Sunday, November 21, 2021

Mzansi Magic abruptly axes Idols winner media briefing for season 17 after 19 years as ratings plunge.

by Thinus Ferreira

In a shocking decision MultiChoice and M-Net have decided to drop the post-finale Idols press conference for the 17th season that will conclude this evening on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) with neither Karabo Mathe nor Berry Trytsman who will be given an opportunity to appear before the media and answer questions as the winner kicks off her professional music career.

For the past 19 years M-Net has held an Idols post-finale press conference with the national media from across South Africa in attendance for every single season of the Fremantle format singing reality competition show dating back to the conclusion of the first season in mid-2002 with Heinz Winckler.

Idols press conferences with national, regional and community journalists from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth working at newspapers, TV, radio and online took place when the show was on M-Net, continuing the tradition when the series switched to being a joint M-Net and Mzansi Magic show and eventually crossing over to a Mzansi Magic channel only show.

For the 18th season in 2020, M-Net and MultiChoice held the Idols post-show season finale press conference that had become institutional, with Mzansi Magic, the production company[SIC] Entertainment, as well as the winner and runner-up on the stage of the State Theatre in Pretoria.

It took place virtually on Zoom, with MultiChoice and M-Net that put in special effort and broadcast it to media across South Africa on DStv channel 196 as well with the TV channel that was unencoded for an hour specifically for journalists who wanted to watch it on their TV screens and submitted submit typed questions to the panel.

By Saturday South Africa's media got not notification or advisory from M-Net about Sunday's press conference for season 17. 

Philly Khubheka, M-Net publicity manager for Mzansi Magic, on Saturday confirmed to TVwithThinus that the Idols press conference has abruptly been dumped without any notification to media.

Tonight either Karabo Mathe from Hebron in the North-West, or Berry (Berenike Trytsman) from Cape Town will be crowned the winner of Idols' season 17 on Mzansi Magic, with a next season - in this case season 18 for 2022 - usually announced as the winner readies their Christmas album debut as part of a record deal with Kalawa Jazmee Records.

The live Sunday shows of the 17th season of Idols - with director and executive producer Gavin Wratten and co-producers Anneke de Ridder and ProVerb (Tebogo Thekisho) who is also the presenter - switched to Urban Brew Studios this year and a triangular stage, with Vodacom, Old Mutual, Truworths, Darling and Yamaha as the various sponsors this season.

For close to almost two decades the country's media would ask the winner and runner-up various questions at the Idols post-finale press briefing and their next plans, where the producers and M-Net would also field questions about aspects from the show, and with M-Net officially congratulating the winner before the media.

It would be followed by an official prize handover ceremony from the various sponsors in front of the media.

Philly Khubheka told TVwithThinus in response to a media query that M-Net decided to axe the Idols press conference because media allegedly prefer one-on-one interviews.

"Based on the take-up and feedback last year, our assessment is that most media prefer one-on-one interviews. Our anticipation is that post-Covid we will revert to the traditional in-person press conference set-up," she said.

She said M-Net's decision to dump the Idols media briefing is part of "a different approach and media are still an integral part of our process".

On a question of how M-Net will make up for the winner's loss of exposure and earned media derived from the collective big-buzz Idols press briefing to help launch their careers, Philly Khubheka said that "there are still opportunities to interview cast, crew and winners. We have already set up these for other media houses".

Asked if the Idols sponsors were told that there won't be a press conference with media and a prize handover before media following the end of the season where they get exposure, Philly Khubheka said that "our partners are aligned with our revised process".

Besides MultiChoice and M-Net axing the media briefing Idols suddenly appears to be in sharp decline with ratings that precipitously fell this season by hundreds of thousands of viewers as DStv subscribers tuned out.

While Idols previously reigned supreme as the most-watched or second most-watched show on DStv during a season's run with over a million viewers, the show suddenly shed hundreds of thousands of viewers this year and lost a shocking third of its usual viewing audience.

Idols started off season 17 with 1 018 607 viewers on Mzansi Magic in July as usual, as the 4th most-watched show on all of DStv for the month.

Instead of climbing and the usual ratings increase as interest would build, Idols suddenly plunged following a scandal that saw choreographer judge Somizi Mhlongo exit the show under a cloud of physical assault allegations. 

DStv subscribers were no longer interested in watching Idols following the scandal and the show plunged to 10th place on DStv's most-watched list with 693 760 viewers at most in August.

In September Idols stayed flat at 9th place on DStv with 709 655 viewers. 

In October Idols sagged even further to a season-low of 13th position with just 683 814 viewers. It's far off from where Idols used to rank during the live Sunday live spectacular phase of the show.