by Thinus Ferreira
In a shocking scheduling move SABC2 is cutting back its iconic Afrikaans weekday soap 7de Laan, as well as its Venda weekday soap Muvhango, scaling the episodes of both back with almost half and reducing both longrunning primetime soaps from 5 to just 3 episodes per week.
SABC2's dramatic scheduling changes to its 18:00 timeslot from April for 7de Laan, and its 21:00 timeslot from August for Muvhango, come as the financially struggling and bloated South African public broadcaster is currently going to an acrimonious retrenchment process to axe 303 SABC workers.
While still a big show, 7de Laan, produced by Danie Odendaal Productions and that just passed and broadcast its milestone 5 000-episode earlier this month, is struggling with waning ratings and has shed millions of viewers over the past few years, mostly due to multiple SABC2 timeslot changes and the exit of many of the show's stars and their iconic characters in quick succession.
It's not yet clear what the impact of the SABC's reduced episode order will hold for the show and its complement of cast and crew that will have to absorb a production budget cut.
7de Laan that was originally only broadcast on Tuesdays on SABC2, then twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and eventually expanded to 5 days a week, is now being reduced by 40% and cut back from 2 and a half hours per week to just one and a half hours per week.
From Monday 5 April 7de Laan will just be broadcast on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
7de Laan, filmed at Sasani Studios in Highlands North in Johannesburg, is removed on the SABC2 schedule and replaced on Thursdays and Fridays in the 18:00 timeslot with two episodes of a new Afrikaans telenovela entitled Die Sentrum.
SABC2 says it's cutting back 7de Laan to "make more room for drama" on the channel.
"As a South African family entertainment channel, SABC2 continues to make room for more drama, bringing the best in local content, increasing viewer choice, reflecting and celebrating diverse realities," says Caroline Phalakatshela, SABC2 publicist.
It's not clear why SABC2 chose the early primetime shot of 18:00 to schedule Die Sentrum and not in the other existing Afrikaans drama timeslots.
Danie Odendaal Productions in a statement says that "7de Laan confirms that there has been a scheduling change implemented by the SABC. 7de Laan will now broadcast three days a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 18:00 on SABC2."
"We wish to reassure you of our unwavering commitment to continue producing relevant, informative and entertaining content."
The production says "until a time comes when we get to see you all on our roadshows again, we will enjoy engaging with you on all our social media platforms where we will continue to give you additional insights into our world."
In December 2020 7de Laan lured 1.44 million viewers (3.72 AR), making it the 6th most-watched programme on SABC2 for the month.
Muvhango swapped for Giyani
SABC2 is also scaling back on Muvhango from August and plans to reduce it by two episodes per week that are replaced by a second season of the Xitsonga telenovela Giyani that will have two episodes per week.
Like 7de Laan, Muvhango, produced by Duma Ndlovu's Word of Mouth Productions, has also shed millions of viewers over the past few years.
Muvhango will now only be shown on SABC2 from Mondays to Wednesdays from August at 21:00, with the timeslot on Thursday and Friday nights going to Giyani.
In December 2020 Muvhango lured 3.69 million viewers (9.55 AR), making it the most-watched programme on SABC2 for the month and the 10th most-watched show overall on all of South African television for the month.
Again it's unclear why the SABC decided to schedule Giyani, produced by Tshedza Pictures, in Muvhango's 21:00 timeslot and not in other drama timeslots or the 21:30 timeslot on SABC2 where it was broadcast previously for its first season.
About Die Sentrum and the second season of Giyani, Merlin Naicker, the SABC's head of TV, says "is part of our longterm plan to invest in quality local content".
"Serving a diverse South African audience, it is imperative that we come with innovative and exciting content, which will not only draw the viewership, but bring in the revenue required to keep the public service broadcaster financially sustainable".