Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gogglebox South Africa on the Sony Channel on DStv will have one very big flaw when it starts in March: The show about TV will exclude the biggest TV channels in South Africa.

Gogglebox South Africa will have one very big flaw that will be a deliberate drawback for the new show when it starts on 3 March on the Sony Channel (DStv 127): the show that's purportedly about television won't be about all South African television.


Gogglebox South Africa will not be inclusive of all TV channels and all the local and most collectively watched South African TV fare. The show will exclude the biggest TV shows, soaps and channels with a focus on what's on Sony's own two TV channels and some other DStv channels.

In Gogglebox viewers at home watch viewers as they watch and comment on television.

Sadly Gogglebox South Africa that will be shown on the Sony Channel from 3 March at 21:00 will only be about shows on The Sony Channel, Sony Max and some other DStv channels.

The SABC's three channels - SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 - together with the free-to-air commercial broadcaster e.tv dominate with the biggest viewership especially when it comes to weekday soaps and prime time programming like Uzalo, Muvhango, Generations - The Legacy, Rhythm City, Scandal!, Ashes to Ashes and a range of other mass audience shows that South Africans watch and follow in large numbers.

Yet Gogglebox South Africa on Sony Channel will apparently not include or cover any of these shows or channels - the programming that truly make for a communal watching experience in South Africa and that give rise to questions like "Is Gxabhashe really dead?", "Is Xander going to be found guilty?" and "Will Tau ever know if his baby is alive?"

Gogglebox in the United Kingdom broadcast on Channel4, has no problem to show viewers watching rival public channels as people in Gogglebox comment on various popular programming shown across rival channels like the BBC, ITV and others.

Asked if Gogglebox South Africa will include and cover all TV channels, including programming on the SABC and e.tv, Sony Pictures Television Networks tells TV with Thinus it won't.

"The shows that will be reviewed weekly on Gogglebox South Africa are a cross selection of shows on the Sony Channel, Sony Max, as well as the best and most talked about entertainment, sport, news, politics and current affairs shows that aired in the past week on DStv".

Sony Pictures Television Networks declined to respond as to what the rationale is behind the decision to not cover and include all channels' possible shows in Gogglebox South Africa.

The decision means that Gogglebox South Africa won't be as inclusive as it should be, to make for a real comprehensive show that really reflects the most popular, most watched and top TV moments of the previous week that South African viewers have really been talking about.

This exclusion will likely hamper the upcoming show's bigger, broader appeal and popularity.

Gogglebox South Africa is likely stepping into the same TV trap that became the downfall of previous shows on South African television on specific channels that promised to cover entertainment news or celebrities but then actually ended up only doing myopic coverage of news or celebrities who appeared on that one channel.

Adding to the awkwardness is that Gogglebox South Africa is Sony Pictures Television Network's first locally commissioned South African television series.

Sony wants to show that the show is South African, but Gogglebox South Africa will make as if the TV that the bulk of South African television viewers are really watching, doesn't exist.

When a big moment happens in Uzalo, The Bold and the Beautiful, Majakathata, Isidingo, WWE wrestling, Selimathunzi, 7de Laan or Scandal! - all the biggest top-rated shows representing tens of millions of viewers on their respective channels - it won't make Gogglebox South Africa on the Sony Channel on DStv.

"Gogglebox is a fantastic show and we believe that its humour and diversity makes it perfect for South African audiences," says Sonja Underwood, Sony Pictures Television Networks' territory director for Sony's Africa channels.

"It is not your typical television show and we believe our first local production will become a firm viewer favourite."

Gogglebox South Africa will have 10 episodes and is produced by Eject Media's Stephan Le Roux and Picture Tree's Gary King.

"We believe that we have created a show that will create debate among people," says Stephan Le Roux. "Gogglebox South Africa reflects the current state of society and will stimulate viewers to share their opinions and thoughts".

UPDATE 29 February 2016 14:00:
Sony Pictures Television is more specific regarding exactly what content Gogglebox South Africa could include, saying "all channels and all programmes are potential material" for the show.

Sony Pictures Television says "all channels and all programmes are potential material because Gogglebox is about drawing on the biggest TV moments and watching the nation's response to them".

Sony Pictures Television says "Gogglebox goes into the lounges of some of the country's most avid and opinionated television viewers to watch them discuss, laugh and cry about some of the biggest, current and most talked about television moments in the seven days preceding an episode".

"It captures a cultural response to something that's happening in the world," said Farah Ramzan Golant, format producer from All3Media International.