Tuesday, May 31, 2022

'JASON's INPUT'. Disney+ went down in South Africa on Tuesday afternoon displaying 'error json input'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Disney's Disney+ video streaming service abruptly went down in South Africa on Tuesday afternoon and making it inaccessible to subscribers, only displaying a "Something went wrong" and "error json input" message on the landing screen.

Disney+ subscribers in South Africa complained that they received no help or assistance from Disney+ during the service outage and no explanation as to what went wrong.

"India Hotstar. More like Hotmess," remarked one angry Disney+ SA subscriber, referring to India's Hotstar who is responsible for the badly done technical side of the Disney+ app being used in South Africa and which is apparently a much worse version that the Disney+ app used in the United States and elsewhere in the world. 

"Yo, Disney+, what's up with your service today?" asked another Disney+ South African subscriber. "Json error on all platforms when trying to stream anything. Ya'll aware of any issues?"

At 15:00 on Tuesday afternoon Nick de Bruyne said he notified Disney+ SA earlier in the day about the problem and that Disney+ was still down.

"Do you want to call me too, or should I just put you straight on to my son who had to go watch Netflix instead after I had to explain to him that it's not working ... again."

Disney+ SA subscriber Martin Stabbrey said "Disney+ crashed in South Africa. Keep getting this error trying to play anything and through three different streaming services. Rebooted countless times."

Another said: "I was watching fine one moment, next moment this error popped up. When I click retry, same error. When I click help, I get an access denied error".

At the time of publication, Disney PR hasn't yet responded to a media query with any answer asking why Disney+ went down in South Africa.

UPDATE 16:05: Disney PR says "We experienced a brief technical issue that resulted in the Disney+ app temporarily being down. It was quickly identified and resolved. We apologise for the inconvenience to our subscribers."

MultiChoice and M-Net's unsustainable Afrikaans film channel fliekNET goes back to being a DStv pop-up channel from mid-July 2022.

by Thinus Ferreira

With not enough content and new Afrikaans films to keep it going as a permanent movie channel, MultiChoice and M-Net's Afrikaans film channel fliekNET (DStv 149) will go back to being a DStv pop-up channel from mid-July 2022.

fliekNET that started out as a DStv pop-up channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service will cease to be an ongoing DStv from midnight on 15 July, a year and 10 months after it changed to being a permanent DStv channel in September 2020.

fliekNET was originally launched as a holiday film DStv pop-up channel in 2014, that would "pop up" in years after that as a kykNET channel brand extension, before it morphed into a permanent DStv addition in mid-2020.

New Afrikaans films will now premiere on kykNET (DStv 144) on Sundays at 20:00.

kykNET says new Afrikaans films and 50-minute short films will continue to be made and shown on kykNET and that the channel has a new Saturday night movie timeslot at 20:00. kykNET is also developing new 90-minute films which will be shown from 2023 on the channel.

MultiChoice isn't saying why it's taking fliekNET away as a permanent DStv channel and says "channel and content offerings are reviewed regularly in terms of viewing trends and consumer needs. This market research may lead to channel additions or terminations".

MultiChoice says the pay-TV operator "remains committed to the local feature film industry and is proud of the successes of and international recognition received by films such as Barakat, Indemnity and Gaia in recent months".

MultiChoice City in Randburg completes first Dolby Atmos sound production suite upgrade.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice has recently completed upgrades and the installation of its first Dolby Atmos-enabled production suite at its MultiChoice City headquarters in Randburg, South Africa which it will be using to package and edit the sound for local series and films sold internationally. 

It is the first Dolby Atmos-enabled suite built by MultiChoice used for doing the final audio mix of content broadcast on DStv and its video streaming service, Showmax, as well as for local content licensed internationally.

MultiChoice said the deployment of Dolby Atmos tech at its broadcast centre was the first of many to come, with the upcoming tech refreshes of its audio final mix suites also earmarked to be Dolby Atmos as part of sound technology upgrades.

"Dolby Atmos is a surround-sound technology that goes beyond the ordinary listening experience to deliver unparalleled clarity and depth. The new production suite unlocks business benefits for MultiChoice, as movies and series can be packaged for international broadcasters that require Atmos-ready content," MultiChoice says.

