Thursday, October 31, 2019

EXCLUSIVE / BREAKING. It’s Halloween and the living dead are alive! MultiChoice to keep axed History and Lifetime on DStv after reaching new channel carriage deal with A+E Networks.

TVwithThinus can reveal that MultiChoice has made a U-turn after reaching a new channels carriage deal with A+E Networks and will no longer take away the History (DStv 186) and Lifetime (DStv 131) channels from DStv subscribers although the Crime+Investigation Network (DStv 170) will still go dark on Halloween.

Negotiation brinkmanship between MultiChoice and A+E Networks led to a breakdown in the relationship between the Randburg-based pay-TV operator and A+E Networks UK that operates a local affiliate office, A+E Networks Africa, after channel carriage negotiations failed when neither companies could settle on the terms and price that MultiChoice had to pay to keep the channels set.

Following MultiChoice's shocking announcement that History, Lifetime and C+I would disappear from DStv at the end of October,  renegotiations started up again between MultiChoice and A+E Networks although it's still unclear who blinked and made the first overture.

Furious DStv subscribers added massive pressure when they started a petition that by Thursday morning had over 8 700 signatures and comments since it started in early-October, while shocked and angry South African production companies making content for the channels were also vocal in their unhappiness about losing channels as platforms that allow them to make shows and earn a living.

Disgruntled local producers who were commissioned by A+E to do local shows were upset that their productions - some just-commissioned and some already in post-production - won’t be seen and that they have been kept in the dark about what's going on. 

South African production companies who spoke privately to TVwithThinus were extremely upset, saying they were kept in the dark that A+E Networks didn’t have a channel renewal when their recent content was announced at A+E Networks Africa’s upfront showcase. 

Producers said that they have been kept out of the loop about what is going and about what will be happening with their shows - including programming already commissioned, produced and scheduled for November 2019 all the way to February 2020. 

These shows range from plans to do Don't Tell the Bride SA, to Crime Stories SA (from Clive Morris Productions), Loved Like Crazy (from Nala Media), as well as Your People, Our People (from Pillay Media). 

Dean Possenniskie, the managing director of A+E Networks for the Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, spoke at A+E Networks Africa's content showcase upfront on 19 September in Johannesburg and touted the ongoing, increasing production spending going to the creation of local South African programming on its set of channels. 

Possenniskie described it's channels supplied to MultiChoice as its "core business" and part of a long-standing partnership with DStv, and that A+E Networks had already invested R30 million in creating local content in South Africa in 2019.

Trick or treat: Two further channels to be added
MultiChoice on Thursday morning told TVwithThinus in response to a media enquiry that both History and Lifetime will now remain on DStv after the signing of a new multi-year contract with A+E Networks but that C+I will still get axed.

MultiChoice will also still add the two further replacement channels that it promised to give in the place of the channels that would have been removed.

MultiChoice has removed the channel termination notices for both History and Lifetime from its electronic programme guide (EPG) on DStv.

Similar to the radio silence of the past 4 weeks when it had no comment, A+E Networks publicists didn't respond to a media enquiry on Thursday about A+E Networks Africa, led by Yusuf Nabee, as general manager, and its latest channel carriage developments.

"We're reached an agreement with A+E Networks for terms that we think are acceptable to our DStv subscribers for both History and Lifetime but Crime+Investigation is still ending," Mark Rayner, MultiChoice SA CEO said.

"Two further new channels will still be announced before the middle of November as a replacement for C+I from another provider, as well as another factual documentary channel from a new provider. We're just finalising technical launch plans so that we can be clear on a launch date."

MultiChoice was asked what the damage has been to both the pay-TV provider, A+E and South Africa's TV industry because of the earlier announcement that A+E Networks' channels are getting axed when negotiations stalled.

"Some customers voiced their concerns and the media. The reality is that the two parties just couldn't find each other and expectations were not met on either side. As soon as we realised we can't, we're obligated to give proper notice. We can't just cancel channels at short notice."

"As soon as we realised we don't have a deal that triggered our legal obligation to advise our customers of a potential change. I think it's worked out well for everybody that we've come to agreement on those two channels."

"We welcome History and Lifetime back and look forward to continuing with those and there's no break in service because they haven't gone down and won't go down."

Plumstead single mom Jamie-Lee Domburg and Kuhle Adams win SABC3's Expresso presenter search.

SABC3's weekday morning show Expresso will add Jamie-Lee Domburg and Kuhle Adams as the show's two new presenters after they won the Presenter Search on 3: The Expresso Edition on Wednesday night.

Jamie-Lee Domburg, a single mom from Plumstead, and Kuhle Adams from Port Elizabeth who now lives in Johannesburg, will replace Ewan Strydom and Zoe Brown who exited the morning programme earlier this year.

The winners who took part in the latest edition of the Presenter Search on 3 talent reality show were announced in the final episode at Cape Town's Mount Nelson hotel last night.

Both will start on Expresso, produced by Cardova Productions, on Monday 4 November.

"We've been warned about the hard work that is ahead, about the early mornings and the late nights but we are so ready," says Kuhle who will have to move from Johannesburg to Tokai in Cape Town where the Expresso studios are now located.

"This is not television – this is dreams come true," says Jamie-Lee.

For their final challenge, the remaining four finalists - Nathaneal Davids, Jamie-Lee, Deen Woodman and Kuhle - had to conduct an interview with a high-profile guest in the Expresso studio.

"All four of them are so talented – they all have the potential to do the job – and after spending so much time watching them grow, and take notes, and improve from one episode to the next, it was really hard to have to make that final choice," said Presenter Search on 3 judge Thando Thabethe.

In the end the judges were unanimous in their final decision. "It was a really tough call, but I feel confident that we made the right decision here tonight," said judge Roger Goode.

Patience Stevens, executive producer, said "Congratulations to Kuhle and Jamie – I am extremely excited to welcome them on to Expresso and can’t wait to see them develop as they grow in confidence and experience".

"But I know that we have not seen the last of Deen and Nathaneal either and look forward to seeing how they take the exposure they had with this show and make that work for them in their future careers."

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Game on: HBO scraps one of the Game of Thrones prequel pilots but gives the prequel series House of the Dragon a straight-to-series order.

Although it was almost finished with post-production, HBO has scrapped a struggling Northern Ireland produced Game of Thrones prequel series with most of the other pilot ideas that are also dead in the water - although it has commissioned one prequel series, House of the Dragon, that has been given a straight-to-series order.

Out of 5 possible Game of Thrones spin-offs, House of the Dragon - for now, looks like it will be the only one going forward and will likely go straight to M-Net (DStv 101) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite py-TV service for South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa and its video streaming service, Showmax.

Late on Tuesday Deadline first reported that one of the possible Game of Thrones prequel series of which a pilot was made and shot, was abruptly scrapped.

