These shows have been scheduled in such a way as not to clash with the monster that was Generations in terms of viewership because they would most likely suffer. But it looks like people are now looking for alternatives and now is the time to do it," she says.

StarSat porn appeal bid denied by High Court; broadcasting regulator must relook decision to allow StarSat to broadcast sex channels.

StarSat's porn appeal has been denied by the Western Cape High Court today, with On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes SA again ordered to shut down the hardcore pornographic channels it started broadcasting immediately, and South Africa's broadcasting regulator ordered to review the decision to allow StarSat's to broadcast these channels.

ODM and China's StarTimes Media SA has been broadcasting a sex package of TV channels for R159 per month since November 2013, following two highly controversial applications at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), the first of which was denied and the second of which was approved in April 2013.

According to reports StarSat's subscriber base has plunged from around 400 000 to between 80 000 and 85 000. Asked what StarSat's subscriber number is, the company on Wednesday told TV with Thinus "StarSat does not publicise its subscriber numbers".

According to court documents ODM and StarTimes Media SA has around 400 subscribers for the sex channels.

ODM, currently in business rescue, denies that it's planning on porn to save the company, saying that "research conducted by ODM shows that there is majority support and demand for adult-based channels". 

ODM which at launch in May 2010 promised it wouldn't broadcast pornographic channels, says that "providing subscribers with more choice allows ODM to be a competitor in an environment filled with opportunities".

At the beginning of November Judge Lee Bozalek in the Western Cape High Court ordered StarSat to stop broadcasting its hardcore pornography TV channels in South Africa after the the non-profit organisations Justice Alliance of South Africa (Jasa), Cause for Justice and Doctors for Life took Icasa and StarSat to court for allowing and broadcasting pornography on television in South Africa.

Icasa admitted to court that the regulator had failed to appoint experts to consider StarSat's porn plan.

The struggling On Digital Media also failed to register with the Film and Publications Board (FPB) as a porn purveyor.

The Woodmead-based satellite pay-TV operator appealed the High Court ruling, and today the High Court rejected ODM's appeal, again finding that the broadcasting regulator has to relook the process and decision which gave StarSat (formerly TopTV) permission to broadcast the hardcore pornography in the form of Brazzers, Desire TV and Playboy TV channels.

The ruling also stands that ODM and Icasa pay the court case cost.

"These are matters which quintessentially lie in the province and expertise of Icasa," said Judge Lee Bozalek.

In a statement issued after today's ruling, ODM says that the company "is currently consulting with its attorneys tod iscuss the next steps and despite this setback ODM will continue to ensure that citizens in South Africa have the freedom to view the programmes they wish to".

Eskom blackouts and emergency load shedding hit South Africa's TV industry, damages local TV biz and impacts ratings.

Eskom's disastrous blackouts and emergency load shedding is directly damaging South Africa's local television industry.

Eskom's blackouts and rolling nationwide load shedding is not just impacting TV production and broadcasters but also viewership: during blackouts when TV sets go dark, it literally wipes millions of South African TV households off the grid reducing the overall potential TV audience.

That has a debilitating effect on viewership figures and ratings, decreasing the overall available audience.

While South Africa's beleaguered electricity supplier is in crisis mode - although the parastatal is lying and denying a crisis - it's industries like South Africa's TV sector bearing the brunt of the blackout disaster that is being directly, and negatively, impacted by Eskom's chronic electricity shortage.

Eskom's ongoing failure to provide enough electricity - which has seen businesses and ordinary consumer households plunged into darkness - is the result of improper maintenance planning, breakdowns, insufficient maintenance and repair, billions spent and wasted on unfinished power plants years behind schedule, wet coal, a lack of coal, a lack of cash to pay for diesel and waiting too late to order it, as well as a foolish over-reliance on promises and capacity from notoriously unreliable electricity import sources like Cahora Bassa.

Whenever there's blackouts, Eskom is directly responsible for dramatically reducing the size of the available TV audience and that negatively impacts all broadcasters - from community TV stations like SowetoTV to the public broadcaster SABC and e.tv, as well as pay-TV providers like M-Net, MultiChoice's DStv and On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes SA's StarSat.

Eskom has now quietly decided to cut the electricity of ordinary consumers - meaning TV households are left without electricity first, instead of large industrial users as before.