"This was the first Dolby Atmos-enabled production suite for MultiChoice. Most of the technology and equipment in this studio were new to us, so we had to read up on just about everything, but it was very interesting," says Kabelo Lebajoa, a MultiChoice media technology engineer Kabelo Lebajoa in the statement.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

kykNET cancels Afrikaans kletch Tussen Ons on kykNET & Kie after 4 years.

by Thinus Ferreira

kykNET has cancelled its Afrikaans female talk show Tussen Ons after four years with the last episode that will be broadcast on kykNET & Kie (DStv 145) on Thursday 30 June at 20:00.

Tussen Ons, from Homebrew Films, made its debut in July 2018, modelled on American TV talk shows like The View, with a coterie of female talkers - Tracey Lange, Zelda le Grange, Kay Karriem, Success Lekabe and Ingrid Jones - discussing various topics.

Episodes of Tussen Ons were filmed at Atlantic Studios in Cape Town where the kykNET & Kie soap Suidooster is also shot.

In other kykNET & Kie schedule changes Kô, Lat Ons Praat, better known as KLOP! with Kaapse Forum activist and chairperson Heindrich Wyngaard as presenter, moves from Wednesdays at 20:30 to Sundays at 19:30.

African content creators should be empowered with skills to tell African stories, says MultiChoice content strategy boss Georginah Machiridza.

by Thinus Ferreira

As a buffer against the video ocean of Western streaming content now flooding Africa, the African continent's content creators should be empowered with the skills to tell African stories.

So says Georginah Machiridza, MultiChoice's head of content strategy and third party channels and who is now heading up the Randburg pay-TV operator's balancing act and ongoing efforts in commissioning, curating and funnelling content from dozens of sources globally and locally to DStv subscribers in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa. 

"We're all aware of how rapidly the media landscape is changing," says Georginah Machiridza, sharing her opinion as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+ and others are flooding Africa with their offerings where Disney+ has now also launched in South Africa last week, and as consumers now share their available time not just between watching TV and consuming video content and social media, but even making and sharing their own content on platforms like TikTok.

"Audiences have been migrating to digital and online channels for more than a decade, and even established media such as broadcast, film, and radio are using hybrid platforms that reach audiences across multiple channels," she says.

"A modern media company would likely use a combination of broadcast media, social media, written content, video clips, as well as animation and physical activations to share content and market their brand."

"This constantly evolving media terrain requires a diverse range of skills. Storytelling lies at the heart of most media messaging, but specific technical knowledge is required to translate compelling stories for every channel."

"Writing, cinematography, video editing, TV, radio and online presenting, animation, coding and content management are just some of the specialised skills of the modern media landscape – many of which are evolving in real-time as their respective media fields develop."

"Africa is at the coalface of these developments," says Georginah Machiridza. "New media provides enormous opportunities to reach more of our people, with more compelling content, and to do it more efficiently and cost-effectively."

"The challenge, though, is that we must continue to tell African stories, even while many technology innovations and Big Tech companies originate outside Africa. Digital media evolution comes with a very real threat of cultural imperialism."

"The solution to avoiding this Western cultural hegemony is twofold. Firstly, we must empower African content creators with the skills to tell African stories. Secondly, we must create viable, profitable markets for African content, and grow demand for that content."

"Fortunately, Africa has long been a hub of creativity and innovation. We have found our voice in the digital economy, and there are many creators telling African stories for African, as well as global audiences."

"These include people like Kenyan comedienne Elsa Majimbo, Ghanaian internet personality Wode Maya, Ghanaian visual artist Prince Gyasi, Kenyan journalist Brian Otieno, South African illustrator and artist Slaying Goliath, SA comic Donovan Goliath and others. These innovators are Expressing Africa through compelling content using digital and social media platforms."

Investing in authentic African stories
"African media platforms such as DStv and Showmax are also enabling this trend," says Georginah Machiridza, "creating platforms across the continent tailor-made to showcase African stories for audiences hungry for stories about themselves and their culture."

In 2018, M-Net and MultiChoice spent R2.5 billion developing local movies and series and bringing them to screens across Africa.

"By investing in original productions of authentic stories and talent across the continent, M-Net is helping to launch acting, writing and filmmaking careers, both locally and internationally."

