Friday, May 7, 2021

Skyworth TV South Africa silent on what data its smart TVs are collecting after the TV maker is caught spying on users in China.


by Thinus Ferreira

Skyworth TV South Africa is silent on whether Skyworth TV sets sold and used in the country are also spying on viewers and if that is the case what information these smart TVs are sharing.

The Chinese TV maker has apologised after reports revealing that Skyworth TVs have been spying on users with excessive data collection, with the company that abruptly ended its contract with the analytics firm Gozen Data that it used.

An online Chinese developer forum, V2EX who did a network traffic analysis, revealed how Skyworth smart TV sets gobbled up user data and sent it all to an analytics firm Gozen Data.

Skyworth smart TVs constantly scanned for other connected devices on the same local network every 10 minutes and scooped up all that information - including IP addresses, network latency and names of other Wi-Fi networks within range. 

"I felt that the TV was a bit slow before, and I looked at what background services were turned on. I found that there is something called GoZheng Data Service, and I don't know what it is," the user wrote.

"The TV is an Android system. I researched the packet and found that this thing scans my family's connected devices every 10 minutes, and sends back the hostname, mac, ip and even the network delay time. It also detects the surrounding wifi SSID names, The mac address is also packaged and sent to this domain name of gz-data.com."

Gozen Data calls itself a "home marketing company empowered by big data centred on family data".

Gozen Data in a statement apologised for "causing user concerns about privacy and security" and said that it will "improve our user privacy policy and ensure we are collecting information with users' consent and within the scope of legal compliance". 

Skyworth in a statement said that "We have immediately disabled the application concerned across all Skyworth TV products and conducted a thorough investigation into the incident".

Skyworth said that "The violations beyond this scope were not approved nor authorized by Skyworth TV. The violation is strongly against Skyworth TV's core value of putting users first. Skyworth has sent a written statement to Gozen Data and immediately terminated the partnership, as well as requested a full erasure of illegally obtained data of Skyworth TV users".

"Skyworth TV is grateful to the users who have brought this to our attention. Moving forward, we will implement more stringent reviews on the conduct of our partners and service providers to safeguard our users’ privacy, data, rights, and interests."

Skyworth also said that "Data security and user privacy are our highest priorities. We will continue to safeguard our users' privacy, data, rights and interests".

Skyworth South Africa sells several models of Skyworth TVs locally but it's not clear what consumer data Skyworth TVs collect from South African viewers and users. 

Prompted by the issue of discovering that Skyworth TVs were spying on users in China, Skyworth SA was asked this week what dat it is collecting from users and viewers in South Africa. Republic PR didn't respond to the media enquiry.

NFVF apologises for omissions to nominees list for 15th SAFTAs with film Griekwastad and The Animation School increasing their nomination tallies.

by Thinus Ferreira

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) is apologising for leaving the names of some nominees off the list for the upcoming 15th South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) with the Afrikaans film Griekwastad, The Animation School and Green Leaf Films all getting a further chance at possibly winning a Golden Horn statuette.

The 15th SAFTAs, with Anneke de Ridder as executive producer, will be broadcast on Saturday 22 May, with a virtual half-hour "red carpet" broadcast starting at 18:30 and the 2-hour live broadcast that will start at 19:00 on the night and that will be a simulcast show on the SABC's S3 and Mzansi Magic (DStv 161).

In the category for Best short film, Address unknown from Green Leaf Films joins the existing three nominees of Heirloom (Butterfly Films), The Stranger (TH Films) and Uxolile (Zinc Pictures).

In the category for Best Student Film, Fowl Goblin from The Animation School joins Binding Adventures, Flower in the Subway and The Boy and the Robin that are all The Animation School nominees as well, taking its overall tally from 3 to 4 nominations.

In the category of Best achievement in directing for a feature film, Jozua Malherbe for Griekwastad (kykNET, DStv 144) is also a nominee and joins Jenna Bass for Flatland (DStv BoxOffice), Sunu Gonera for Riding with Sugar (Netflix) and Louw Venter for Stam (DStv BoxOffice). 

The additional nomination of Griekwastad for Jozua Malherbe means that the film increases its tally from 6 to 7 and that kykNET adds another nod, as well as Jozua Malherbe who is also nominated in the category for Best achievement in cinematography for a feature film.

The NFVF was asked why how the mistakes happened and who is responsible for checking the final SAFTAs nominees list issued to the media but the organisation didn't answer the question.

Neo Moretlwe, NFVF spokesperson, in response to a media enquiry says that "The NFVF on behalf of the SAFTAs would like to extend a sincere apology for SAFTAs nominees that were not captured on the initial list shared. This was an unintentional error that we have since rectified".


