Wednesday, January 29, 2020

BBC News announces it will get rid of 450 staffers in newsroom restructuring as the BBC plans to cover less stories, reduce spending on investigative reporting and journalists will increasingly be 'pooled' together to reduce duplication.

by Thinus Ferreira

The BBC's BBC News division is preparing to get rid of 450 staffers as part of a cost-cutting drive with the job cuts plan that was announced by the broadcaster on Wednesday.

BBC News has to save £80 million by 2022 (the BBC overall has to save £800 million) and retrenching part of the 6 000 staff complement is part of the plan. From this 6 000, 1 700 BBC News staffers work outside of the United Kingdom.

The job cuts and newsroom restructuring will very likely impact the BBC's global TV news channel BBC World News (DStv 400 / StarSat 400) although it's not yet exactly clear how.

The BBC's Newsnight will axe around 12 positions while production of its in-depth films will be halved and spending on investigative journalism will be reduced.

On-screen BBC news presenter jobs willalso be cut down.

Fran Unsworth, BBC News director, says "The BBC has to face up to the changing way audiences are using us. We need to reshape BBC News for the next decade in a way which saves substantial amounts of money".

"We are spending too much of our resources on traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital."

BBC journalists will increasingly be "pooled" in centralised teams, instead of working for specific programmes to reduce duplication by doing multiple versions of a story for different programming parts.

Fran Unsworth told BBC News staff that BBC News covers around 100 news stories daily across all of its output platforms which is "overwhelming" the public and not reaching audiences.

"Producing fewer stories means we have to be a smaller organisation. Never in my career have I felt this organisation is quite under the threat that it currently is. There are many that believe that how we are funded is no longer appropriate when consumers seem to prefer to pay just for what they use."

"I do need to be honest with you: this organisation has to face up to the changing way that audiences are using us. We have to adapt. We need to create a modern newsroom that is built for the future and not for the past."

"A modern newsroom needs to work smarter. We need to collaborate more and put the BBC News brand first."

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Simon Kariithi quits as MultiChoice Kenya GM for commercial, follows Eric Odipo out the door at the pay-TV operator in East Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

Simon Kariithi has quit MultiChoice in Kenya where he was the MultiChoice Kenya general manager for commercial, leaving shortly after Eric Odipo quit as MultiChoice Kenya managing director in late-2019.

Eric Odipo joined MultiChoice Kenya in September 2017 from Westcon Africa, and has now been replaced by Nancy Matimu.

Simon Kariithi left MultiChoice Kenya at the end of December 2019 with no announcement from the pay-TV company. He joined MultiChoice Kenya in March 2017 as the general manager for GOtv Kenya.

Monday, January 27, 2020

SABC: No defamation court papers received after broadcaster's fired former legal boss said she's suing over her tarnished reputation.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster has not been served with anything despite the SABC's fired former legal boss, Nompumelelo Phasha who alleged that she's taking the SABC's CEO and news boss to court.

"The SABC can confirm that it has not received any court papers relating to a defamation case, therefore we are unable to make any further comment," says Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson.

Nompumelelo Phasha allegedly filed a case in the Johannesburg High Court two weeks ago, arguing that Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO, as well as Phathiswa Magopeni allegedly defamed her in interviews.

Nompumelelo Phasha alleged that a statement issued last year about her dismissal stated that she was facing charges of misconduct and conflict of interest after she failed to recuse herself from a procurement process that involved a relative.

The statement also mentioned that Nompumelelo Phasha was allegedly involved in a fraudulent trade exchange deal at the SABC amounting to R8 million.

Nompumelelo Phasha said that she's going to court for defamation demanding R14 million from Madoda Mxakwe and Phathiswa Magopeni in their personal capacity as the statement was wrongful, malicious and unlawful and had tarnished her reputation.

eNCA adds property show, Property Matters, with DJ Euphonik.

by Thinus Ferreira

eNCA (DStv 403) has decided to add a new property show, Property Matters, which will be presented by DJ Euphonik.

Property Matters will broadcast on Mondays on eNCA at 09:55 with DJ Euphonik (Themba Mbongeni Nkosi) as the presenter.

eNCA didn't provide the media with any information about the show or that Property Matters is starting.

Property Matters is an advertiser-funded production (AFP).

In an interview on eNCA DJ Euphonik said that "a lot of South Africans don't understand the jargon that comes with property so I wanted to do something that's very layman's terms and that explains things in street language so that it's not so complicated".

"We literally look at from the day you decide to buy a property, what do you do?"

"If we put the knowledge in the hands of the people in the streets it will easier for everyone to get involved in something."

Sky News marks the 200th anniversary today of the discovery of the icy continent with a documentary special, A New Climate: Antarctica.

It has lost three trillion tonnes of ice over the last 25 years. Half of that has been in the last five years.

To mark the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica today, 27 January 2020, Sky News (DStv 402) will be broadcasting the documentary A New Climate: Antarctica on Monday (time(s) not known).

The first recorded sighting of Antarctica was on 27 January 1820 by the Russian naval officer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. He spotted an ice shelf on the Princess Martha coast. Three days later a British expedition led by Edward Bransfield sighted land on the Antarctic Peninsula.

In A New Climate: Antarctica, which once again doesn't show up on MultiChoice's DStv Guide which makes it impossible to set a reminder or a recording on a DStv PVR, Sky News' science correspondent Thomas Moore travels to Antarctica to investigate how climate change is affecting this remote continent.

Antarctica faces a growing threat from fishing and mining as its ice melts and the world's population swells.

Friday, January 24, 2020

BBC News' Africa editor and correspondent Fergal Keane stepping down from reporter role after revealing he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

by Thinus Ferreira

BBC News'Africa editor and correspondent Fergal Keane is stepping down from his editor and reporter role after revealing that he's been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for several years.

The multiple award-winning veteran war reporter who was seen on BBC World News (DStv 400 / StarSat 400) covered and reported from multiple international conflict zones for years, including the genocide in Rwanda.

Jonathan Munro, the head of BBC News newsgathering in an email to staff announced that Fergal Keane is leaving his position and that "the reasons behind the decision are personal. For several years, Fergal Fergal has been dealing privately with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stemming from several decades of work in conflict zones around the world".

"He has been supported throughout this time by friends and colleagues in News, as well as receiving professional medical advice. However, he now feels he needs to change his role in order to further assist his recovery. It is both brave and welcome that he is ready to be open about PTSD."

Jonathan Munro praised the highly-respected foreign correspondent for bringing "huge insight, experience and thoughtfulness to the role, covering a wide range of different stories across the continent".

Fergal Keane is in discussions with BBC News over a new role "that will enable him to continue to provide original and compelling journalism". He will also "help to "guide and nurture emerging talent in the United Kingdom and around the world".

The Irish Fergal Keane joined the BBC in 1989 as Northern Ireland correspondent and became Southern Africa correspondent in 1990, after which he also became Asia correspondent for the BBC. He was later appointed as BBC News Africa editor.