In Ethiopia, the MultiChoice channel Abol TV provides premium, 100% Ethiopian general entertainment 24 hours a day, she says.

In Uganda, Pearl Magic provides a similar offering, while in Nigeria, MultiChoice Nigeria and Africa Magic provide channels in Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.

"Customised hyperlocal MultiChoice offerings are also available in Ghana, Angola, Mozambique and Kenya and a third party channel launching in Zimbabwe recently."

Georginah Machiridza says emerging platforms – whether broadcast, streaming or digital – have created enormous opportunities for African media workers and content creators.

"Creating the skills that enable young creatives to grasp these opportunities is the other way Africa will find its voice in the digital era."

"Helping to provide this, by building a pipeline of skilled African content professionals is the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF).

"The MTF plays a critical role in building and strengthening the TV and film industry across Africa, and was born out of a need to solve for representation, local content, and higher production quality and value."

"MTF is a shared-value platform and strives to be Africa’s leading training ground for content creators."

She explains that MTF Masterclasses give working film and television professionals and those who aspire to be content creators exclusive access to practical, industry expert-led skills workshops, where they interact and learn from the best in Africa and the world.

The online portal already has more than 40 000 registered users who have access to a growing library of masterclass content.

"These initiatives are all part of Africa's cultural and technological resurgence, creating opportunities and building capacity, allowing Africa's creative output to stand proud on the world stage."

Over 70 illegally-activated Openview decoders, 203 DStv remote controls seized in Zimbabwe.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Zimbabwe police have confiscated and seized over 70 illegally-activated Openview decoders in the country and over 200 DStv remote controls, once again focusing attention on the massive and growing problem of TV content piracy in Southern Africa fuelled from out of South Africa.

While eMedia Investments continues to tout the strong growth of its Openview free-to-air satellite service, it's an open secret that some of that growth is fuelled by content starved consumers in neighbouring countries around South Africa, buying illegally-activated Openview decoders smuggled out of South Africa and watching content and TV channels like e.tv and SABC channels which are actually only licenced for viewing within South Africa.

Openview decoders are legitimately bought in South Africa, activated once, inside South Africa using South African cellphone numbers, and then taken over the borders to neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe where consumers buy the "bootleg" Openview decoders and DStv equipment from vendors who are illegally selling the already-activated equipment.

This week Zimbabwe's The Herald newspaper reported that the Zimbabwe police seized 72 Openview decoders, 203 DStv remote controls, as well as 95 counterfeit DStv power units, in addition to 5 receipt books from 8 shops in Harare selling these illegally. 

Pirate viewers and pirate sellers are a growing problem for video content suppliers doing business in Africa like eMedia and MultiChoice who are seeing the value of their services damaged by pirates who get access and illegally resell what they offer.

Antonio Lee, eMedia COO, in a statement, says "Police are having success in breaking up decoder smuggling operations and arresting their local associates, who are bringing Openview decoders from South Africa into Zimbabwe, in contravention of customs, trademark and copyright laws".

"Raids and seizures are happening across the SADC region, as part of a broader piracy crackdown. Coming on the heels of the earlier busts, it shows that we are turning the tide on the illegal decoder trade and content theft."

"We are grateful to have the Zimbabwe police as our partners in this war on piracy. Anyone purchasing these products in Zimbabwe is robbing the country of customs duties and Zimbabwe's TV professionals suffer when viewers watch foreign content instead of homemade Zimbabwean shows."

'This is not the digital review screener you've been looking for': Disney+ not making Obi-Wan Kenobi available to media for review purposes before its launch.

by Thinus Ferreira

Disney PR and marketing is not making the new Lucasfilm miniseries Obi-Wan Kenobi available to media for review purposes before it launches with a double episode on Friday 27 May - at least not for South Africa's "regional" press where Disney+ just launched last week.

After multiple requests to Disney South Africa media reps for access to a digital screener of the series, Disney PR finally responded on Wednesday evening, saying that "feedback from regional" is that "unfortunately no screeners will be available until the day of launch".

It means that Disney doesn't want to show the media Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ and any of the actual content, despite doing media junkets and interviews globally and within America for it.