Irrespective of where or when Eskom's simultaneous blackouts occur, it's a given that there's tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of TV households where people were watching television and where TV sets were on - eyeballs no longer watching. All of these quickly adds up.

Broadcasters and their sales divisions who upfront sell TV commercials and ad packages against certain guaranteed base viewership figures, end up having to do "make good"  advert timeslots as they're forced to shell out and lose more inventory to make up for the shortfall in promised viewers.

This happens when ad buyers have to get more additional TV commercials and exposure when previously booked and paid ads were seen by less viewers than what was agreed upon due to something like Eskom's load shedding 3B schedule which effectively "deletes" TV households from the rating systems' tallies.

Eskom's power implosion comes at a time during November and December that is premium ad buying season when advertisers and agencies want to use the highly influential medium of television to get their products, services and brands seen - traditionally a lucrative period of the year for broadcasters fattening the cows before the lean months at the beginning of a next year.

Eskom's blackouts prevent DStv subscribers' PVRs from recording Catch Up content - obviously - but also software and system updates. Spare a thought for the hard drives and countless decoders which unexpectedly shut down and must reboot when the power comes back on; the TV sets and sound systems at risk of power surges and DVD players suddenly dead with disks inside.

The two recent Eskom power cuts over weekends cuts into the ratings of SABC1's just restarted Generations which is already facing a ratings challenge and just saw its omnibus return to the schedule - on Saturdays.

Black TV screens will definitely eat into the audience ratings points that the Generations weekend repeat provided to SABC1  -the same for Scandal! on e.tv and Muvhango and 7de Laan on SABC2, and Isidingo and The Bold and the Beautiful on SABC3. They will all rate with lower than usual AR's.

That is just the debilitating impact of Eskom's electricity deficiency on TV viewers and viewership figures.

TV productions and broadcasters, especially those with live show or live audience elements are also impacted.

November and December so far saw the month with the largest number of live TV show finales ever in South African television history as well as the most upfront presentations in one month.

From productions ranging from SA's Got Talent, Idols, The X Factor SA the Channel O Music Video Awards, and Big Brother Africa who all make use of back-up power generation, to broadcasters and TV channels ranging from the SABC, e.tv, Discovery, the BBC and others, worry as audience members struggle to make it to recording venues through traffic gridlock due to dead traffic lights, and as guests arrive late for upfront screenings where advertisers and media are shown 2015 programming which is often the catalyst for ad sales and sponsorships.

Location shoots for shows and commercials - although at its lowest number during December - are impacted, upping production budgets from the smallest to the largest TV producers when blackouts force reshoots and rescheduling.

Several local TV magazine shows already had to adjust shooting schedules and planned inserts where places and backdrops they planned to film at or record interviews, had no electricity since November.

It also negatively impacts turn-around times for delivery. When there's no electricity there's no video editing, no sound editing, and no post production happening until the lights come back on - and a lot of it happens over weekends. Add lost time and overtime pay to production companies' worries.

Movie critics are used to the dark but load shedding has become a problem for film distributors now warning publications and movie critics with an additional note that scheduled film previews won't take place if cinemas in shopping malls suddenly experience blackouts.

Similar to South Africa's recent labirintine and suddenly much more restrictive visa regulations for foreigners - which has already delayed and negatively impacted foreign film productions, TV shows like Homeland and Big Brother Africa and international TV commercials shot here - irregular, unstable and a constantly interrupted electricity supply is giving productions second thoughts on whether they should consider locations other than South Africa.

BREAKING. M-Net secures The Royal Variety Performance 2014 with Trevor Noah, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and soprano Pumeza.

You're reading it here first. 

Pheww. Talk about cutting it close. I can exclusively break the news and reveal that M-Net (DStv 101) has secured the broadcasting rights to The Royal Variety Performance 2014 which this year includes performances ranging from One Direction to Bette Midler and also South Africa's Trevor Noah, extracts from Inala with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and operatic soprano Pumeza Matshikiza.

The deal comes after industry observers started stressing that M-Net will again lose and not show the annual British theatre showcase as it did in 2010 when M-Net disastrously dropped the ball.

While current M-Net December schedules won't indicate it, TV with Thinus is told M-Net has secured The Royal Variety Performance rights for this year with insiders telling me an announcement and a schedule update of when it will be broadcast on MultiChoice's DStv can be expected sometime tomorrow.