More than 1 000 MultiChoice staffers gone after the African pay-TV operator's latest round of restructuring.

by Thinus Ferreira

Over 1 000 MultiChoice staffers have lost their jobs after the Randburg-based pay-TV operator started its latest process of mass retrenchment in June 2019.

In June 2019 MultiChoice announced that it wants to get rid of of thousands of staffers in its call centre division and walk-in centres as part of a restructuring of its "customer service delivery model".

At the time MultiChoice said that DStv subscribers have been making use less and less of the MultiChoice call centres and also emailed them less. MultiChoice's walk-in customer service centres have also seen a decrease in customers visiting.

MultiChoice said that its restructuring process would affect up to 2 194 workers.

The Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU) trade union at the time said that the union would fight MultiChoice's plan to fire workers and that the union was not consulted.

MultiChoice confirmed that the pay-TV operator had shed just over 1 000 workers who took voluntary severance packages.

Over 1 000 workers decided to accept other positions within the company's structure.

MultiChoice opens some further channels to lower-tiered DStv subscribers, will make upcoming Nigerian love reality competition series Ultimate Love available to South African viewers.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is opening access of 3 TV channels to lower-tiered DStv packages, adding two pop-up channels and will be making the upcoming new Nigerian love reality competition series, Ultimate Love available as a channel to South African viewers.

The Nick Jr. (DStv 307) channel from ViacomCBS International Media Networks is made available for DStv Compact Plus subscribers, while DStv Family subscribers are getting access to the National Geographic (DStv 181) channel from Fox Networks Group as well TRACE Urban (DStv 326) supplied by TRACE.

M-Net Movies is running the M-Net Movies Blackout: The Leading Men Edition (DStv 109) pop-up channel for DStv Premium subscribers between 24 January and 16 February 2020.

The channel will showcase some of Hollywood’s greatest black actors in their biggest films with over 100movies starring actors like Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy.

MultiChoice is opening the Moja Love (DStv 157) channel from SiyayaTV to DStv Access subscribers from 7 February until 6 March 2020.

MultiChoice is also making its new Big Brother Naija-type love reality show, Ultimate Love, available in South Africa. 

The Ultimate Love channel (DStv 198) will run from 9 February until 5 April 2020 in what the pay-TV operator says is a "first-of-its-kind Nigerian reality show".

Sixteen contestants - 8 men and 8 women - will be living together for 8 weeks in an isolated mansion looking for love until there is only one potential couple left who could win a traditional wedding and a home. 

According to the producers "participants will be paired based on their mutual attraction to one another and will compete to emerge as the ultimate couple of the competition".

Mark Rayner, MultiChoice South Africa CEO, says "We are continuously looking at ways that will ensure that customers across all our packages are able to access some of the great content that is available on our platform".

"Having these channels available for our customers is part of our ongoing commitment to bringing a wide variety of the best in local and international content that touches the lives of our viewers."

See Meghan in a movie: SABC2 adds Meghan Markle's final romantic comedy film, Dater's Handbook, to its Saturday 25 January 2020 schedule.

by Thinus Ferreira

With the drama and upheaval surrounding Prince Harry and his wife Meghan that the British tabloids labelled "Megxit", the SABC has jumped to schedule a rom-com starring Meghan Markle with Dater's Handbook that will be broadcast on Saturday afternoon at 16:00 on SABC2.

"Meghan has a royal time searching for Prince Charming," says SABC2.

The channel's schedule shows Dater's Handbook supposedly airing at 16:00, although the on-air promo showing and saying 21:00 as the starting time, so try and tune-in to check at both times or set recordings for both film timeslots on Saturday.

In the Hallmark Channel Original film from 2016 that was part of the TV channel's Valentine's Day week line-up, Cassandra Brand (Meghan Markle) plays a successful business woman that appears unsuccessful in her personal life.

She then decides to try the so-called "Dater's Handbook" of the relationship expert Dr Susie at her sister's encouragement and dates several guys to test the process. In the end she must choose between reliable George (Jonathan Scarfe) or the fun-loving Robert (Kristoffer Polaha).

Dater's Handbook is Megan Markle's final film before she retired from acting prior to her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018.

Moja Love forced to yank hyped Babes Wodumo and Mampintsha tabloid shock doc after Gqom couple goes to court.

by Thinus Ferreira

SiyayaTV's Moja Love (DStv 157) was forced to yank its hyped tabloid documentary series about Babes Wodumo and Mampintsha just two hours before it was supposed to start screening on Thursday night after Gqom's most notorious couple went to court to stop its broadcast.

The 3-episode tell-all tabloid TV special entitled Impilo: Mampintsha West Ink, detailing the ongoing explosive claims of abuse suffered by Babes Wodumo (real name: Bongekile Simelane) in her turbulent relationship with Mandla "Mampintsha" Maphumulo, was axed just hours before it was scheduled to be shown after the couple took legal action against the channel.

Viewers were up in arms about the lurid promo even before the docu-series started and slammed Moja Love for allegedly exploiting domestic violence and abuse and the couple's relationship troubles.

In Moja Love's disturbing promo for the doc series Babes, wearing a hat and visibly drunk, slaps and pushes Mampintsha while accusing him of cheating on her and taking pictures with mistresses. he denies it and hurls insults at Babes.

Presenter Jub Jub who is the host of Moja Love's controversial Uyajola99 had done a sit-down interview with he couple.

In 2019 Mampintsha was caught physically abusing Babes in a live Instagram video which instantly went viral and led to a police case being opened against the former Big Nuz member.

In addition the 25-year old was also charged with assault by a friend who leaked footage of her discussing the case with friends before it was heard in court.

"Jub Jub as a close friend to Mampintsha and Babes wanted to offer the couple an opportunity to explain the abuse incident," says Bokani Moyo, the new Moja Love channel head.

However Babes and Mampintsha decided to go to court on Thursday to stop the shock doc and the interview they did from airing.

"Because the issue is now in the hands of the court and the matter will be heard on 2 April 2020, Moja Love had decided not to broadcast the programme," she said.

"Moja Love doesn't condone any form of violence and take all cases of assault very seriously. The channel is committed to broadcast fair and honest programmes reflecting the lived experiences of all South Africans."

Bokani Moyo says "We believe that that it is important that we confront all topical issues, especially if those that are involved can deliver a first-person account of their experiences and present insight of what the motivating factors are behind their actions."

The South African Film and Television Awards drops Sun City, shifts award show back to Johannesburg as NFVF makes changes and gets boycotting producers back onboard.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) is dropping Sun City as award show venue with the far-away and expensive money-waste of the past few years that is being curbed under new leadership and with the awards show returning to Johannesburg for 2020.

Local production companies who have been boycotting the awards including Word of Mouth productions and Ferguson Films are once again entering their shows for possible Golden Horns following discussions with the organisers.

Under new National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) CEO, Makhosazana Khanyile, the 14th Saftas will once again be taking place in Johannesburg - this year at the Sandton Convention Centre on 27 and 28 March.