There are various reasons as to why Disney doesn't want to show the upcoming show to media - and it could be that just journalists and TV critics outside of the US are locked out, or that American media are also not privy to a preview to do reviews.

It could be that Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ is bad. Studios and distributors notoriously don't do media previews or a screener for content they don't believe in, perceive themselves to be sub-par or want to limit exposure to, fearing, or trying to limit bad reviews, articles or media coverage.

It could be that Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ is good or excellent or that Disney considers it themselves to be of such quality that it doesn't feel it needs to do publicity or show the content. 

In this case, Disney's calculus would be: We don't care about the professional critics, Disney+ subscribers will watch it and word-of-mouth about its quality will carry the viral workload that media reviews would have performed.

It could be that Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ contains so many, or some, spoilers that Disney PR decides that in order to limit spoilers, it's keeping the show away from any prior preview/review by media.

If this is the case, it raises another important issue: With journalists and media signing strict non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) beforehand before digital screeners and links are issued - used by everyone for series and certain films from Netflix to whoever (and specifically stating from when reviews and articles can run) does Disney not trust the media it is dealing with?

If Disney doesn't feel it can trust the media with whom the Mouse House has press relationships with to keep content secrets and spoilers a secret, what does it say about Disney's media management and depth and quality of the commercial and transactional PR relationships with the press it is dealing with?

Surely, if Disney asks media "please agree not to spoil this inclusion, appearance, surprise or plot twist", Disney's PR and marketing reps and publicists in regions the world over should be able to say with certainty and confidence that these media and journalists' behaviour are above reproach and that they can really be trusted to keep to agreements?

A lot of Disney+ subscribers and pirate viewers are going to watch Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi from Friday the moment it becomes available globally, irrespective of reviews or what the TV critics have to opine about it.

What is interesting, and important, is that Disney, when it sells content through marketing and publicity efforts, actually shows that Disney itself believes in that content by showcasing it and making it available to the various which Disney deems trustworthy enough. 

Launching a show with a PR effort but not actually showing the media the show, is like opening a restaurant and having food critics over, without actually serving any food, or doing a car show for motoring journalists without having any car in the showroom.

New star-studded 13th season of Talakani Sesame on SABC2 from 6 June will help kids and parents to understand and talk about different feelings.

by Thinus Ferreira

The new star-studded 13th season of Takalani Sesame which will start on SABC2 on 6 June with new episodes on weekdays at 15:30 will feature guest appearances by Sho Madjozi, Prev Reddy, Holly and Mimi Rey, Farieda Metsileng, David Kau, the Goliath brothers and others, and help parents and kids to understand and talk about different feelings.

The new 13th season of Takalani Sesame will focus on helping people understand "big feelings" ranging from sadness and frustration, to recognising when you're scared and angry and what to do about it.

Takalani Sesame episodes are available in English on Mondays, isiZulu on Tuesdays, Sesotho on Wednesdays, isiNdebele on Thursdays and Afrikaans on Fridays.

Innocent Nkata, managing director of Sesame Workshop South Africa managing director, says the focus of the 13th season of Takalani Sesame is on helping children and parents recognise emotions and how to process them - especially when something feels overwhelming.

"The season's lessons will help children identify and name big feelings and provide strategies to manage these emotions."

"Big feelings can be difficult for young children to handle or overcome and that's why in the brand-new 13th season of Takalani Sesame, our beloved Muppets are focusing on what to do when your emotions feel like they're about to burst out of your body."

"The season's lessons will help children identify and name Big Feelings and provide strategies to manage these emotions, skills that are critical in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic."

"Kids learn best when they're playing and having fun. That's why Elmo, Zuzu, Moshe, Zikwe, Kami and animated friends like Basma, Jad and Grover come up with games and songs that let children explore different emotions and how to deal with them."

"This could be like feeling left out when someone else is chosen to play a game first or feeling frustrated if you don't get something right the first time, and the Takalani Sesame friends learn techniques to help them cope with big feelings, like belly breathing, counting to five or drawing it out."

Mari Payne, Sesame Workshop South Africa director of education and outreach, says "Recent developments have proved to us the importance of building resilience and overcoming trauma by developing critical social-emotional skills".

"By helping children build social-emotional skills, we're giving them the tools they need to thrive both in school and in life."