That possible prequel series set thousands of years before the Game of Thrones series starred Naomi Watts, and was co-created by George R.R. Martin and Jane Goldman, with both writing the story. It dealt with the transition in the fabled land of Westeros of the "Age of Heroes" to "The Long Night" that was often referenced in the TV series.

Deadline reported that the pilot, that was ordered in June 2018, suffered from "lengthy post-production, which included re-editing of the initial cut after it was not well received", as well as rumoured production problems around the filming in Northern Ireland where Game of Thrones was also done.

The cast and crew were told that HBO decided to pass on the possible series and HBO had no comment about the scrapped pilot series.

In a separate statement HBO on late Tuesday however announced that it has given a series order to House of the Dragon as a Game of Thrones prequel series, with the announcement timed to coincide with WarnerMedia's media launch event and presentation of its new HBO Max video streaming service that will launch in May 2020 in the United States.

HBO in its statement says that House of the Dragon is based on the Game of Thrones companion book, Fire & Blood that is set 300 years before the events seen in the hit TV drama series.

It will tell the stories of previous Targaryen kings like Aegon the Conqueror, the first ruler of Westeros, and Aegon the Dragonbane, all of whom are ancestors of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington).

House of the Dragon is co-created by Ryan Condal and George R.R. Martin, with Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik who will both serve as co-showrunners.

"The Game of Thrones universe is so rich with stories," says Casey Bloys, president of HBO programming. "We look forward to exploring the origins of House Targaryen and the earlier days of Westeros along with Miguel, Ryan and George."

HBO Max is launching as another global video streaming service - but although it will go global it won't be available in South Africa initially.

Another video streaming is launching - HBO Max - that will go global just like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but it won't be for South African or African viewers and consumers - at least not initially.

HBO Max, from AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia division, will launch in May 2020 in the United States the company revealed late on Tuesday during a media upfront presentation event it held at its Warner Bros. studios lot in Burbank, California in America at the price of $14.99 (R219.39) per month.

Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max won't be available globally or rolled out in South Africa initially.

HBO - that does have a presence in South Africa and throughout sub-Saharan Africa thanks to mutually beneficial output deals and programme licencing contracts with MultiChoice's M-Net on DStv and its streaming service, Showmax - does plan to eventually make HBO Max available globally, including Africa.

Initially though, South Africans won't have access to HBO Max and its exclusive new content, similar to The Walt Disney Company's Disney+ subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service that will be launching on 12 November and is rolling out in some countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand as a start.

Apple will launch its streaming service, Apple TV+ on 1 November in over 100 countries and regions.

After the United States, HBO Max will target Europe and Latin America.

"In the era of Amazon, Apple, Google and Netflix, scale is no longer defined by distribution to a quarter of US consumers," said John Stankey, AT&T’s president and head of the WarnerMedia division, as part of his presentation. "It’s a global game. HBO Max will have positive and immediate impact on stickiness of wireless, pay-TV and broadband".

Bob Greenblatt, WarnerMedia’s entertainment and direct-to-consumer chairman, at the presentation said that "When you live in a world with dragons - like Netflix, Amazon and Apple - it feels very good to have one of your own in the game. Welcome to House AT&T, everyone."

The projection is to have 25 million HBO Max users in America by 2025, and 90 million globally.

Besides a carousel of library series, HBO Max is producing and adding new series.

These will include a new Green Lantern-inspired show from the Arrow and Flash producer Greg Berlanti, a reboot of Gossip Girl, and Strange Adventures, an hourlong DC Comics anthology series that will feature various DC characters that will explore the intersecting lives of normal people and superhumans.

Raised by Wolves, produced by legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott, will revolve around two androids who have to deal with raising human children on a mysterious planet.

Late-night talk show host and comedian Conan O’Brien will be doing 5 stand-up specials for HBO Max but won't necessarily be appearing in all of them.

Elizabeth Banks is doing DC Super Hero High, a half-hour comedy that follows a group of students at a boarding school for gifted kids; Issa Rae is doing Rap Sh*t (working title) as a half-hour comedy that follows an all-women rap group in Miami as they try to make it in the music industry; with Mindy Kaling responsible for College Girls as a half-hour comedy series following 3 first-year student roommates in Vermont.

Other new HBO Original content for HBO Max will include a Riverdale spin-off entitled Katy Keene, Stephen King’s The Outsider; Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams' horror series Lovecraft Country; Joss Whedon doing The Neversand Julian Fellowes from Downton Abbey-fame doing an American period drama entitled The Gilded Age.

It will also have David E. Kelley's The Undoing, a  prequel to Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic entitled Rules of Magic, The Boondocks; as well as Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.

A slate including several original documentaries and film features have also been commissioned for HBO Max.

Vinette Ebrahim slams 7de Laan after Charmaine’s forced exit when producers told the actress her character had no more story: 'They should get better writers!'

Vinette Ebrahim, for decades known as the character of Charmaine in SABC2's 7de Laan, is slamming the soap after producers told her they've run out of stories for her character, with the beloved actress saying it's the weakest excuse ever and that they should have hired better writers.

After no longer being good enough for 7de Laan, Vinette is jumping to rival Afrikaans soap Binnelanders on kykNET (DStv 144) where she will start on 7 November, for a 6-week guest appearance role.

The character of Charmaine who've been a part of 7de Laan since the first episode on SABC2 on 4 April 2000 bowed out on 24 October after Danie Odendaal Production shocked in July by announcing that another veteran actor's contract wasn't renewed in an ongoing exodus of talent from the long-running weekday Afrikaans soap.

"In long-running television series, it often happens that a character's journey comes to an end. After evaluating past and current storylines of 7de Laan it has transpired that all potential stories around Charmaine and Vivian have been exhausted," the production said in its July statement.

The shock-decision left fans aghast and shocked, especially since it came after the exit of Pierre van Pletzen (Oubaas), the exit of Annelisa Weiland (Hilda) and other stalwart actors like Theodore Jantjies who have been shown the door or decided to pack it in.

While the production said in July that "the time has however come for her to bow out with grace and flair" in relation to the Charmaine character, it turns out that Vinette's exit wasn't that gracious behind the scenes, with the actress who is sounding off about her departure in the latest 30 October issue of Kuier magazine that is on sale now.

In the cover article, Vinette unburdens for the first time about being forced to start a new chapter of her life, aged 62, in South Africa's cut-throat entertainment and TV industry and how emotional she felt when she was told she no longer has a job on the SABC2 soap.

About her abrupt 7de Laan exit Vinette tells Kuier that "it's been coming for a while" but is unwilling to share more specific details.

"There was a long run-up and I had a feeling that something was about to happen. But to say that there were no more storylines for Charmaine made me laugh out loud. It's the weakest excuse ever. Then get better writers!"

"I'm not someone to stay silent," she tells Kuier. "They asked me to stop commenting on Facebook, but I said that I comment in my private capacity. I don't cuss and I never spoke ill of other people or 7de Laan."