The NFVF inexplicably moved its annual award show to Sun City for 2017, 2018 and 2019 with critics and the TV and film industry who derided the decision and saw talent who had to drive there and often back afterwards late at night, also curtailing easy access and making it difficult for various media to try and cover the awards.

The NFVF wanted on-screen talent and producers to pay a "discount" price of between R3810 and R5566 to stay at Sun City in March 2019 for one night in order to attend the far-flung awards ceremony.

In late-2019 the NFVF decided to scupper Sun City and the huge additional expenses associated with mounting the days' long awards show at the holiday resort in the North West province and to return the awards show to Johannesburg.

The 14th Saftas will once again do a two-day awards show - on 27 March for the various crafts honouring technical categories, as well as on 28 March as the main awards show which will be televised on SABC2 from 19:00.

The NFVF has not yet said whether the important writers' categories will be returned after all writing awards were abruptly dumped without any prior warning from 2019's main show, angering the scriptwriting community and the larger TV and film industry.

"We are cognisant of the criticism that has been levelled towards the Saftas in past instalments and we are keen to show the industry our commitment to benchmarking against best practise," says Makhosazana Khanyile.

"To that end, the NFVF team met and consulted with the Baftas team to see what learnings could be incorporated into making these awards better and as a result, some categories were revised, and we feel we are inching closer to having an award show with proper and continued industry buy-in".

"Ensuring the credibility of the awards within the industry meant reaching out to some production companies that had previously boycotted the Saftas and we are pleased to announce that both Word of Mouth productions doing Muvhango on SABC2 and Ferguson Films producing The Queen on M-Net's Mzansi Magic have once again entered their work for consideration into the awards".

"We continuously aim to improve the prestige of the Golden Horn," she says.

Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor put on hold as Disney reduces script order and looks for a new writer.

by Thinus Ferreira

The planned Star Wars live-action Obi-Wan Kenobi drama series has been put on hold and the script order reduced as Disney is looking for a new writer.

According to The Hollywood Reporter pre-production on the new drama series for the Disney+ streaming service has been put on hold after the first couple of scripts from writer Hossein Amini have been scrapped.

Ewan McGregor who played Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel film series will reprise his role in the TV series with director Deborah Chow but the initial scripts - revolving around how Obi-Wan takes a young Luke Skywalker under his wing - wasn't good enough.

The script order for the as-yet-untitled Obi-Wan series has now been reduced from 6 episodes to 4 episodes. Disney had no comment.

Disney+'s The Mandalorian as the first live-action Star Wars series made its debut in December to huge success, praised by viewers as well as critics and has been renewed for a second season.

Ewan McGregor told IGN that the series delay won't change the release date of the show in 2021.

"I've read about 80, 90 percent of what they've written so far, and it’s really, really good. Instead of shooting this August, they just want to start shooting in January, that's all. Nothing more dramatic than that."

"It often happens in projects, they just wanted to push it to next year. It will have the same release date, I don’t think it will affect the release date. They're still shooting towards having the show release when it was going to be originally."

The new series is set 8 years after the events of Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Disney drops the official trailer for the final spectacular-looking 7th season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars - but South African viewers won't get to see it.

Disney has dropped a fantastic official teaser for the final 12-episode 7th season of the revived animation series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars announcing that it will become available on its Disney+ streaming service from 21 February, with a new episode released on a weekly basis.

South African and African viewers watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars first on WarnerMedia's Cartoon Network (DStv 301) and then followed it to the Walt Disney Company's Disney XD (DStv 304) channel, and then to Netflix.

Now however there will be no legal way for them to see the final season's episodes when it debuts on Disney+.

Disney isn't making its streaming service available in South Africa or anywhere on the African continent which means that viewers who had invested their time in watching it, can't see how it ends.

by Thinus Ferreira

After its cancellation, Star Wars: The Clone Wars that has now been revived, will seamlessly resume where the unresolved storylines left off.

In the final and 7th season viewers will see with the same characters like Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Arnold Taylor) and Darth Maul (Sam Witwer), using the same voice actors and taking place at the same time period in that galaxy far, far away.

The show is set between the period of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith with the final episodes that will overlap with the events transpiring in Revenge of the Sith and that ends with the Jedi order being decimated through Order 66.

The official trailer shows what looks to be a spectacular duel between the failed Jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano and Darth Maul on the planet of Mandalore.

E.K. Johnston's novel Ahsoka revealed that the Siege of Mandalore was brought to an abrupt end by Order 66, which means that the season might very well show how Ahsoka gets forced to break off her fight with Darth Maul to escape the Stormtroopers who will suddenly turn on all Jedi.

TV REVIEW. In sci-fi television's dark universe Star Trek Picard on Amazon Prime Video adds a speck of inner light.

by Thinus Ferreira

In an unsure, unstable world of Trump, Twitter, climate change and coronavirus outbreaks, the return of a character like Star Trek's Jean-Luc Picard in Amazon Prime Video's new Star Trek: Picard understatedly underlines just how much - just like Oprah - certain people are desperately needed back on television.

Although somewhat changed by time, Patrick Stewart's measured, thoughtful Picard is still one of the characters deeply needed on television, once again embodying an inner, collective moral consciousness in a galaxy where few care to care, or to listen.

"Let's behave like civilised men," says the former-Captain-then-Admiral-now-retired "Jay-El", once again elegantly portrayed in the 10-episode, first season of Star Trek: Picard.

The new series throws the well-known, well-worn, trusted Starfleet captain - as well as viewers - back into a tumultuous, angst-riddled, scared and gridlocked galaxy where everybody is unsure of themselves and their place in the world, and therefore scared of each other.

Set in 2399, the world and galaxy of Star Trek: Picard is still the one from The Next Generation, DS9 and Voyager, but in the 18 years since the Star Trek: Nemesis film in 2002, 18 years also passed in Gene Roddenberry's universe.

In the way that our lives changed over two decades with iPhones, airport screenings and an increasingly more unstable world, so Picard's world changed with LCARS morphing into hologram displays, now drinking his tea "Earl Grey decaf", the creation and banning of "synths" (androids) after they attacked Mars, and the Roluman homeworld that got destroyed by a supernova.

"I never dreamed that Starfleet would give in to intolerance and fear," Picard remarks during the 3 first three episodes made available for review, with viewers who get to discover how and why Picard left Starfleet as he is lured back to a new space-bound adventure.

"You need a crew. Riker. Worf. LaForge," suggest a character for Picard's latest mission  - to which he says "no".

It's exactly because they would help that he can't risk asking or taking them. This isn't "All Good Things" - the final episode of The Next Generation - but a new mystery and challenge that might bring proper closure and redemption for the story of the beloved Data android character in a clever and inventive way.

While The Expanse which dropped its fourth season last month (co-incidentally on Amazon Prime Video as well) remains the very best science fiction on television in the current zeitgeist, Star Trek: Picard could move itself to second place depending on how the season's story plays itself out.