Danie Swart, SABC head of education, says "SABC2 and SABC Education have been long-standing champions of edutainment as part of our drive to entertain and inform our viewers and we are so happy to see a diverse contingent of South African celebrities joining a well-loved, proudly local show".

Another former MultiChoicer is now at Netflix with Efosa Aiyevbomwan heading up Netflix PR and publicity for sub-Saharan Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

Yet another former MultiChoice staffer who worked in communication and publicity there has found greener pastures at Netflix, with Efosa Aiyevbomwan who is now the public relations and publicity manager for Netflix in sub-Saharan Africa.

Efosa Aiyevbomwan from Nigeria, together with Marang Setshwaelo from South Africa as Netflix Originals publicity director for sub-Saharan Africa, now oversees the publicity initiatives for Netflix content in Africa and in South Africa.

Netflix has been and is currently using the Eclipse Communications and DNA Brand Architects PR companies for various publicity initiatives around new content, or when there are eventing attempts to try and create buzz around certain shows and films like Bridgerton or Silverton Siege.  

Efosa Aiyevbomwan, who previously also worked at MultiChoice, is the latest staffer from the pan-African pay-TV service to join the red N in the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

Efosa Aiyevbomwan's appointment follows after the former MultiChoice communications manager Sbu Mpungose also jumped from MultiChoice South Africa to Netflix earlier this year. 

Francois Rank also abruptly and quietly exited MultiChoice earlier this year after just 9 months at the pay-TV operator as MultiChoice senior manager for corporate communications without any goodbye and MultiChoice not saying a word to the media about either of their departures or alerting that they're gone.  

Before joining Netflix as new PR boss for Africa Efosa Aiyevbomwan was chief marketing officer at Appzone in Lagos, Nigeria for a year, and before that headed up communications at Uber in West Africa.

He was at MultiChoice Nigeria and M-Net West Africa for 4 years since mid-June 2014 heading up public relations and talent first for M-Net West Africa and its Africa Magic channels on MultiChoice's DStv in Nigeria, before adding and becoming DStv Nigeria's PR manager in September 2017 to his responsibilities.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

After 4 years, filming finally starts on M-Net's Shaka Ilembe drama series from MultiChoice and Bomb Productions, Lemogang Tsipa to portray adult Zulu king.

by Thinus Ferreira

Four years after announcing it in May 2018 and languishing in a seemingly protracted pre-production doldrum, filming has finally started on MultiChoice and Bomb Productions' TV drama series Shaka Ilembe in South Africa's Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, with Lemogang Tsipa who will portray the adult king and newcomer Ntando Zondi as the boy Zulu warrior boy.

Besides Lemogang Tsipa, Nomzamo Mbatha will play Queen Nandi, Shaka's mother with Nomzamo who is also an executive producer of Shaka Ilembe.

Years after announcing Shaka Ilembe but struggling to move forward with filming of the project, MultiChoice and Bomb Productions are now finally filming scenes of the series on which work had already started two years before MultiChoice and M-Net publicly announced it in May 2018.

The production has consulted historians, academics and family descendants, including the late King Goodwill Zwelithini and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. 

So far Shaka Ilembe has provided work for 8 000 people, MultiChoice said on Wednesday of the series which will debut in 2023.

While Shaka Ilembe was initially earmarked for linear playout on M-Net's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel, it's likely that the show has now been shifted to M-Net's 1Magic (DStv 103) channel to go to DStv Premium subscribers first.

The Shaka Ilembe cast also includes Thembinkosi Mthembu as King Dingisway and Wiseman Mncube as King Zwide.

Angus Gibson, Bomb Productions creative director, says "It is magical witnessing these performers bring life to characters we only know from the history books. When the cast arrive on set, fully dressed in wardrobe and hair from the period, I am blown away."

Lemogang Tsipa

Nomzamo Mbatha

Thembinkosi Mthembu

Senzo Radebe

"Being able to bring this important story to the screen with such stellar talent speaks to the heart of MultiChoice's ongoing commitment and investment in our local entertainment industry," said Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice CEO of general entertainment and connected video, in a prepared statement on Wednesday.

"We are committed to telling great African stories and this is a proudly African series told through the lens of Africans for the very first time."