Thursday, May 6, 2021

SABC2 cancels Pasella after 23 years, channel says final episodes of the longrunning Afrikaans lifestyle magazine show will be a ‘tribute season’.

by Thinus Ferreira

SABC2 has cancelled Pasella after 23 years and 28 seasons, confirming that the longrunning Afrikaans lifestyle magazine show won't be back after the latest season.

Pasella weathered multiple day and timeslot changes over numerous years on SABC2 and was a yearlong show with weekly episodes until the SABC2 changed it to shorter, broken-up seasons in 2013 after 15 years.

Pasella started in March 1998 on SABC2 when Pieter Cilliers Productions began the series as a studio-based show. Filmmedia took over production a year later in 1999 and then Tswelopele Productions got the contract in 2001. 

Amor Engelbrecht was the longrunning producer of Pasella until she left and started her Media Club production company producing series for Media24's VIA (DStv 147) channel.

The final current season of Pasella on Wednesdays at 19:30 will be a "tribute season", meeting up with some of the presenters from previous years and showing the history of the series, along with everyone who had a role in creating and producing the series, including veteran Pasella crew and staff behind-the-scenes.

Maritha Greenland, SABC2 commissioning editor, says Pasella will end with a final episode that will be a wrap party, called a "Pasella party" to "give the show a proper, heartfelt goodbye".

The current crop of Pasella presenters are Paul Rothmann, Vicky Davis, Amalia Uys, Hemelbesem, Rumacques Gelderbloem and Sasha-Lee Davids.

Pasella is produced by Tswelopele Productions with Patience Stevens and Basetsana Kumalo as executive producers, with the company that was a powerhouse producer for SABC content for decades.

SABC3 cancelled Top Billing, also produced by Tswelopele Productions in October 2019 after 27 years after the South African public broadcaster could no longer afford the luxury lifestyle show.

Gerhard Pretorius, SABC2 channel head, said Pasella over the years was very good at adapting with how television changed.

"The decision has been a hard one, but it is necessary with the new schedule introduced in April this year, aimed at diversifying SABC 2’s Afrikaans magazine offering," he said. 

"This will also enable the channel to showcase different stories which represent the diversity of our nation and offer more opportunities for independent producers to bring their creative works to the channel."

The axing of Pasella is part of the ongoing restructuring of SABC2's linear schedule to replace old programmes with fading ratings with new on-air properties that could hopefully lure more viewers back to the channel.

SABC2 recently cut down both 7de Laan and Muvhango to just 3 episodes per week because of sagging ratings to slowly try and introduce other programming in the timeslots to see if the replacement series can attract higher viewership.

The final Pasella episode will be broadcast in January 2022.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Why South Africa didn't yet get the Disney+ and HBO Max video streaming services - and likely won't soon: The content is tied up in MultiChoice and M-Net's multiyear output deals with Disney and WarnerMedia.


by Thinus Ferreira  

Why can you buy the "Lego Brickheadz Star Wars The Mandalorian & Child" set - a new Amazon best-seller - at ToysRUs in South Africa for R369.90, but you can't actually watch Disney and Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian TV show legitimately anywhere in South Africa that the merc is based on?

Existing, multiyear content contracts between MultiChoice and M-Net, with respectively The Walt Disney Company and WarnerMedia, are likely the main reason why Disney+ and HBO Max have not been launched or earmarked with rollout dates in Africa and why South African consumers can't access these video streaming services.

Africa is the only continent conspicuously left out in the rollout plans, pronounced dates and access to Disney+ and HBO Max. 

It's likely ironically due to the issue that the access that Disney and WarnerMedia's have to their own content is currently tied up and curtailed in long-term distribution deals with traditional direct-to-home (DTH) pay-TV operators like MultiChoice and M-Net.

Known as so-called "output deals", both Disney and WarnerMedia are likely waiting for these multiyear international content distribution contracts for its shows, ranging from ABC to HBO seen across the M-Net (DStv 101) channel and others, to first lapse before launching Disney+ and HBO Max in South Africa.

Launching Disney+ and HBO Max as truncated streaming apps without a lot of the content on it that viewers might expect them to have but that might then not be available, could damage the initial brand perception under consumers of these video streamers if there were to be complaints about a lack of content.

Netflix - that previously sold some of its shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black to M-Net before it had its own service locally - as well as Amazon Prime Video, have both since launched in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa.

Neither of them has any big output deals with other platforms like MultiChoice that would make a dent in their own catalogue offerings in the way that Disney+ and HBO Max would struggle.