Star Trek: Picard is what Star Trek: Discovery should have been and what a lot of flim-flam so-called "genre television" these days try to do but don't because of a lack of budget, and talent behind and in front of the screen.

Star Trek: Picard feels Next Generation-ey in a way that Star Trek: Discovery has never yet felt like Star Trek except for Anson Mount as Captain Pike.

Created by executive producer Alex Kurtzman and the screenwriter and novelist Michael Chabon, Star Trek: Picard has the TNG-genes but poured into a current day mould.

There are the familiar yet slightly adapted uniforms but newly fitted around a political intrigue story, transporter technology sparkling around new questions about legacy, appearance and reality, "Borg cube reclamation", secret assassins and interplanetary spy games.

"I've never cared for science fiction. Just never got it," Jean-Luc quips in one of several in-jokes.

Longtime fans of The Next Generation will have little to complain about. Yes, it's not as brightly lit. It's not as clean. Starfleet is no longer so perfect (was it ever, Pegasus?). Yet with the growing existence and investigation of synthetic beings, Star Trek: Picard feels even more human than Gene Roddenberry's utopian world.

Eagle-eyed fans will spot several small mistakes (will aircon outlet grills at convention centres really be the 2020-style in 2399?) but it's probably to be expected from a start-up show with a smaller budget than the syndicated TNG in its 1990s heydey.

Design-wise the production could have done more to include more Next Gen familiarity, but again, they probably didn't have the budget.

With interweaving character setting, setup and the time taken to assemble the new group of travelling stargazers, the first three episodes of Star Trek: Picard might feel a bit drawn out until it gets to "engage" at the end of episode 3.

Viewers who stick around for the new setup to be established will find it worth the wait.

In an era of antihero-filled television an older, wiser, and slightly more unsure Picard is a lot of things but not disappointing and not a sell-out. With a lot of dark television around Star Trek: Picard adds a speck of inner light.

The review is based on the first 3 episodes of season 1 of Star Trek: Picard.

Star Trek: Picard is available on Amazon Prime Video.

ALSO READ: Engage! Here's everything you need to know and see before you start to watch the new Star Trek: Picard on Amazon Prime Video.

South Africa's MultiChoice Talent Factory film academy ropes in film biz experts for a 3-day workshop in the Eastern Cape for emerging filmmakers.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and its MultiChoice Talent Factory South Africa (MTFza) film academy held a workshop in the Eastern Cape this week from Tuesday to Thursday to help upskill young and emerging filmmakers in the country.

Emerging filmmakers were chosen by South Africa's department of arts and culture to attend the 3-day film workshop that took place at the East London International Conference Centre.

The training workshop consisted out of a series masterclasses, led by industry experts in the field of video entertainment and covered various elements of filmmaking, including, scriptwriting, producing, directing, sound, lighting and cinematography.

Industry experts who helped to present sessions included Mzansi Magic (Dstv 161) commissioning editors Sanele Shiba and Wanda Sondiyazi; the film director, screenwriter and producer Darrell Roodt known for producing Sarafina; as well as Phathutshedzo "Phathu" Makwarela, the scriptwriter and co-founder of Tshedza Pictures.

"The sustainability of the video entertainment industry in the country and on the continent depends on our ability to attract and develop fresh young talent," says Joe Heshu, the MultiChoice group executive for corporate affairs.

"Opportunities such as this, and particularly with the support of regional government and other key industry stakeholders, provide the perfect platform to identify and nurture aspiring young filmmakers."

"Our intention is to immerse participants in the world of filmmaking so that they leave with a better
understanding of the commitment and skills that are required to take this journey to the next level."

Phumeza Skoti, chief executive of the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council (ECPACC) that runs the Eastern Cape Film Office, says "The masterclass has been very informative and inspirational in our journey to develop the film and television industry in the Eastern Cape".

"The specialist skills and experiences shared by renowned industry players will go a long way in empowering local film makers to take up space and seize opportunities that exists in the industry."

Fezeka Bayeni, the Eastern Cape MEC for sports, recreation, arts and culture, says "Film has great potential to contribute to the development of the Eastern Cape economy and as such, we have made it one of the priorities of the department".

"The Eastern Cape has a rich heritage, great stories to be told and amazing locations for film. This partnership with MultiChoice is therefore a very important platform in helping to develop and train filmmakers as part of our effort to grow the film industry in the province."

Engage! Here's everything you need to know and see before you start to watch the new Star Trek: Picard on Amazon Prime Video.

by Thinus Ferreira

Make it so! With the first episode of the new Star Trek: Picard series diving right into the action and intrigue without explanation, existing Star Trek viewers and new ones need to know the following and should watch the following 6 old episodes and 2 films to fully enjoy the story of Captain-then-Admiral-now-retired Jean-Luc Picard's next exciting chapter.

Star Trek: Picard, taking place 18 years after the final Star Trek: The Next Generation film, Nemesis (in which the android character of Data died) is becoming available on Amazon Prime Video this Friday.

The 10-episode first season, with Patrick Stewart once again reprising his iconic role, will release episodes weekly and the series has been renewed for a second season.

Episodes of Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: DS9, as well as Star Trek: Voyager are all streaming on Netflix South Africa, although the new Star Trek: Picard series is on Amazon Prime Video for South African viewers and all viewers outside of the United States and Canada.

Jean-Luc, or "Jay-El" as one of the characters now refers to him and who has been quietly living on a wine farm in France, is quickly drawn into a brand-new mystery involving a possible Starfleet conspiracy and cover-up, a nefarious Romulan plot, a strange young woman seeking his help, and a new crop of androids now called "synths".

Since Starfleet doesn't want to help him, Jean-Luc assembles a new rag-tag crew aboard a new ship (although the iconic USS Enterprise NCC-1701 D does make a surprise appearance) to boldly go and solve the latest mystery.

Former Star Trek characters Brent Spiner (Data), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh), Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) and Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) all appear.

It's important to watch certain essential previous Star Trek episodes and films that provide all of the important background, character development and story to understand precisely who the characters are, and how they and the story fit together.

Before you zoom off at warp speed with the latest tale, watch these 6 essential episodes and 2 films:

Conspiracy (Star Trek: TNG, season 1, episode 25)
See how Captain Picard discovers that officers at Starfleet Command on Earth are acting strangely, eventually finding a big conspiracy.

The Measure of a Man (Star Trek: TNG, season 2, episode 9)
Dats is put on trial and defended by Picard when a scientist, Bruce Maddox, wants to dismantle and experiment on him to create android replicas.

The Offspring (Star Trek: TNG, season 3, episode 16)
Data creates an android daughter Lal and tries to raise her.

The Best of Both Worlds I & II (Star Trek: TNG, season 3, episode 26)
Picard battles the Borg.

I, Borg (Star Trek: TNG, season 5, episode 23)
The Enterprise crew meets the severed Borg called Hugh.