The Royal Variety Performance 2014, an annual TV highlight, is likely to be slotted very close to the end of December, probably New Year's Eve, 31 December.

Michael Mcintyre is the host of The Royal Variety Performance 2014 which this year includes appearances by South African comedian Trevor Noah, the South African operatic soprano Pumeza Matshikiza and Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing extracts from Inala.

Other performances include Shirley Bassey, Bette Midler, One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Demi Lovato singing the Frozen hit, "Let It Go".

The theatre spectacle was recorded in the London Palladium with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate, attending this year.

Other performances include Collabro, the winners of the recent Britain's Got Talent, the cast of the musical Miss Saigon, Simply Red and stand-up comedy from Russell Kane, Jack Whitehall, Stephen Mulhern and Sarah Millican.

e.tv acquires the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014, will broadcast it on 31 December at 21:35.

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You'd think that e.tv would have told the press about it at its recent e.tv Summer TV press preview - but since it's not willing to talk about its upcoming new telenovela and Gold Diggers its probably not too far a stretch that e.tv has not told the media that the red letter broadcaster has secured the broadcasting rights to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014.

e.tv will broadcast the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014 - as it did the past two years - on Wednesday 31 December at 21:35.

e.tv signed with Alfred Haber Distribution which is licensing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014 internationally.

The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014 was recorded this year in London with special performances by Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran and Hozier and appearances by models Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Behati Prinsloo.

"Currently being seen in well over 192 countries, this remarkable hour of television showcases some of the most beautiful models in the world and presents musical performances by some of the very top names in the industry," says Alfred Haber Distribution.

"The show continues to generate phenomenal ratings for our broadcasters across the globe, and we are confident this year to be no exception."

BREAKING. Spooky new drama series Wayward Pines to start on FOX in South Africa on DStv and StarSat on 14 May 2015.

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South African viewers will get to see the brand-new mystery and spooky drama series Wayward Pines on FOX (StarSat 131 / DStv 125) when the "new Twin Peaks" debut on 14 May 2015 in South Africa as well as 124 other countries in the biggest simultaneous worldwide start of a scripted TV drama yet.

In May TV with Thinus reported that Wayward Pines, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan will start in South Africa very closely after its international and American debut - which will now be on the exact same day in 125 countries, including South Africa, thanks to FOX International Channels (FIC).

It makes the new 10-episode first season of the psychological thriller the world's largest day-and-date launch for a scripted TV series ever with FIC hoping to capture the same massive global audience and success as it did with zombie drama The Walking Dead.

In Wayward Pines, filmed in British Colombia, Matt Dillon is a secret service agent in a mission to find two missing federal agents in the town of Wayward Pines where nothing - and nobody - is as it appears to be.

Other stars include Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Juliette Lewis, Toby Jones, Tim Griffin and Shannyn Sossamon. Wayward Pines is produced by FX Productions with M. Night Shyamalan who is also the director of the first episode besides being the executive producer.

"Wayward Pines has all the makings of an international hit - a spectacular, world-renowned cast, thrills crafted by suspenseful storyteller M. Night Shyamalan, and a global FOX launch platform reaching more than 350 million viewers," says FIC.

Wayward Pines will start on FOX in South Africa similar to the global deals which have seen shows like The Walking Dead, The BridgeFalling Skies and Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey being broadcast in South Africa on FOX and the National Geographic Channel closely on the heels of episodes shown in the United States and worldwide.

FOX International Channels (FIC), FOX Broadcasting Company and FX Productions have signed a deal giving FIC control of all international rights of Wayward Pines.

Altech Node: 'If you want to review the unit go see it in the shop'.

I've answered and responded directly to several readers who asked personally, but just a note as to why there wasn't (yet) any review on Altech's new Altech Node console on TV with Thinus the past two months - and why there won't be one: Altech's PR company told me if I want to review the Altech Node I can go and see it in a store.

Altech and its PR agency used, Atmosphere Communications, in September couldn't be bothered to invite national TV critics to the launch event of the Altech Node, nor even just told them beforehand that it would be launching the new video-on-demand (VOD) console which is now competing with MultiChoice's DStv and Times Media's VIDI.