WarnerMedia has the same problem in the United Kingdom, where Disney+ has launched, with HBO Max that won't be rolled out in Britain until at least 2025 after its existing output deal with the pay-TV service Sky has lapsed.

While WarnerMedia has announced a detailed timeline for the ongoing rollout of HBO Max, South Africa has been snubbed with no indication of when the streamer might launch.

In response to a media enquiry asking whether its reluctance is due to its exclusive, long-term output deal with MultiChoice, similar to Sky, and if there's any indication as to when HBO Max might become available, WarnerMedia tells TVwithThinus that "Regarding HBO Max, we are focusing on our mid-year launch in Latin America, followed by launches in Europe where we already operate HBO services".

"We have not communicated plans beyond that and as you know, in many places, including in Africa, we have important content partners who distribute our programming."

About Disney+'s delayed launch in Africa, and if the company is worried about consumers pirate viewing its streamer's content, Walt Disney Africa says that "at this stage we have no news to share regarding Disney+, including its release in South Africa and the continent".

TVwithThinus asked MultiChoice in a media enquiry why Disney+ has not yet been added as an app to the DStv Explora Ultra, whether it has to do with MultiChoice's long-term output deal for content and if MultiChoice is specifically in any talks with Disney about adding Disney+.

MultiChoice was also asked why HBO Max isn't being added to the DStv Explora Ultra as a SVOD service and whether this absence is also related to another multiyear output deal with HBO for content that must first lapse in the way that is the case with Sky in the UK.

MultiChoice said that it has no comment at the moment.


New SABC2 game show The Coolest OG’s will pit golden oldies against each other from June.


by Thinus Ferreira

Old ain't cold and from June a new South African TV game show on SABC2 is going to pit elderly contestants against each other who will have to be able to work a cellphone and film challenges from inside their homes.

Produced by the Rebel in Town production company in conjunction with the G2 Connection marketing integration brand, The Coolest OG's will start on SABC2 on Sunday 6 June at 19:30 in which senior citizens will compete against each other to win the ultimate R100 000.

In The Coolest OG's, 12 old people from different cultural backgrounds across South Africa will compete in various tasks after they're sent a package containing a cellphone through which they will get various tasks and instructions each week to complete.

These tasks that the contestants will complete from their homes with family members or influencers who will be allowed to help them, will range from cooking, modeling, music videos, gaming, art, and songwriting.

A contestant will be eliminated every episode after the 4 judges who have watched the end result of tasks discussed how they've fared.

"Just because you're older doesn’t mean that you’re not lit," says Gail Hoffman Parrish, G2 co-founder.

"The older generation can also be cool and have a lot to teach us. We can say the same for the younger generation when it comes to teaching the older folk a thing or two."

The show is a social experiment but it's also terrific insight into the older and younger generations which will of course lead to spectacular and unforgettable TV moments."

MultiChoice culls the M-Net +1 TV channel on DStv after 5 years, says DStv Premium subscribers prefer to watch time-shifted content on the DStv app.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is axing another linear TV channel of DStv Premium subscribers with M-Net's time-shifted channel M-Net +1 (DStv 901) that is getting culled from the DStv channel line-up from 16 May after 5 years.

The M-Net +1 channel was launched in May 2016 specifically for DStv Premium subscribers and was an exact replica of the existing M-Net (DStv 101) channel on DStv, but with programming running one hour later on channel 901 on DStv.

When it launched M-Net +1, M-Net said that the channel caters "for a diverse audience with different lifestyles and viewing time preferences and we believe that the addition of M-Net Plus 1 will be welcomed by many of our viewers."

"While our prime-time scheduling is at convenient times for the majority of our series lovers, there are also many people - especially parents with young families, who can only start watching television a little later. With M-Net +1, viewers who don't have PVRs can now continue to enjoy linear television and stay on top of M-Net's excellent series." 

The axing of M-Net +1 is the 3rd TV channel that MultiChoice is removing from DStv in South Africa in 2021, and the 4th TV channel for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa as part of the pay-TV operator's ongoing content rationalisation drive of linear TV channels.

In response to a media enquiry from TVwithThinus, M-Net confirmed that M-Net +1 is being shuttered on 16 May. 

Asked why the channel is being taken off DStv, M-Net says that "We are constantly reviewing our content offering in line with our customers' evolving viewing needs. The termination of M-Net +1 is informed by our customers' increasing preference to view content on the DStv app and Catch Up."  