Scorpion I & II (Star Trek: Voyager, season 3, episode 26)
The introduction of the Borg character, Seven of Nine, who gets severed from the Borg collective and rejoins humanity.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
A bad film and the movie end of The Next Generation crew but it contains important background as to what happened to Data, Picard, and the Romulans. Data sings the song "Blue Skies" that features in the new series, as well as B4 (another android version like Data) that features in the film and in the new series. Data also makes a sacrifice that echoes into the new series.

Star Trek (2009)
Not part of the "real" Star Trek but set in the so-called "Kelvin timeline", this reboot film with Chris Pine as Captain Kirk is however important to see, since it deals with a supernova destroying the planet of Romulus. While this event happened in the new Star Trek parallel universe of J.J. Abrams, it also happened in the classic Star Trek universe.
The Picard of Star Trek: Picard references and deals with this aftermath from "his/our" side and the fact that original-version Starfleet chose not to help.

ALSO READ: TV REVIEW. In sci-fi television's dark universe Star Trek: Picard on Amazon Prime Video adds a speck of inner light.

SABC done with Zaziwa; once-hot music talk show with Pearl Modiadie that saw its big ratings destroyed by SABC1 finally cancelled for good.

by Thinus Ferreira

The SABC is done with its once-hot Zaziwa talk show with the Pearl Modiadie-fronted music magazine programme on SABC1 that has finally been cancelled for good despite earlier promises from the broadcaster that it would return.

The SABC tells TVwithThinus that a decision was taken not to renew Zaziwa for another season.

"SABC programmes are subjected to a review exercise for recommissioning with the intention of ensuring that the channels are able to deliver and become competitive platforms. Therefore, following a review of Zaziwa, a decision was taken not to recommission the show for another season," says Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson.

"SABC1 is however exploring other content ideas and formats in the timeslot, allowing room to curate a diverse offering to viewers."

The once-popular Zazizwa, produced by Thabo Mphelo Films, drew between 3.5 and 4 millions of viewers to SABC1 as a ratings hit in its original Thursday night prime time slot of 19:30 until SABC1 executives decided to uproot it and destroyed its viewership in what became a self-inflicted wound.

In February 2017 SABC1 ripped Zaziwa from the schedule and transplanted it to Sunday nights at 20:30 - a lifestyle television "death slot" where, as predicted, viewers abandoned the show by the millions.

In August of the same year SABC1 quietly decided to dump Zaziwa from the schedule entirely to make space for yet another old rerun of Shaka Zulu, planning to bring Zaziwa back in a few months' time.

Nobody from SABC1 told a flabbergasted Pearl Modiadie that her show is off the schedule and off the air, with the Zaziwa presenter who had to hear from the media and not the SABC that Zaziwa has abruptly been shelved from its struggling Sunday evening timeslot.

Then SABC1 said that Zaziwa would return to a weekday and its erstwhile 19:30 timeslot but on Wednesdays, although it didn't materialise. 

On her Instagram page Pearl Modiadie in 2019 when she was asked if Zaziwa will ever return to SABC1, said that "When it does, I will put it out there right now I don't know. I've enjoyed it for the past 5 years, let's wait and see what happens next".

Rami Chuene exits Ferguson Films' troubled The Queen on Mzansi Magic, says 'I won't be getting into details as advised by my legal team'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Actress Ramu Chuene is exiting Ferguson Films' The Queen on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) as the latest on-screen talent to leave the apparently troubled drama series, following alleged behind-the-scenes rancour with the producers.

On social media, the actress, known for her role as Gracious Mabuza, said that her stint on The Queen has come to an end.

"Unfortunately, I won't be getting into details as advised by my legal team. I still have to finish shooting and I'm hoping to execute as excellently, exceptionally and professionally as I always have."

There's been no public comment from Ferguson Films.

Rami Chuene joins 4 other actors who have been axed and left The Queen over the course of the last year, including Stembiso Khoza, Khanya Mkangisa, Khayakazi Kula and Moshe Ndiki, while veteran actress Vatiswa Ndara was involved in an acrimonious exit from iGazi, that was also produced by Ferguson Films.

According to reports there had allegedly been a breakdown in the relationship between Rami Chuene and the Ferguson producer-couple Connie and Shona after the actress showed support for actress Vatiswa Ndara who wrote an open letter to the minister of arts and culture.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

TV REVIEW. 2020's most jarring, jaw-dropping and crowded new reality show on VIA is selfish ... and must-watch insane.

by Thinus Ferreira

The craziest, most crowded, brand-new reality format show of 2020 has started on South African television with Trap! Dis My Huis! on VIA (DStv 147) at 20:30 on Wednesdays, pushing 50 strangers into a small house Big Brother style to see who copes best without food and toilet paper for the chance to win R1 million.

In reviewing the first episode of Trap! Dis My Huis!, an Afrikaans version of the international reality format Get The F*ck Out Of My House, it's immediately clear why only Cher and cockroaches will survive an apocalypse.

That selfishness will be the end of humanity is on full display in the Afrokaans produced show, as 50 contestants who've never met all storm the small home at the same time, each armed with one transparent, plastic crate with their personal belongings to find some space inside the tiny two-person dwelling for the chance to win R1 million in cash.

With only food for two people, one toilet and bathroom, the 50 people from across South Africa storm the house and immediately selfishly start to scavenge and steal everything from the toilet paper and sugar to the small piece of cheese; some even drinking the milk straight out the bottle and someone feeding on the yoghurt while as a fake courtesy walking around spoon-in-mouth asking everyone "Do you want some yoghurt?"

Filled with several low emotional intelligence (EQ) contestants, the brash, rash and loud contestants in the intensely crowded space so quickly becomes too much that by the end of the first episode there's already someone who bailed voluntarily and couldn't take it anymore, in addition to those contestants getting eliminated.

The camera-filled little house that includes roving cameramen moving among the contestants capture clever details with South Africa's latest Big Brother done in a small space that is utterly fascinating and television and gives a compelling look at how ordinary South Africans behave when they're stuck in too close quarters with one another and no way out.

The usual rambunctious exuberance and initial friendliness when reality show contestants enter a show quickly make way for fighting, accusations and open animosity, extremely selfish behaviour, some irritated contestants stirring the pot who start to scheme and play a political game, and what reality TV does best: tears.

While watching Trap! Dis My Huis! is hypnotic and true must-see television, the weakest part is the curtseying co-presenter duo of Amalia Uys and Zoe Brown, with the former 7de Laan actress and former breakfast show presenter who both seem to "over-present" with just that bit of extra and too much fake enthusiasm.

Especially Amalia comes across as trying too hard to try and relate on camera to individual contestants yet also seems slightly guardedly distant. Both use too much hand gestures and are too "kindergarden teacher" like in conveying the simple instructions and rules as well as telling viewers what happened during challenges.

It's not necessary for the presenters to really do much; the bunch of contestants make for arrestingly interesting television from the moment they set foot inside the house with those stepping over the red line who are disqualified immediately.