She tells the magazine that her first 15 years with the soap was her happiest time. She says she misses Ingrid Paulus (Vanessa), Hildegardt Whites (Bonita), Christo Davids (Errol) and Theodore Jantjies (Xander).

"I miss them all terribly, as well as the people who did my hair and make-up. I miss them so much and it makes me so sad. It's 19 years of my life that's just suddenly gone ..."

She started to panic when 7de Laan told Vinette that she's out of a job because she still has bills and a bond to pay. She's careful when it comes to spending but she had to look even more carefully after every cent.

She tells Kuier that "I still have a bond to pay and my first thoughts after I got axed was that I might have to sell my house and move to Cape Town. I have three dogs and two cats to look after and my partner Ivan is jobless."

Danie Odendaal Productions in a media enquiry was asked for comment about Vinette's magazine interview but didn't respond.

You can read the full interview with Vinette in Kuier.

In FOX’s new War of the Worlds science fiction drama series you can’t even hide in a shop’s ice-cream fridge from aliens.

It borrows all of the best tropes from Independence Day, Falling Skies, The Walking Dead, Jurassic Park and Terminator - with unexpected twists in a modern-day setting - with viewers who won't be able to guess where the story of the TV adaptation of H. G. Well's classic science fiction novel, War of the Worlds, will go that starts on FOX (DStv 125) on Wednesday 30 October at 20:45.

FOX's new reimagining of H.G. Well's timeless classic is one of two this year with the BBC that also made a War of the Worlds although that mini-series is set in Edwardian England.

The 8-episode War of the Worlds FOX series is set in modern-day France and London since it's a co-production between Urban Myth Films in partnership with CANAL+, as well as Fox Networks Group Europe & Africa and AGC Television.

War of the Worlds is Fox Networks Group's second production after the Deep State series.

The cast includes Gabriel Byrne, Elizabeth McGovern from Downton Abbey, Léa Drucker, Adel Bencherif, Natasha Little, Daisy Edgar Jones, Ty Tennant, Stephen Campbell Moore, Bayo Gbadamosi, Aaron Heffernan, Stéphane Caillard and Guillaume Gouix.

When French astronomers detect a transmission from another galaxy, it is definitive proof of alien life ... but are they friendly or evil?

Humanity waits for further contact but then a devastating attack follows with surviving humans scattered and fighting for their lives. 

As aliens hunt and kill those left alive, the survivors ask a burning question: Who are these attackers and why do they want to destroy humans?

FOX's War of the Worlds adaptation is from writer Howard Overman who says that the science fiction series will show a post-apocalyptic world but one that isn't very disturbed. "If you look out your window and the city still looks the same, it's a strange experience because your life has totally changed but outside it's all very still and familiar".

"Our War of the Worlds is, at its core, a story about humanity. If aliens attacked tomorrow and life as we know it was destroyed, how would we cope? What would it tell us about each other, and more importantly, about ourselves?"

Evert Van der Veer, in charge of media networks at The Walt Disney Company Africa, says "We can’t wait for this bold recreation to premiere on African screens".

"We look forward to this world-class production based on a timeless story, that promises a unique combination of character-driven human drama and the very best science fiction."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Hold My Balls and Four Letter Words as hilarious new game show, Celebrity Game Night, kicks off on E! with Anele Mdoda as host.

It's fun and games galore on Monday nights from Monday 28 October at 20:00 on E! (DStv 124) with Anele Mdoda holding sway as the host of the perfectly-adapted format game show, Celebrity Game Night.

Celebrity Game Night produced by Rapid Blue and done for NBCUniversal International Networks's E! channel, the crisp and hilarious South African version is filled with real South African celebrities, competing in two teams and playing a variety of games that make the viewer feel instantly at home and as if you've just stepped into the living room on a Saturday on Sunday late afternoon while a group of friends got a board game out.

In each episode, two teams of celebrity guests face-off as they play hilarious and outrageous party games that test pop culture knowledge, acting skills and nerves of steel with Jason Goliath and Ayanda Thabethe as the two team leaders.

"I’m so excited to host Celebrity Game Night on E! and can’t wait for viewers to join the party," said Anele Mdoda. "Hanging out with Jason, Ayanda and our top celebrity guests on my sofas is going to be hilariously wild. Let the games begin."

Jason Goliath has a warning to viewers: "This isn't a typical game show. Joining Celebrity Game Night as a team captain and trying to wrangle a crowd of stars with Anele and Ayanda is epically entertaining".

Ayanda Thabethe said "Celebrity Game Night is going to be the hottest A-list ticket in town. If you've ever wondered how the rich and famous let their hair down and have a good time, this is the show. It's going to be so much fun I don’t think it will feel like work".

The first episode's celebrities include Joey Rasdien, Chris Jaftha and Minnie Dlamini Jones who are part of Team Ayanda; as well as Majozi, Lorna Maseko and Tracey Lange who are part of Team Jason.

Hilarious games in the debut episode include Hold My Balls, Get with the Programme, Where You Going?, Clue Boom and Four Letter Words. The various games differ from episode to episode.

ALSO READ: E!'s Celebrity Game Night game show starts filming this week with Anele Mdoda as presenter; Jason Goliath and Ayanda Thabethe as team captains.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

South African actors Anthony Bishop (48) and Andile Gumbi (36) dead after a car accident and heart attack.

The South African actors Anthony Bishop (48) and Andile Gumbi (36) both died this past week.

Anthony Bishop, known for his roles in drama series like Jacob's Cross died on Monday together with his girlfriend Nathalie Alberts in Sandton, Johannesburg in a three-car collision.

Anthony Bishop appeared in drama series like Innocent Times and Erfsondes, 7de Laan on SABC2, as well as Binnelanders on M-Net and kykNET (DStv 144). He appeared in local feature films like Neill Blomkamp's District 9, as well as in several stage productions.

Andile Gumbi, known for his roles like Zweli Ntshangase in the soap Isibaya on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161), died on Friday in the ICU of the Shaare Zedek Medical Centrelin in Jerusalem, Israel, from a heart attack while working on the Daniel - The Musical musical in Israel.

He was also known for starring as the adult Simba in The Lion King stage production.

"As Mzansi Magic, we are saddened by the passing of our former Isibaya actor Andile Gumbi," said Philly Khubheka, the head of publicity at M-Net's general entertainment channels, in a statement.

"Andile was very talented, with lots still to offer to the entertainment industry. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed."

Michelle Harding, in a statement on behalf of Andile family on Friday, said that "On behalf of Mrs Hlengiwe Gumbi and family it is with profound sadness we share the news that our beloved Andile passed away this morning. Andile received the best medical care possible. We request that the family be given space to grieve and that their privacy be respected in this very difficult time".