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island: Meet the 20 young castaways in the upcoming 8th season on M-Net that range from an aftercare and a math teacher to a lawyer and a live escape game owner.


by Thinus Ferreira

The young 20 castaways taking part in Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island on M-Net that starts on 3 June for 16 episodes include an aftercare teacher, a lawyer, multiple entrepreneurs, a math teacher and a live escape game owner.

Survivor SA: Immunity Island will premiere on M-Net (DStv 101) on 3 June with a special hour-and-a-half episode at 19:30, followed by 1-hour episodes weekly, and conclude with a 2-hour season finale on 16 September after 16 episodes.

There are 20 castaways from across South Africa taking part over 39 days in the new 8th season of Survivor South Africa with host Nico Panagio, that was filmed alongside South Africa's Wild Coast as a so-called "bubble production" because of the Covid-19 pandemic.



Besides 39 days, 40 is also a significant number this season: Perhaps because of Covid-19 it's also the "youngest" season of Survivor South Africa yet, with the top-age of the oldest castaway that is 40 - almost as if Survivor SA is playing a version of Logan's Run this season (the youngest castaway is 26).

The 20 South Africans were transported into true isolation on the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast, where they will attempt to outwit, outplay and outlast each other over 39 days in the new season to clinch the title of Sole Survivor and win R1 million.

"The series is shaping up to be the best-ever in Survivor South Africa history," says Jan du Plessis, channel director for M-Net channels, in a statement.

"The castaways this season proved that they will stop at nothing to emerge victorious – it's the most cut-throat, ambitious and engrossing season of the game we've seen, contested by a group of true super fans."

Leroux Botha, creative producer and series director, says that the first-ever local setting for Survivor South Africa has taken this season up another notch.

"When the castaways discovered they were going to be playing the game in a location closer to home than usual, some of them thought they could take a degree of familiarity for granted – but they soon find out that whether they're on the beautiful Wild Coast or on an island on the other side of the planet, Survivor always throws up tests, twists and challenges they couldn't possible foresee."


Amy Eliason (33)
corporate lawyer (Johannesburg)
Amy says her favourite drink – red wine - also led to her submitting an entry for this season of the show.
"I was at a braai and the advertisement for Survivor SA came on TV and with my red wine-stained lips and teeth I proclaimed, 'I can do that!'," she says. "I then proceeded to film my messy audition video, which somehow got me selected!"


Anela Majozi (25)
math educator & rugby coach (Johannesburg)
Originally from Durban but now calls Johannesburg home. Describes himself as "a typical Gemini".
"I'm simple yet also elaborate, deliberate and measured in my approach - and somehow also very careless at times," he says.


Anesu Mbizvo (29)
medical doctor, yoga teacher & small business owner (Johannesburg)
Describes herself as "a natural leader, healer, earth lover and avid dreamer".
The yoga teacher says of entering: "I am constantly searching for ways to grow and evolve and I wanted to enter Survivor SA so that I could find out who I would be when everything was stripped away and I was pushed to my limits."


Carla Gubb (29)
corporate sales executive & entrepreneur (Cape Town)
She says that having watched every season of Survivor that has aired over the past 20 years, she still believes you can never be prepared. "The game is so different every season and every player is unique, which makes it impossible to predict what is going to happen, or how to play," she says.


Francois Chapman (32)
entrepreneur (Centurion)
Better known as "Chappies" to his friends and fellow castaways.
He describes himself as an optimist by nature, who loves life and strives to make a positive impact in others' lives by living his life to the fullest.
"Swim upstream or don't swim at all," is his motto. Chappies says there's nothing he wouldn't do to win the game. "No hard feelings, just a hard game," he says.


Dino Paulo (30)
live escape game owner (Johannesburg)
He says his greatest strength is being able to laugh at himself, or throughout a tough situation, which has helped him demonstrate resilience. "Being easy-going and highly adaptable should have its advantages too," he says.


Jason Brookstein (27)
structural engineering draughtsman (Johannesburg)
He packed his hair elastics as the first item into his bag for the game – odd, then, that he says one of his greatest weaknesses is "barber shops".
Citing Joe Anglim, Ozzy Lusth and Sarah Lacina as his favourite-ever Survivor players, he says his strategy going into the game is to spot vulnerability and use it to his advantage, while networking and having options to move in the game.


Kiran Naidoo (29)
strategy consultant (Johannesburg)
Durban-born and absolutely adores competition. 
"Playing 'for fun' is quite literally the most annoying concept in the world," he says. "I am exceptionally curious about the world around me and the motivations behind why people do what they do. Lastly, I'm super sarcastic and quick-witted, if you don't pick it up, you may think I'm mean ... shame."