Those covering TV still reported about the console though, although up until now there's been no definitive list of what the actual TV programming and shows are that buyers and users of the Altech Node costing R3 499 plus a monthly subscription actually get with the device and service.

Don't bother with the Altech Node website, its not there nor anywhere else. Altech didn't release a list of the TV programming and movies available at launch and has not responded to a media enquiry seeking a list way back in September. Even I gave up and couldn't be bothered further.

The company also doesn't deem it necessary to keep the press informed about new content being added and cycled content - something which would presumably help drive sales. Presumably Altech doesn't have a problem selling Altech Nodes and therefore doesn't need press coverage.

Before the mid-September launch of the Altech Node and after, demo models were given and installed for certain tech trade journalists; no journalists covering television however.

TV with Thinus did request a review unit for the purposes of a review after launch and didn't bother again. It took weeks for a response - unintentionally hilarious when it finally arrived:

"Unfortunately we do not have any active Node units available for review at this time," Atmosphere Communications told me and said that if I want to see or test the Altech Node I can go see a demo unit in one of the stores stocking it "if you are interested in experiencing Node for yourself".

So. You can stop asking about why no Altech Node review and have the reason as to why.

Given the price of the Altech Node and its features, as part of the range of options for consumers with some Christmas cash to perhaps burn, my recommendation would be to rather opt for MultiChoice's DStv Explora decoder.

The price point is basically the same and with a DStv subscription comes the latest content in TV shows and movies - something which none of the available video-on-demand services like Altech Node can currently offer.

If you're more into home tech and less about actual television watching and TV entertainment - things like home surveillance, creating a WiFi hotspot or turning your house lights on or off and not perturbed about watching older shows and movies - then the Altech Node might be for you, given some of its other features.

You'll will however have to physically go to a store which sells the Altech Node to check it out for yourself as I have been advised to do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TV set review 2014: Samsung's 2014 40-inch H6200 Series 6 Smart LED TV will perk up your living space with great high contrast picture quality.

If you want to put one new TV set under the Christmas tree this year for someone that isn't going to break your piggy bank, a good choice would be the Samsung 40-inch H6200 - an excellent middle-range TV set that will perk up your living room, boasts a lot of connectivity features (most of which you won't use) and delivers great high contrast picture quality.

Samsung recently sent over a UA40H6200 Series 6 Smart 3D Full HD LED TV which I quickly hooked up and put through its paces for the review period.

The design and thin frame (gloss black bezel) of the UA40H6200 and the stand will enhance your living space (and all comes in such a thin, slim easily carry-able box you'd hardly believe there's a big TV inside).

Yet it's what you see on it that matters and that where this Samsung, although not part of the TV maker's high-end range of TV sets, performs a great job at the price point for ordinary consumers looking to watch television in better quality without breaking the bank.

Switching over from your existing remote control to the conventional Samsung remote control is easy and without stress (my own TV is a Sony Bravia) with zero awkward finger-memory problems and digits that want to press at wrong places out of habit.

The extremely energy-efficient LED Samsung TV set makes viewing at a wide angle possible, the colours are vivid, bright and the picture quality excellent with good dark blacks even in a airy, bright and sunny living room.

It has built-in WiFi (and now a quad core processor) so it has all the usual smart TV set connectivity options (streaming content from another device to the screen for instance. It's great to have it hooked up to your DStv decoder for instance and then watch TV on your tablet in another room through screen mirroring.)

Playing games (Destiny really is the closest new thing to Mass Effect) is smooth without lag. The Samsung's "Football Mode" for sport to limit things like motion blur, didn't really make a difference, at least not one I could detect.

The sound ... well you're supposed to really buy a flat screen TV for the image rendering and channel your sound through a quality audio system.

The Samsung UA40H6200's sound can be better, but at the price point you can't really expect it to - it's not a sound system. Connect your cables to your audio system and control your quality sound separately.

There's more apps on the interface than what you'll ever use, or can use for the South African territory and the menu slides smoothly and fast with integrated social media options.

At the back - and that's why its extremely family friendly - it's very easy plug-and-play with clearly marked 3 USB ports and a wonderful 4 HDMI ports and ethernet connection.

The Samsung UA40H6200 is a great option if you want to perk up your living room with a stylish TV edition and a more than adequate quality picture and  retails for around R6 500.00