SABC1 in a statement said that "SABC1 management and staff is overcome with shock and sadness to learn of Andile Gumbi's untimely passing on Friday 25 October 2019".

"Andile is currently making an appearance on our TV screens in his role as Pastor Siyabonga in the channel's recently-introduced dramedy, Makoti.

"We were all looking forward to him making an impactful contribution to the industry and the SABC1 brand as we believed he still had so much more to contribute to his industry and the SABC1 brand."

"We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and fans during this time."

Tonight M-Net will be doing Open Time for DStv subscribers to debut its new Trackers drama series on Sunday night in the 8pm movie timeslot.

After more than two decades M-Net (DStv 101) is returning Open Time on Sunday evening when the channel will be opening the channel on 27 October for more than just DStv Premium subscribers to enable sampling of its new drama series, Trackers, to a bigger audience.

On Sunday M-Net - with the premium channel inhabiting the pole channel number position of 101 on DStv decoders and only available on MultiChoice's most expensive subscription tier - will do an Open Time block and be made available to DStv Compact Plus, DStv Compact and DStv Family subscribers as well between 18:00 and 22:10.

M-Net hasn't done Open Time since April 2007 when it ended its long-running, daily 2-hour open window marketing initiative that was used to showcase its premium content to prospective pay-TV subscribers.

Tonight DStv subscribers on lower-tiered packages will get to watch M-Net's local dating reality show, Finding the One at 18:00, its revitalised weekly investigative and current affairs magazine show Carte Blanche at 19:00, followed by the debut of its new 5-episode local drama series, Trackers at 20:00, for 4 hours of availability to millions more DStv subscribers.

For the first time in over 30 years M-Net is also upending its Sunday night schedule - swopping its Sunday 20:00-timeslot dedicated to a new film premiere for the drama series based on the Deon Meyer novel.

"One of the biggest shifts and changes on the M-Net schedule in terms of local content is with Trackers. Because we believe so much in this show we decided to give it the best possible slot on the M-Net schedule which is 8pm on a Sunday night," says Kaye-Ann Williams, the head of local content and independent films for M-Net channels.

"The first episode of Trackers is basically feature-length and will be about 90 minutes long and thereafter we will have 4 more episodes. Trackers is very action-driven, the plot's twists and turns are amazing and we have a great cast as part of Trackers as well."

While M-Net will show Trackers as an international co-production in South Africa and across sub-Saharan African on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service, ZDF will show it in Germany while Cinemax gets the remaining worldwide rights for the United States and areas beyond Africa and Germany.

Trackers, produced by Three River Studios in the United Kingdom and Studio 23, will also be available on MultiChoice's subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, Showmax.

The rest of the four episodes will have an hourlong duration with the Sunday films starting at 21:00.

"Trackers shines the spotlight on the incredible talent working in the African film and television industry," says Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice CEO of general entertainment.

"We are immensely proud of this milestone production. It’s one of the biggest ventures in the history of M-Net and we trust that it will be the first of many enticing and authentic stories from our continent to reach global audiences."

"Tonight is a big night for MultiChoice and we would like to share the pilot episode, which has the feel of a movie, with more of our customers."

Trackers, set against Southern African landscapes – from the Karoo to Khayelitsha and Limpopo to the Bo-Kaap - spins a web of intrigue that involves conspiracy, terrorism, corruption, diamonds, rhinos and smugglers with a cast that includes James Gracie, Sandi Schultz,Rolanda Marais, Thapelo Mokoena, Brendan Daniels, Sisanda Henna, Jill Middelkop, Trix Vivier, Jerry Mofokeng, Grace Olifant, Albert Maritz and Ed Stoppard.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Giuliana Rancic once again exits as co-anchor of E! News on E! the as entertainment news show relocates to New York.

Giuliana Rancic is once again leaving as the co-anchor of E! News on E! (DStv 124) just over a year after her full-time return - this time because NBCUniversal is restructuring and relocating E! News from Los Angeles to New York City from January 2020.

Giuliana isn't willing to uproot her already-busy family life and says "I love E! News but what’s best for my family, as well as my current schedule, just won’t allow for the commitment a daily show takes".

Giuliana, who've battled infertility and breast cancer, plans to remain involved in her several other business ventures, while she and her husband Bill are also pondering whether to add to their family with their son Duke (7).

She is also adamant that she will return to E! News on occasion, and will continue to anchor E!'s red carpet coverage for big award shows.

In an announcement on Instagram, Giuliana Rancic (45) says "As the show moves to New York City in January, many of you have asked if I will be returning full-time. I wanted to let you hear firsthand that I’ve decided I won’t be able to make this big move at this time."

"I love E! News but what’s best for my family, as well as my current schedule, just won’t allow for the commitment a daily show takes."

"As you may know, I lead several businesses ... my clothing line G by Giuliana, Fountain of Truth skincare, and my role at RPM Restaurant Group, which is about to open its sixth location, keep me very active. In order to properly serve these and my other endeavours, flexibility is paramount,” she writes.

"Nothing is more important than spending time with my family, which we are hoping to grow soon."

"That said, I will of course continue hosting Live from the Red Carpet and promise to pop into E! News from time to time," Giuliana wrote.

"I adore and appreciate the great folks at E! for continuing to be incredible partners and understanding my decision and I appreciate you all for always being so supportive and kind. Love you all and I will see you next month at the E! People’s Choice Awards."

View this post on Instagram

Returning to E! News this last year was an incredible homecoming. As the show moves to NYC in January, many of you have asked if I will be returning full-time. I wanted to let you hear firsthand that I’ve decided I won’t be able to make this big move at this time. I love E! News but what’s best for my family, as well as my current schedule, just won’t allow for the commitment a daily show takes. ⁣ ⁣ As you may know, I lead several clothing line G by Giuliana, Fountain of Truth skincare, and my role at RPM Restaurant Group, which is about to open its sixth location, keep me very active. In order to properly serve these and my other endeavors, flexibility is paramount. And nothing is more important than spending time with my family, which we are hoping to grow soon. ⁣ ⁣ That said, I will of course continue hosting Live from the Red Carpet and promise to pop into E! News from time to time 🥰 I adore and appreciate the great folks at E! for continuing to be incredible partners and understanding my decision and I appreciate YOU ALL for always being so supportive and kind ❤️ Love you all and I will see you next month at the E! People’s Choice Awards ✨
A post shared by Giuliana Rancic (@giulianarancic) on

SABC plans its own 'freemium' iPlayer streaming service that will require a valid SABC TV Licence number.

The SABC has been envisioning and is working to create a pay-wall streaming service similar to the BBC's BBC iPlayer, with the plan to make content accessed through it available with a valid SABC TV Licence number as part of a "freemium" approach.

While all of the South African public broadcaster's TV and radio services will remain free and freely accessible, the SABC has started work on creating a separate streaming platform as well - one that it will own, running it as a freemium model.