One quickly ends up shown on the loo without the most important paper. People who dislike each other somehow find a way - and a direction - to divert direct eye contact, as the extroverts take over and overpower the introverts "Lord of the Flies" style.

A woman remarks that she wishes a man took the lead and was the leader while a gaggle of couch potatoes become the gossip queens who quietly observe, bitch and moan.

Some steal sugar and honey and from Kuilsriver to Potchefstroom and Fresnaye the contestants who are cussing start to suss each other out as they jockey for position while showing a range of human behaviour from extreme selfishness to cooperative teamwork - this is humanity caught and shown in its suburban natural habitat.

Couch potato psychologists, sociologists and observers of human behaviour will get huge enjoyment out of watching the deftly done reality show.

Clever camerawork and editing smartly shows that even in the most crowded of close quarters humans still find spaces and places to hide their emotions.

Even though they modify their external behaviour, cameras still capture unguarded feelings, looks and actions with delicious dramatic irony that other housemates, often crouched or standing right beside them, are not always aware of.

Besides voting for a house captain which is a popularity contest (and who ends up making house rules), the housemates also get weekly challenges which could earn them money to buy either the food or supplies like toilet paper that they need.

One hidden door reveals a bedroom and additional bathroom for the house captain (powerful leverage since the person can invite other people in to share the space), as well as a pantry with hugely expensive food and supply prices.

The show is utterly fascinating and if the meltdowns, tears and bickering continue through the rest of the first season, Trap! Dis My Huis! which is already more than worth the watch, will be hypnotic viewing.

Watch Trap! Dis My Huis! on VIA (DStv 147) on Wednesdays at 20:30, starting Wednesday 15 January 2020.

Frozen 2 becomes the biggest animated film of all time at the South African box office as Walt Disney Studios now holds first and second animation records in SA as well as top 4 highest-grossing film records.

by Thinus Ferreira

Frozen 2 has now become the biggest animated film of all time at the South African box office following its debut in December.

Since its release on 6 December 2019 in which the core characters venture beyond Arendelle, and following its debut as the biggest opening weekend for an animated film in South African box office history, this week Walt Disney Animation Studios' long-awaited Frozen 2 clinched another record as it became the biggest animated film of all time according to cinema sales. 

 Over 718 000 people visited cinemas across the country since Frozen 2 released in December, delivering a box office total of over R53 million so far in South Africa, surpassing 2018’s DisneyPixar's Incredibles 2 that was the previous record holder. 

"With this record, Walt Disney Studios now holds the number 1 and 2 all-time highest-grossing animated films records in South Africa, as well as the top 4 highest-grossing films of all time in South Africa with Disney’s The Lion King as well as Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War."

"We are thrilled at the response of families and fans of all ages towards this breath-taking and sweeping animated adventure of Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven," says Christine Service, senior vice-president of The Walt Disney Company Africa.

"We are excited to share more magical animated, as well as live-action stories, with South African cinema-going audiences in 2020 including two releases from DisneyPixar with Onward as well as Soul, two from Marvel Studios with Black Widow and The Eternals, as well as brand new adventures from Disney studios in the form of Mulan, Jungle Cruise and Raya and the Last Dragon to name but a few." 

 Worldwide Frozen 2 now ranks as the 11th highest-grossing film of all time - and climbing - with a global box office haul of $1,4 billion.

Fantasy drama series The Witcher with Henry Cavill becomes Netflix's most-watched new series as the streamer adds another 8.76 million subscribers in late-2019.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix announced that the fantasy drama series The Witcher with Henry Cavill has become its most-watched new series ever - although the streaming service is changing its ratings measurement metric - as it revealed that its fourth quarter (Q4) subscriber numbers that surged by another 8.76 million.

In its Q4 2019 investor report that it released on Tuesday night Netflix said that it added another 8.75 million subscribers of which 8.33 million internationally and 420 000 within the United States.

Netflix managed to beat its forecast of gaining 7.6 million subscribers in Q4 and projects to add 7 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020.

Its fourth quarter subscriber growth brought Netflix to 167.1 million subscribers worldwide at the end of 2019 of which 61 million were in the United States and 106 million in the rest of the world.

Netflix said in its investor letter that "Our low membership growth [in the United States] is probably due to our recent price changes and to United States competitive launches," noting the launches of new streaming services like Apple TV+ and Disney+ in late-2019.

Netflix noted that it had record subscriber additions in the Africa, Europe and Middle East (EMEA) region during the fourth quarter, adding another 4.42 million customers in this region.

"Many media companies and tech giants are launching streaming services, reinforcing the major trend of the transition from linear to streaming entertainment. This is happening all over the world and is still in its early stages, leaving ample room for many services to grow as linear TV wanes."

"We have a big headstart in streaming and will work to build on that by focusing on the same thing we have focused on for the past 22 years - pleasing members."

In a footnote in its earnings report Netflix said that it is changing its ratings system and how it reports viewing numbers, something which will increase viewership data for Netflix programming which isn't independently measured. Netflix notoriously doesn't release detailed ratings information.

While Netflix previously counted a view when a subscriber watched 70% of an episode or film, it now counts as little as 2 minutes of viewing time as a subscriber having watched that content. Netflix now counts a view when a subscriber "chose to watch and did watch for at least 2 minutes - long enough to indicate the choice was intentional".

"As we've expanded our original content, we've been working on how to best share content highlights that demonstrate popularity," Netflix noted.

"Our new methodology is similar to the BBC iPlayer in their rankings based on requests for the title, most popular articles on The New York Times, which include those who opened the articles, and YouTube view counts."

Netflix is making the change to its ratings methodology so that "short and long titles are treated equally, levelling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length".

"Given that we now have titles with widely varying lengths – from short episodes to long films, we believe that reporting households viewing a title based on 70% of a single episode of a series or of an entire film, which we have been doing, makes less sense. We are now reporting on households that chose to watch a given title."

"The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric. For example, 45 million member households chose to watch Our Planet under the new metric vs. 33 million under the prior metric."

Netflix said that the Henry Cavill-led new fantasy drama series that had its first season become available on 20 December 2019 is now the streamer's most-watched new TV series ever with 76 million customers who've watched (some of) it.

Netflix already renewed The Witcher for a second season and said that "As a testament to how our hit content can penetrate the global zeitgeist and influence popular culture, the show’s launch drove up sales of The Witcher books and games around the world, and spawned a viral musical hit".

Netflix noted that the third season of Brit-drama The Crown was watched by 21 million households with 73 million households worldwide that have watched at least 2 minutes since the series launched.

Klaus, Netflix's first original feature-length animation film to be nominated for an Oscar, was seen by 40 million households in the first month of its release.

The second season of You was viewed by 54 million households during its first month of release and 83 million households watched the Michael Bay film 6 Underground starring Ryan Reynolds.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Amazon Studios reveals the cast for its New Zealand set The Lord of the Rings series.

by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon Studios has announced the multi-generational, and global cast for its still-to-be-named The Lord of the Rings drama series that will be on the Amazon Prime Video streaming service.