Marisha du Plessis (35)
Farmer wife and guest house owner (Tulbagh)
Describes herself as "outgoing, strong and very driven" – and hates being told she cannot or may not do something. 
While her greatest weakness is not being able to hide her true self, she says her strengths are how good she is with people, relationships, and the way she never gives up.


Mike Laws (32)
lawyer (Cape Town)
Calls himself "a classic city slicker". "I'm a corporate law geek with anxiety issues, strong opinions and a big heart". He entered this season "to see if a neurotic, city-slicker, white-collar geek could crack it in the wild" and prepared by learning to tie knots – although he declares himself "useless" at it.


Nicole Wilmans (26)
digital marketing manager (Somerset West)
"I think I was born to be on Survivor - I love the thrill of the game and how it challenges you in every possible way imaginable," she says.
"I am a passionate and enthusiastic woman. A go-getter and always up for a challenge," she says. Having packed her bikini first – adamant she was going to get that "Survivor glow" - Nicole says she feels like she'd been preparing her whole life for the game.


Noleen Nkanjeni (30)
freelancer (Cape Town)
Better 
known as Pinty, loves learning how to do new things and to go beyond her limits.
"That's why I like to think of myself as a 'Janet of all trades' who knows a little more than just a little about many different things," says Pinty. "Meeting new people and having meaningful, honest interactions is one of my favourite things."


Paul Cupido (29)
aftercare teacher (Johannesburg)
Describes himself as "single, very single", and thinks of himself as a kind and loving person, with a spontaneously positive outlook on life.
"I'm someone who's always up for a challenge – spiritually, mentally and physically and someone who often puts others before himself," he says. 
He entered Survivor SA because he wanted to be part of a social experiment, but also because he was craving a new adventure and a bit of excitement in his life.


Qieän (pronounced ‘Key-hahn’) Wang (35)
'Fun-employed' (Cape Town)
She is Taiwan-born and currently Hong Kong-based. 
She loves having the freedom to explore nature and be immersed in it. 
She describes herself as "highly empathetic, kind and fiercely loyal" – something for which she says she is often taken for granted, for.
"Expect some tears. I'm definitely not one who is afraid to show her vulnerability! Hopefully, the viewers will recognise me for my kind, nurturing nature and not mistake it for someone who is not aggressive," she says.


Renier Louwrens (30)
chemical engineer (Secunda)
"I've been playing the hypothetical game in my head for the past 5 years, discussing it and breaking it down with my wife and having loads of fun doing so," he says of his preparations to play the game.
"My wife and I have watched every season of Survivor out there. It's my dream to be able to play the game I’ve grown so fond of over the past 20 years."


Santoni Engelbrecht (39)
online business owner (Strand)
It's a case of "4th time's the charm" as she finally got her wish of becoming a Survivor SA castaway after three previous attempts.
"I love the dynamics of the show and always wanted to enter. I'm such a  'non-Survivor-looking person' and I wanted to show people that anything is possible if you put your mind to it," she says.


Shaun Wilson (40)
IT entrepreneur (Cape Town)
Is Norwich-born, Johannesburg-bred and now Capetonian.
Is a "geek who has an affinity for adventure and the biggest soft spot for dogs". His preparation for Survivor SA was non-existent. "Lockdown hit and I perfected my baking skills, spending time with my dogs and improving my KD rate on Apex Legends," he says.


Thoriso M-Afrika (36)
marketing officer (Uitenhage)
Is Port Elizabeth-born and describes herself as "The eternal optimist, fiercely loyal and a colourful character who lives in my own world".
"I'll stand out as an anomaly on the show because I wouldn't be caught dead camping, am a creature of comfort and would probably die if I ever did something like this alone," she says.


Tyson Zulu (24)
creative director and entrepreneur (Johannesburg)
"I'm a super creative, a jack of all trades and a perfectionist to a fault. I love animals more than people," says the Durban-born entrepreneur.
"Ten out of 10 times I'll always speak my mind and do what I feel." He entered Survivor SA as a learning experience. "I want to be a big player in the film and TV industry and learning, first-hand, from the biggest show in the country is a massive opportunity," he says.


Wardah Hartley (39)
yoga instructor and fitness professional
"I officially celebrate four decades on the planet this year, and I have learnt plenty about myself and about how human beings behave," she says.
After having been a journalist for 20 years, she developed the ability to quickly connect and build trust with virtually anyone she meets. "I wanted to put myself in an environment where I could put all of these valuable life lessons to the test – Survivor SA is my masterclass," she says.