Through access control that will most likely be in the form of a TV licence number, users will be able to access content that will include episodes of both current and in-production shows, as well as library programming from the SABC archives.

For news the SABC currently provides its free-to-use SABC News app that it recently launched, digitally streaming its SABC News (DStv 404) TV channel as well as its radio stations and text news articles.

For its TV content catch-up approach, the SABC uploads episodes of some shows to YouTube where it doesn't own the platform and can't manage the user experience.

The SABC has also licensed some shows to the video-on-demand (VOD) service of VIU South African, operated by PCCW Media and Vuclip, where the broadcaster likewise doesn't own the platform with no control over the user-interaction.

The SABC's confusing bifocal approach of using different platforms for various content has been confusing viewers in their content discovery process, who struggle and don't know whether a show will be on YouTube or VIU, or where to find it.

Some licensing deals for content like SABC1's Skeem Saam already lapsed and are no longer carried by VIU despite the broadcaster being offered millions of rand for it in a contract extension.

The SABC board and executives in presentations in parliament, recently revealed that the broadcaster is working on establishing its own digital streaming "paywall" service of sorts.

The SABC is 11 years and counting behind the BBC that officially launched its own BBC iPlayer in December 2007 with the SABC that is finally gearing up to push out its own digital player version.

There's as yet no date for when the SABC plans to launch either a beta testing or an official version of its streaming service, or what it might be called but the SABC told parliament that it's looking at implementing a so-called "freemium" model - where basic access is free with a tiered pay-to-watch system for additional premium content.

On Tuesday in his speech at the MMA Media Freedom Week, Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, said that "the SABC does not intend to leave streaming TV services to our competitors".

"The SABC has developed an integrated over-the-top (OTT) strategy with the goal that the SABC develops or acquires its own OTT streaming platform as a medium-term goal. This will allow the SABC to control its own destiny into the future. Previous funding challenges and an inquorate board
for over 5 months this year has slowed us down but not stopped our OTT plans."

Owning the player
When the SABC's streaming service eventually launches, it will compete with a growing collection of existing (S)VOD services in South Africa ranging from MultiChoice's Showmax, Netflix South Africa, and Amazon Prime Video, to Vodacom Video Play, DEOD, VIU, Acorn TV and Cell C's struggling Cell C black.

The benefits of its own "SABC iPlayer" for the SABC will be multiple.

Leveraging the use of a valid SABC TV licence as login will help with compliance - some more people will likely pay their SABC TV Licence fees and keep it up to date in order to access the digital on-demand streaming service.

When the SABC owns the platform as well as the content it will also get access to extremely valuable consumer data and more precise user analytics. The broadcaster currently has no idea which or how many SABC TV licence payers are viewing which of its content digitally, on what platforms, or when.

Thirdly, the SABC will be able to customise the user-experience and interface and directly improve it based on feedback, and fourthly get the entire revenue stream of possible advertising where it now only gets a share from YouTube ads.

Lastly, the SABC on its own platform will be able to improve digital rights management (DRM) and protect its content better to prevent illegal copying and downloading which is currently taking place with its content it puts on YouTube.

Losing viewers to online rivals
The SABC is working on its streaming service plan as the British broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, warned that the BBC is facing extinction if it doesn't do more to lure back viewers - especially new younger viewers from streaming services like Netflix and YouTube.

Ringing true for the SABC as well where only a fifth of South African TV households are still bothering to pay their SABC TV Licence fee, Ofcom said in its report that the "BBC is vulnerable to a rapidly changing media landscape and it must do much more to connect with children and young adults, or it could lose a generation of potential licence-fee payers".

In its 57-page report about the BBC that has warnings applicable to the SABC as well, Ofcom found that the BBC might become an unsustainable public broadcasting service if viewers and especially new younger viewers continue to flock to online rivals.

"With increased choice and strong competition in the market, there is a clear risk that as children and young people age, they do not come to engage with the BBC as previous generations once did."

"If people don’t consider the BBC as a core part of their viewing, then it may be hard to encourage them to pay the licence fee in years to come which will have significant implications for the BBC's revenue."

Ofcom said that "The BBC needs to work harder to reach young people through making content that appeals to them, making it easier for young people to find that content, and ensuring that it is readily available where they want it."

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Qwabe twins’ tumultuous Idols exit: Mzansi Magic publicist threatened, police called after family's ugly backstage fighting.

The truth behind the tumultuous exit of the Qwabe twins from the 15th season of Idols is that the sister's family allegedly created chaos behind-the-scenes on Sunday with their disruptive behaviour that was hidden from viewers, with Mzansi Magic that was forced to call in the police after a Mzansi Magic publicist was threatened who feared for his life.

It happened as Virginia Qwabe was informed that she was eliminated after getting the least number of votes, with her sister Viggy who then decided to quit.

While the rest of the eliminated Top 10 contestants usually return for a group performance during the season finale, the Qwabe twins and their belongings were removed on Sunday night from the Idols residence where the Top 10 stay and neither will be seen again in the show on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) or during the live finale set for 17 November.

Idols as a South African version of the Fremantle format show, is executive produced by Gavin Wratten and Tebogo Thekisho (ProVerb) who is also the presenter, and as a result of the in-show brouhaha will have no elimination at the end of this coming Sunday's Top 4 episode.

While M-Net and the [SIC] Entertainment produced show created an impression that the Qwabe twins and their family parted amicably after Sunday's Top 5 episode at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria, some of the backstage tumult hidden from viewers at home became very visible to the shocked in-theatre audience.

The usual press conference following an episode of Idols on Sunday night was abruptly cancelled because of the behind-the-scenes chaos.

Mzansi Magic in a statement on Monday said that "After lengthy discussions, Viggy who still remained in the Idols competition after Sunday's elimination has decided to exit the competition" and that "The Qwabe twins, their family, production company and channel met after the show tonight to formalise Viggy’s decision".

Philly Kubheka, the head of publicity for M-Net's local entertainment channels, in a statement denied rumours of bullying of and between the remaining Idols contestants, saying that "there was no bullying or any physical altercations among the contestants in the house."

In the latest scandal to engulf Idols, there was however a chaotic showdown behind-the-scenes of the show on Sunday between the Qwabe family and Mzansi Magic, with one of the show's publicists who was allegedly threatened by the rage-filled Qwabe sisters' brothers.

The aggressive behaviour ramped up to such an extent that M-Net was forced to call the police to the show to intervene when the family became disruptive.

In-theatre audience members on Sunday witnessed how the Qwabe family abruptly got up from their seats and left the theatre while Viggy was singing.

The group, allegedly including the Qwabe sisters' brothers, cousins and father Lawrence Qwabe, demanded to see the voting results outside the auditorium, and also demanded Viggy's removal from the show while it was still broadcasting live, with some family members who then allegedly attacked one of the Mzansi Magic publicists.

That was when the South African police service was called in and arrived at the show to intervene.