Production on the first season of 8 episodes, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels, will start in February, with filming of the Amazon Original that will take place in New Zealand where the series of movies were also made. The series has already been renewed for a second season.

In a press statement Amazon Studios says "the first group of series regulars" include Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, and Daniel Weyman.

The showrunners and executive producers of the series are J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay with J.A. Bayona who will be directing the first 2 episodes and who will serve as executive producer, alongside his partner Belén Atienza; with executive producers Lindsey Weber, Bruce Richmond, Gene Kelly, Sharon Tal Yguado, Gennifer Hutchison, Jason Cahill and Justin Doble.

"After undertaking an extensive global search, we are delighted finally to reveal the first group of brilliant performers who will take part in Amazon's The Lord of the Rings series," say J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay in the press release.

"These exceptionally talented women and men are more than just our actors: they are the newest members of an ever-expanding creative family that is now working tirelessly to bring Middle-earth to life anew for fans and audiences worldwide."

The series will be set during The Second Age of Middle-earth and explore new storylines preceding J.R.R's "The Fellowship of the Ring."

In March 2019 Amazon revealed a Middle-Earth map that contains the later-sunk "lost island" of Númenor, which indicates that the island and its inhabitants will very likely feature in the TV series.

In the Tolkien mythology, the Second Age was the time period when the Rings of Power - including Sauron's One Ring who himself was still human - came into existence.

In late-2019 a global casting call went out looking for people as extras who are extremely short, extremely tall, missing teeth or are toothless, wrinkled, very hairy, have an "androgynous look" or are stocky, mean-looking bikers.

National Geographic renews Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Brain Games for further seasons; makes Chris Hemsworth a healthy living 'guinea pig' in new longevity series Limitless.

by Thinus Ferreira

National Geographic (DStv 181) has renewed Brain Games and Running Wild with Bear Grylls for further seasons and has commissioned a new health and longevity series with Chris Hemsworth who will be the "human guinea pig" presenter.

"Brain Games and Running Wild with Bear Grylls are emblematic of our unscripted programming strategy - highly entertaining, personality-driven premium programming that lives up to the National Geographic brand," says Courteney Monroe, National Geographic Global Television Networks president in a statement.

"We are thrilled to greenlight the continuation of these franchises."

Keegan-Michael Key will be back as host of Brain Games. Along with world-famous mentalist Lior Suchard and field correspondent and neuroscientist Cara Santa Maria, each episode delivers shocking revelations on the science of our brains and surprising explanations behind why we do what we do, making it a television event for the whole family.

Meanwhile National Geographic has commissioned Limitless with Chris Hemsworth as presenter. The new series, produced by Nutopia and Protozoa Pictures will follow Chris Hemsworth on a mission to discover how to live healthier, smarter and longer lives.

Chris Hemsworth will try to transform himself in Limitless by training for 6 extraordinary challenges, showing how to fight ageing at every stage of life.

In each of the 6 episodes of Limitless Chris Hemsworth will investigate another scientific topic related to longevity ranging from regenerating damage, maximizing strength, building resilience, shocking the body, supercharging memory and confronting mortality.

Chris Hemsworth will meet with leading longevity scientists who believe that the key to staying young lies in rooting out and reversing the damage of time before they take hold, learning secrets from superhumans who demonstrate the mind-blowing extent of human potential.

"I was somehow convinced to volunteer myself as a human guinea pig and endure a series of mental and physical challenges across the globe, all for the sake of science," says Chris Hemsworth. "We’re hoping to shed some light on new ideas and emerging science with the focus on extending a healthy life span."

Courteney Monroe says "We are so fortunate to have Chris Hemsworth at the centre of this series and to tap into his genuine curiosity and real-life superhero powers to push his own personal limits".

Meanwhile a second of Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted will start in mid-2020 on National Geographic. Produced by Studio Ramsay, new episodes will feature Gordon Ramsay continuing his journey across the globe, embarking on exhilarating missions to unearth world cultures through food and adventure.

Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted follows Gordon Ramsay as he meets with indigenous people around the globe to learn about the cultures, dishes and flavours unique to each location.

Every ingredient he harvests and dish he tastes will inspire a new recipe from scratch, created to represent the heart of that culture.

Each episode concludes with Ramsay challenging himself with a local food legend by his side - putting his newfound skills to the test as they cook a feast together for the natives. For Ramsay, food is the gateway to culture, and every adventure is a portal into the soul of the people and place.

CNN International is in Davos, Switzerland covering the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF).

CNN International (DStv 401) is in Davos, Switzerland to cover the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) this week.

Richard Quest, Julia Chatterley, Fareed Zakaria, John Defterios, Max Foster and Hadas Gold will be on the ground in Switzerland, alongside other journalists from the CNN Business team.

They will be joined by CNN's Jim Acosta, Jeremy Diamond and Nina dos Santos. CNN International will broadcast interviews and analysis with TV coverage across the week on CNN International.

Besides Donald Trump as president of the United States, other high-profile delegates who are set to attend include Greta Thunberg, Angela Merkel, Prince Charles, Christine Lagarde, Deepika Padukone, Winnie Byanyima, and Ursula von der Leyen.

ViacomCBS Africa boss Alex Okosi jumps to YouTube to lead Africa as VCN Africa ups Monde Twala and Craig Paterson to general managers for the African continent.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Africa boss of ViacomCBS Alex Okosi has jumped to YouTube forcing ViacomCBS Networks International Africa (VCN Africa) into a top executive shake-up that is filling the gap by upping Monde Twala and Craig Peterson as co-general managers for the continent.

Alex Okosi who is exiting VCN Africa at the end of February 2020 is becoming the managing director of emerging markets for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region from April 2020 at YouTube, while Monde Twala and Craig Peterson are becoming general managers at ViacomCBS Africa from March.

Before jumping to YouTube, Alex Okosi was a long-serving TV executive and held the fort as executive vice president and managing director of ViacomCBS Networks International Africa and BET International.

In his new job Alex Okosi will be responsible for running YouTube's business and partnership teams across emerging markets in the EMEA region, including Russia, the Middle East, as well as North and sub-Saharan Africa.

Alex Okosi will report to the head of YouTube for EMEA, Cécile Frot-Coutaz and he will relocate to London in the United Kingdom.

"YouTube is a game-changing platform that plays an increasingly important role in our lives today through the dynamic content and innovation that it delivers," says Alex Okosi in a statement. "I am very excited to be joining Cecile’s leadership team to continue empowering creators and elevating value for viewers and partners across the region."  

Cécile Frot-Coutaz says "I look forward to welcoming Alex to our YouTube EMEA leadership team. He brings a wealth of experience in the content industries and has a track record for building businesses and audiences in established and new markets".

"Alex will be leading our existing teams in Russia, sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa to drive further expansion in these key markets."