The family members alleged that vote rigging was responsible for Virginia's elimination from the show, since the one Idols judge Somizi Mhlongo predicted that one of the Qwabe twins would be leaving the show on Sunday.

"It was so bad I was scared for my life!" said the Mzansi Magic publicist.

TVwithThinus was unable to reach the Qwabe family for comment. Mzansi Magic was asked if it's possible to speak to the Qwabes and Mzansi Magic responded and said "The Qwabes are not available for interviews as we currently don’t have access to them".

Mzansi Magic was asked for comment about the Qwabe family fighting backstage, attacking a show publicist and the police called to the show to intervene.

"The Qwabe family and some of the fans were aggressive and demanded to have the twins during a live broadcast," Irvin Pooe, a Mzansi Magic publicist for Idols told TVwithThinus.

"The police had to be called as they threatened violence and this is a public event and we have to ensure everyone is safe. The twins' brothers and some of the cousins also tried attacking me. This was witnessed by some of the guests at the show hence they posted the information on social media."

About Somizi Mhlongo who said one of the twins would be eliminated on Sunday which came true, Philly Kubheka says Mzansi Magic "is satisfied as to the credibility of the Idols season 15 voting process which is independently audited by Deloitte & Touche".

"Whilst the judges can provide predictions and commentary on the show, they can in no way influence or alter the outcomes of the public vote. Mzansi Magic is also satisfied that the show is run in a manner that respects our talent and crew and that no bullying is tolerated."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A+E Networks renegotiating or trying to renegotiate with MultiChoice about its channels set on DStv - sources.

A+E Networks, which will see its set of channels including History, Crime+Investigation Network and Lifetime disappear from DStv at the end of this month, is negotiating with MultiChoice again or apparently trying to negotiate a new deal, according to insider sources.

Furious DStv subscribers remain up in arms about the Randburg-based pay-TV operator's abrupt culling of the popular and sought-after premium TV channels, while South Africa's TV industry and producers have been left agog at the shocking turn of events.

It follows after a period of protracted brinkmanship over carriage fees during contract renewal negotiations, which saw the partnership between MultiChoice and A+E Networks UK break down in an acrimonious split after MultiChoice remained adamant that it won't pay the increases channel carriage fees that A+E Networks demanded for its content as part of a contract extension.

Insiders told TVwithThinus on Tuesday night that A+E Networks executives have expressed a desire to reopen negotiations with MultiChoice over its channels following the brinkmanship that saw both sides walk away, and that negotiations might actually have started again.

A+E Networks UK and its local Johannesburg-based office, A+E Networks Africa, have remained silent despite being asked multiple times the past three weeks what is happening.

Yusuf Nabee, A+E Networks Africa general manager, is shying away from interviews following the company's recent content showcase presentation last month where it announced several new local content initiatives that are now in limbo.

On Wednesday, A+E Networks Africa publicist Lauren Holley, in response to a media enquiry seeking comment about confirmation about whether negotiations have restarted and a request to interview executives, said "we have no updates to add to our statement. We will let you know as soon as there are any updates". 

MultiChoice was also asked whether negotiations have restarted. Joe Heshu, MultiChoice corporate spokesperson, on Wednesday said that "we do not comment on any channel or content contractual discussions whether past or present".

Petition growing
While A+E Networks remains silent about the loss of its valued channels on DStv at the end of the month a petition to keep the History, Lifetime and Crime+Investigation Network on DStv has already soared to over 7400 signatures by Wednesday morning

Disgruntled local producers who were commissioned by A+E to do local shows that now won’t be seen are privately fuming about being kept in the dark. 

MultiChoice has now posted Channel Termination notices across its DStv electronic programme guide (EPG). 

MultiChoice is telling DStv subscribers that channels will be ending and sending them to competing channels' alternative, for instance saying "The History channel will stop airing on 1 November 2019. Find similar content on Discovery Channel (121), Discovery Family (136) and National Geographic (181)."

With A+E Networks calling the channels that it supplies to MultiChoice its “core business”, dark clouds are hanging not just over the uncertain future of A+E Networks Africa employing a staff of 12 – but also over the just-announced local South African content slate that could very likely all be axed since nobody will get to see it if produced.

South African production companies who spoke privately to TVwithThinus are extremely upset, saying they were kept in the dark that A+E Networks didn’t have a channel renewal when their recent content was announced at A+E Networks Africa’s upfront showcase. 

Producers say that they are still in the dark about what is going and about what will be happening with their shows - including programming already commissioned, produced and scheduled for February 2020 that is in the final post-production stages. 

These shows range from plans to do Don't Tell the Bride SA, to Crime Stories SA (from Clive Morris Productions), Loved Like Crazy (from Nala Media), as well as Your People, Our People (from Pillay Media). 

'Channels not performing given the costs concerned' 
Dean Possenniskie, the managing director of A+E Networks for the Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, spoke at A+E Networks Africa's content showcase upfront on 19 September in Johannesburg and touted the ongoing, increasing production spending going to the creation of local South African programming on its set of channels. 

Possenniskie described it's channels supplied to MultiChoice as its "core business" and part of a long-standing partnership with DStv, and that A+E Networks had already invested R30 million in creating local content in South Africa in 2019.

"We're proud to say that in the last 5 years we have invested in excess of R50 million into local productions which I think is very important for the local production community and which is something I believe that we will absolutely go on and do more of in the future."

While he mentioned that a slate of "exciting new local productions are coming your way in 2020 for our subscribers and viewers" all of that is now apparently under threat of never being produced – or not to be seen.

At A+E Networks Africa's upfront event, Fatime Kaba, A+E Networks Africa's head of programming and scheduling, said that "There are more announcements to come in the next few months as we continue to close deals and invest in these channels that we all love and also invest in our local creators and industry". 

MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry about why the A+E Networks channels have been dropped said that it "needs to consider the costs for the channel, the terms which may apply and whether we can get better value elsewhere".

"In some instances decisions will be made due to channels not performing up to expectations, particularly given the costs concerned, but the world over its not unusual for channels to be changed if parties cannot agree on terms, for whatever reason."

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

M-Net commissions another local dating reality show, The Single Wives SA, produced by Black Swan Media; will give 6 divorced and widowed women a second chance at finding love.

M-Net (DStv 101) has commissioned and is adding another dating reality show, The Single Wives South Africa, produced by Black Swan Media, in which divorced and widowed women will get a possible second chance at finding love.

Following a second season of The Bachelor SA currently in production, as well as Finding the One, M-Net is also doing The Single Wives SA in which 6 women between the ages of 20 and 50 will be selected who have "suffered the pain of divorce or widowhood" and who "will learn how to let go of their past heartache and, if Cupid’s arrow is on target, find love again".

"We are now looking for these extraordinary South African ladies who are ready to undergo an emotional and romantic transformation," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.