Meanwhile ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI) announced that the departure of Alex Okosi will be filled by Craig Paterson and Monde Twala who are named as co-general managers of ViacomCBS Networks Africa.

"Alex has made an immeasurable impact on our business in Africa," says Raffaele Annecchino, President of ViacomCBS Networks Europe Middle East, Africa and Asia, in a statement.

"Since launching MTV Base in 2005, Alex has spearheaded the development of our business on the continent, which now delivers more channels to Africa than any other international network – reaching 100 million viewers in 48 territories across MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and BET."

VCNI says that Alex Okosi took over leadership of BET International in 2017 and has continued to advance the value of the brand internationally "delivering double-digit distribution growth and improving profitability and margins".

In a VCNI statement, Alex Okosi says "I am proud to have had the opportunity to build our Africa business from the ground up".

"This has played a pivotal role in transforming the music and content space and changing the narrative on Africa. Leading our Africa and BET International businesses to success is testament to the extraordinary teams, colleagues and partners that I have worked with throughout my tenure. ViacomCBS has been my home for more than 20 fantastic years, and I leave behind incredible creative and commercial talent that will continue to deliver growth."

David Lynn, president & CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, says "I’m immensely grateful to Alex for his contribution to the success of VCNI, including his role in developing such a strong team of successors. Alex’s leadership has been essential to our success in Africa and to the continued growth of BET International".

From 1 March 2020 Monde Twala and Craig Paterson will take over as general managers of VCN Africa. 

Monde Twala, senior vice president & general manager, editorial VCN Africa (pictured left), will focus on content, creative, editorial and marketing across all VCNI brands.

Monde Twala is currently the vice president of ViacomCBS Networks Africa’s BET, youth & music brands.

Monde Twala who joined the company in 2016 is responsible for driving the development and growth of iconic music, youth and entertainment brands BET, MTV, MTV Base and MTV Music24, across the African continent. 

Craig Paterson, senior vice president & general manager, VCN Africa (pictured right), will be responsible for all corporate functions, including business development and strategy.

Craig Paterson is currently senior vice president, business operations for ViacomCBS Networks Africa and is responsible for driving strategic growth and business opportunities in Africa.

Prior to this role, Craig Paterson was responsible for operations and finance for multimedia brands MTV, MTV Music24, Nickelodeon, Nick Toons, Nick Junior, MTV Base, BET and Comedy Central on the African continent. 

He spent nearly five years at Viacom beginning in 2011 as vice president of operations and finance in Africa and returned to the company in 2018 as senior vice president of business operations in Africa. 

"I am delighted that Craig Paterson and Monde Twala will take over leadership in this important market," says 
Raffaele Annecchino.

"Both have worked with Alex for years, which coupled with their expertise will ensure a seamless transition. Craig and Monde are experts in their respective areas and in addition to incredible business acumen, have demonstrated leadership and collaborative excellence throughout each of their careers and tenures with the company."                    

Disney moves up Disney+ launch date for Western Europe; remains silent over when its streaming service will come to South Africa and Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Walt Disney Company is moving up the launch date of its streaming service Disney+ in Western Europe where it will now launch on 24 March 2020 while the Mouse House remains silent about its streamer plans for Africa.

Disney on Tuesday announced that instead of 31 March it will now launch Disney+ across several Western Europe countries on 24 March, a week earlier than originally announced, following its success in late-2019 with its launch in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands.

Disney+ will now become available in the United Kingdom and Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy on 24 March and bring with it Disney original series like Star Wars The Mandalorian and its buzzed-about "Baby Yoda", along with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Disney+ will launch in Belgium, the Nordics and Portugal later this year.

Disney gave no reason for the changed time-table. In these countries Disney+ will cost subscribers £5.99 or €6.99 (R112.80) per month or £59.99 and €69.99 (R1129.48) for an annual subscription.

After Disney signed up 10 million subscribers in the United States on Disney+'s launch day there, the company said that it now projects to have between 60 to 90 million Disney+ subscribers worldwide by 2024.

On Tuesday morning The Walt Disney Company Africa was again asked what the plans are for Disney+ to launch in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa and when it would be. A Disney Africa representative said there is "nothing from our side yet" and that "news will follow once we have any".

Viewers in Africa and South Africa have been forced to make use of illegal means, for instance torrent sites, to watch hit series like The Mandalorian with Disney that isn't distributing any of Disney+ Originals through its existing international distribution network to traditional pay-TV operators like MultiChoice's DStv.

Showmax releases 'max-ed out' Christmas season 2019 information, still not giving out any actual viewership and ratings stats.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice's video streaming service Showmax has released some information regarding popular programming watched during the late-2019 Christmas period but is still not releasing any viewership or ratings statistics.

According to Showmax South Africans watched "over 100 years worth of video on Showmax over the holiday season" although MultiChoice and Showmax didn't provide any numbers regarding either subscribers or ratings tallies for individually mentioned shows.

According to Showmax the streamer saw a 30% increase in viewing hours compared to the average seen in prior months. Showmax didn't specify either the average number of viewing hours, or what the viewing hours spiked to.

"More people than ever before got on the streaming bandwagon, and those who were watching streamed more than usual," says Showmax.

"For our most popular series, once people had locked on they watched on average more than 30 episodes of the same show over the holiday period. The peak binge by a single account was more than 200 episodes of the same show".

According to Showmax 26 December 2019 saw a peak in viewership although what it was isn't mentioned. Showmax says evenings were the most popular time to watch TV but that the peak over the holiday period saw it start earlier than for the rest of the year at 18:00.

The most-watched local genre was reality TV "with a particularly strong showing from The Real Housewives of Johannesburg". Showmax once again didn't add ratings data for what the "strong showing" entails.

Showmax says comedy, medical drama and crime drama were all popular binge destinations with subscribers apparently watching multiple successive episodes. The River on 1Magic (DStv 103) and the kykNET (DStv 144) series Binnelanders and Getroud Met Rugby "stood out in terms of the number of successive episodes watched".

According to Showmax "people watched way more movies than usual, which could be a reflection of having more opportunities to sit still for several hours at a time".

"South Africans clearly take their leisure time seriously, with average hours per viewer up 21% compared to normal activity, while in Nigeria that increase was just 10%, and in Kenya an even smaller increase of 7%," says Showmax.

Without providing any viewing statistics, Showmax says the top 10 most-streamed international series for 2019 on its streaming service were:

  • HBO’s Euphoria
  • HBO’s Game of Thrones
  • HBO’s Chernobyl
  • Younger
  • HBO’s Big Little Lies
  • Vikings
  • Billions
  • The Girlfriend Experience
  • Siren
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
In 2019 the 10 most-streamed South African series on Showmax were:
  • Trackers
  • The Real Housewives of Johannesburg
  • Being Bonang
  • The River
  • The Queen
  • Die Spreeus
  • Die Byl
  • The Girl From St Agnes
  • The Bachelor SA
  • Boer Soek ‘n Vrou