"Based on the original Australian format, The Single Wives SA will be a heart-warming show about hope, healing, learning, sisterhood and the journey of self-discovery, guided by a dating guru and relationship coach."

In this unconventional dating show, the 6 women will live together over a 6-week period during which they will undertake a crash course on dealing with harsh truths about themselves, their past heartaches, and the ins and outs of the dating world.

M-Net says they will "heal their wounds, restore their confidence and prepare them for re-entry into the dating scene. To put their new skills into practice, the 6 single wives will then meet potential suitors on spectacular speed dates, at dinner parties and in confidence-challenging activities".

The Single Wives SA will be filmed between mid-February and the end of March 2020 and will be broadcast on M-Net (DStv 101) later in 2020.

Viggy Qwabe quits 15th season of Idols after twin sister Virginia gets cut; Mzansi Magic denies allegations of bullying and physical violence behind the scenes of reality singing show.

The Idols contestant Viggy Qwabe decided to quit the 15th season of the reality singing show on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) after her twin sister Virginia Qwabe got eliminated on the Top 5 episode on Sunday night.

Viggy's voluntary exit after a discussion with the production company [SIC ] Entertainment and the M-Net run channel, means that nobody will be eliminated from Idols at the end of this coming Sunday's Top 4 episode.

Idols as a South African version of the Fremantle format show, is executive produced by Gavin Wratten and Tebogo Thekisho (ProVerb) who is also the presenter. 

Meanwhile rumours have been swirling about alleged bullying and physical violence in the Idols house where the contestants are staying but this has been refuted by M-Net who said that there was no bullying or any physical altercations.

"From the beginning of their Idols journey, the twins, Viggy and Virginia have always said they are in this together. After lengthy discussions, Viggy who still remained in the Idols competition post the elimination episode has decided to exit the competition," says Philly Kubheka, the head of publicity for Mzansi Magic.

"We would like to wish both Viggy Qwabe and Virginia Qwabe all the best in their career as they are both extremely talented."

Philly Kubheka explained that the Qwabe twins, their family, the production company and Mzansi Magic met after the show on Sunday night to "formalise" Viggy's official decision to quit the show.

"Mzansi Magic would like to advise all Idols fans to note that all voting lines have been closed for this round and there will be no elimination in the upcoming episode," the channel said.

About allegations of bullying behind-the-scenes, Philly Kubheka said that "we would like to state that we are aware of fake accounts that are posting on social media as the contestants which have been reported to our anti-piracy team and that there was no bullying or any physical altercations among contestants in the house".

Micayla Oelofse, Luyolo Yiba, Nolo Seodisha and Sneziey Msomi remain in the show that will see the Idols live finale take place on 17 November at Carnival City in Johannesburg.

'Long have I waited': Final trailer drops for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that will conclude the epic space opera saga.

"Long have I waited, and now your coming together is your undoing," says the voice of the evil Emperor Palpatine in the final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that brings back Luke, Leia, Palpatine and a C-3PO protocol droid that seems to be saying goodbye.

J.J. Abrams is the director and produced the film together with producers Kathleen Kennedy and Michelle Rejwan.

Both Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) make an appearance in the rousing final trailer, while several scenes and characters hint at a finality and a sense of closure that might very well not mean happy endings for everyone involved.

"People keep telling me they know me," says Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the trailer. "No-one does." Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) appears, as does an older Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).

In an already hauntingly emotional scene, the golden protocol droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) stares at his group of ragtag friends after he's asked what he's doing. "Taking one last look, sir, at my friends" as the rousing, iconic Star Wars score swells.

Other cast returning for the final instalment includes Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o and Kelly Marie Tran, and adding Richard E. Grant and Keri Russell.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will have its release on 20 December 2019 and will bring to a close George Lucas' sprawling space opera saga as the 9th and final film in the Skywalker story.

Monday, October 21, 2019

BBC Studios snaps up Prince Harry and Meghan’s African adventure documentary for the BBC Lifestyle channel on DStv.

The rush-documentary for ITV about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s South African and Southern African visit in late-September will now be broadcast on BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174).

 Harry & Meghan: An African Journey will be broadcast on BBC Lifestyle on Thursday 24 October at 20:00 on the BBC Lifestyle channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service for South Africa after BBC Studios snapped up the quick-done documentary.

Harry & Meghan: An African Journey was produced by ITN Productions and sold by Passion Distribution.

When Harry and Meghan recently took their baby son Archie on their recent Royal tour of Southern Africa, the ITV News anchor Tom Bradby accompanied them as an inbedded journalist.

Tom Bradby who has made two other films with Harry in Africa, got exclusive access to couple and speaks to them about the causes and issues they care most about and explores some of the pressures and challenges they face living as a young family in the glare of the world’s media.

Harry & Meghan: An African Journey provides a vivid insight into how they see their roles as modern Royals on the international stage and how they balance their public duties with their private family life.

"This is the third documentary I’ve made with Prince Harry in Africa. I expected it to be an interesting  journey but this ended up being a fascinating insight taking in their passion for their work, their private happiness and the challenge and pressure of balancing their public duties and family life," says Tom Bradby.

"We are thrilled to distribute this extraordinary film. What begins as an observational film about Harry and Meghan in Africa evolves into an insightful, remarkably candid testimony from the Sussexes on the immense stresses and strains which both young royals have experienced,” says Emmanuelle Namiech, Passion Distribution CEO.

Ian Russell, the head of international programmes, says “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey demonstrates what makes ITN unique amongst the world’s leading producers. The documentary was made in an incredibly short turnaround with our ITV News and ITN Productions divisions working seamlessly together."

"Plus ITN’s in-house technical capability enabled us to deliver instantaneously to a global audience of hundreds of millions”.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The SABC is busy selling off some of its 'non-core' properties in South Africa and has sold its flat in London.

The struggling South African public broadcaster is in the process of selling off some of its derelict buildings and other properties that the SABC hasn't used for years, including in Cape Town and London in the United Kingdom.

The SABC that just received another bailout of R2.1 billion of an allocated R3.2 billion, has started a process of selling off "non-core" assets to improve its beleaguered balance sheet.

Properties the SABC has already sold and is in the process of selling include a flat in London; Rocklands Villas which is its long-troubled, derelict block of flats in Cape Town behind its bureau in Sea Point, a farm in Tweefontein in Limpopo, flats and houses in Mafikeng in the North West province and various homes in Tshwane townships The Sunday Times reports.

The flat in New Malden in southwest-London has already been sold for £880 000 (R16.7 million).

Many of these properties have been vacant and haven't been used in years, for instance Rocklands Villas that has been derelict for over 2 decades and used to house SABC staffers and news personnel when visiting and working in Cape Town.

The property portfolio of the SABC is worth around R75 million, including its assets in South Africa as well as in London where the flat was used by the broadcaster's foreign correspondents when its SABC News division still bothered to do original full-time reporting from there.

Friday, October 18, 2019

This is why the SABC decided to cancel Top Billing on SABC3 after 27 years - and why it decided to keep the axing secret.

The struggling SABC has axed its longrunning Top Billing magazine show on SABC3 - which did well in the TV ratings given the channel it was on - but has an expensive production budget that the cash-strapped public broadcaster can no longer afford.

Viewers as well as South Africa's TV industry have expressed their shock and bewilderment that the SABC has deteriorated to such a state that it can no longer "afford" to keep a legacy and premium brand like Top Billing on its airwaves which bring the viewers that most advertisers crave.

On Thursday evening TVwithThinus spoke to over 20 local producers, showrunners, bosses of production companies and TV executives who all said that they're gobsmacked and shocked at the SABC's decision and struggle to fathom how the SABC could have failed to keep a brand like Top Billing going and failed to leverage it to make money on its only commercial TV channel.

Top Billing is the latest show getting axed in a shock decision as far as the SABC3 schedule is concerned.

So far the ongoing SABC3 bloodletting has seen it get rid of basically all of its iconic and longrunning legacy programming that for decades drew viewers to the SABC, with SABC3 that in succession ended Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, as well  as local shows like High Rollers, 3Talk and even its replacement Real Talk.

The final legacy show on SABC3 remains its longrunning weekday soap Isidingo that is struggling in the ratings.

Although the SABC said that Top Billing has not been fairing well ratings-wise, it doesn't paint an accurate picture.

The Tswelopele Productions show survived and thrived through multiple, often jarring, timeslot and day changes over many years, drawing and building new audiences wherever the SABC decided to place it on the schedule next.

While the show has a set production budget and a cost that the SABC buys it at, the show itself is not responsible for selling the actual ad space on the SABC's only commercial TV channel during the weekly hour that it's broadcast.

That is the task and responsibility of the SABC's advertising sales division where sales reps must sell the inventory of 30 second spots at such prices that the content firstly makes the money back that the SABC paid for it, as well as then make money for the SABC.

As a blue-chip on-air and lifestyle brand - one of the very last remaining on the SABC - the escapist and aspirational show was one of less than a handful media properties in South Africa that weekly painted a positive picture through profiles of local South Africans, their lives and lifestyles, and what success, achievement and even local weddings could look like.

While SABC3 is the terrestrial TV channel with the smallest geographical broadcast footprint and therefore the channel with the smallest overall possible audience - coupled with SABC3's overall and ongoing sinking ratings, Top Billing remained a top-rated show.

In September 2019 Top Billing was the 8th most-watched show on SABC3 with 438 847 viewers (1.23 ARs), up from August when it was also the 8th most-watched show on SABC3 with 421 690 viewers (1.18 ARs).

"The SABC's decision to bring Top Billing to an end has not been an entirely easy one," says Zandile Nkonyeni, SABC spokesperson in response to TVwithThinus' media enquiry asking for the rationale for the show's axing.

"Like any programme on our schedule, the show is ultimately based on its performance and market relevance and to that end it has not been faring well against set targets and in light of the review processes actioned within the last two years."

"With a quarter of a century on our television screens, we all agreed that the show has had a good run," Nkonyeni says.

Great but too expensive for the SABC
"Secondly, Top Billing is a premium production which documents and represents a high-end lifestyle. That, combined with the expensive travel and crew capacity required, does need a considerable investment directed into that show," the SABC said.

"The broadcaster was always able to afford this investment so long as there were healthy returns against that investment. Of late, the production return on investment had declined significantly, thus making us operate at a loss. Hence a part of the decision to decommission the show," says Zandile Nkonyeni.

Very little warning - and no goodbye
Asked why viewers and the industry were only officially told that Top Billing is cancelled after 27 years and will have its final original episode on Saturday just two days before it airs, the SABC said that SABC3 and Tswelopele Productions decided to do it that way jointly.

Although cancelled months ago Saturday's final Top Billing episode will contain no goodbye, nostalgic lookback or tribute clips and SABC3 will now pad the schedule with Top Billing rerun episodes until March 2020 until it finds a replacement for the timeslot.

"After careful consideration between both SABC3 and Tswelopele Productions, a decision was taken to inform the loyal title and platform viewers at the penultimate episode and for the farewell statement to be issued in the week of the finale episode."

"In light of this, an on-air promo was scheduled for this past week to air on SABC3," the broadcaster says.

ALSO READ: SABC cans Top Billing after 27 years as broke public broadcaster can no longer afford to keep one of its last top legacy brands on the air.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

SABC cans Top Billing after 23 years as broke public broadcaster can no longer afford to keep one of its last top legacy brands on the air.

Saturday will see the abrupt end of another of the SABC's last remaining top legacy brands with Top Billing on SABC3 that has been cancelled after 23 years with the South African public broadcaster that can no longer afford to pay for it.

As yet there's been no official statement from the SABC or its SABC3 channel, or Tswelopele Productions who saw its longrunning contract for the aspirational show with the SABC axed because of the broadcaster's ongoing financial problems.

It's not clear why the SABC didn't make an announcement sooner about Top Billing's demise but its axing will come as a shock to generations of South African viewers who grew up with it and emulated the styles it lifestyle trends it showed.

The SABC was asked for comment about why the SABC cancelled Top Billing and whether it is because the broadcaster can’t afford it anymore, as well as why the SABC didn’t announce the show’s ending sooner to viewers when the contract wasn’t renewed. 

Vuyo Mthembu, SABC spokesperson, said “we will be releasing a statement”.

Saturday's final Top Billing episode at 18:00 will include no nostalgic lookback, although the show's one former host and co-executive producer Basetsana Kumalo, will appear in an insert reflecting on her "25 year journey".

The iconic show that has adapted over the years since it was started by Patience Stevens, always showing "the best of the good life", has made name stars of multiple walk-and-talk presenters who found fame after being hand-picked to front the glamorous lifestyle magazine show that has been a weekly staple on the SABC schedule for decades.

The show became such a permeating force in South African popular culture that people started referring to mega-mansions as "A Top Billing house" or lavish weddings as a "Top Billing wedding" - referencing the weekly mansion and over-the-top wedding day profile inserts.

Meanwhile its walk-and-talk signature presenting style became often-imitated, widely seen as the pinnacle of what would-be presenting on local television should be.

The iconic show that moved between SABC2 and SABC3 and that weathered multiple day and timeslot changes over decades managed to keep its audience as it kept up with the times, constantly evolving and adapting to changing styles.

With high production values, including overseas travel inserts and Hollywood interviews, Top Billing kept courting a high LSM viewership as one of the last remaining legacy shows on public television that managed to bring affluent viewers, highly coveted by advertisers, to the SABC.

ALSO READ: This is why the SABC decided to cancel Top Billing on SABC3 after 27 years - and why it decided to keep the axing secret.