"We want people to learn about our history and culture, but we also want to keep viewers glued in anticipation. This drama seeks to uncover nuggets of history, but creates narrative in the gaps by putting known characters alongside fictional characters in order to keep the story moving."

In the statement, Nomzamo Mbatha says "I am honoured to bring the giant that is Queen Nandi to life. History will remember those who informed its people of where we come from, to better understand who we are. I am fortunate to be part of a project that is much bigger than ourselves and to tell this story in our own language".

Nhlanhla Mtaka, an executive and cultural advisor on the series, says "This is our appointment with history; we want to capture the authenticity and deepen the understanding of this era".

MultiChoice dumps iTV Islamic community channel from DStv after a decade.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is dumping the iTV (DStv 347) Islamic community TV channel from 17 June after a decade.

MultiChoice added iTV in June 2012 to DStv for Muslim viewers when iTV itself replaced the Islam Channel.

MultiChoice says it's planning to replace iTV with another Islamic TV channel on DStv.

"MultiChoice constantly reviews its channel offering to ensure we continue to bring our customers the best quality local and international content," the Randburg-based pay-TV operator says in a statement.

"We continue to look for fresh content that resonates with our viewers and an announcement for a channel to replace iTV will be made in due course."

MultiChoice says although it's taking iTV away that DStv subscribers will still have access to Radio Islam (DStv 826) and Channel Islam Internationale (DStv 865).

In 2022 MultiChoice already lost or removed TV channels including Russia's RT and A+E Network's Lifetime, and announced that it decided to get rid of several of eMedia's e-packaged TV channels - eMovies, eMovies Extra, eExtra and eToonz - which is still on DStv pending the outcome of a case before South Africa's Competition Tribunal. 

TV news anchor Shahan Ramkissoon exits eNCA.

by Thinus Ferreira

Shahan Ramkissoon is exiting eNCA (DStv 403) today after over 7 years with sources who told TVwithThinus that the experienced TV news anchor is leaving his post as prime time anchor at the eMedia TV news channel and with tonight which will be his final broadcast.

In response to a media query, an eNCA spokesperson confirmed that Shahan Ramkissoon is exiting, saying "he has resigned and his last day will be 25 May". Asked what it wants to say about Shahan Ramkissoon the channel had no other comment.

Shahan Ramkissoon has been co-anchoring eNCA's 3-hour South Africa Tonight timeslot with Sally Burdett on weekdays from 17:00 to 20:00 the past 7 months. The first half of the 19:00-hour of South Africa Tonight, simulcast on e.tv, has seen strong ratings growth the past few months, luring 1.67 million viewers during April.

Shahan Ramkissoon moved to anchor eNCA prime time in mid-October 2021 from an afternoon timeslot, after he had also anchored other day and late night parts across the eNCA schedule.

Today marks Shahan Ramkissoon's second exit from eNCA where he's been for over seven years. 

He previously was at eNews and eNCA (then known as the eNews Channel on DStv) for 6 years between 2007 and 2013 after which he went to the Arise News TV channel for a 3-year stint, and then returned to eNCA.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Former Idols judge Randall Abrahams appointed Primedia CEO.

by Thinus Ferreira

The former Idols judge Randall Abrahams has been appointed as the new Primedia CEO and will start in the role today.

Jonathan Proctor, Primedia Group chief executive made the announcement in a press release late on Monday.

Randall Abrahams is known for his role as one of the judges of the singing reality show Idols on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) until last year after he was let go by the production company [SIC] Entertainment, producing the local version of the Fremantle TV format.

Randall Abrahams takes over from Geraint Crwys-Williams who was acting Primedia CEO and who had already left the position.

Primedia owns South African radio stations like Talk Radio 702, Cape Talk, 947, as well as the news division Eyewitness News (EWN).

"I am pleased to return to a swiftly evolving broadcast landscape and I'm very excited to join the Primedia Group," says Randall Abrahams in the prepared statement.

"Primedia remains at the forefront of both content creation and distribution with a drive for continued innovation."

"Working under Jonathan Proctor's leadership alongside a team of experienced marketers and creators is an exhilarating prospect, and l aim to bring my combination of experience and innovative ideas to the table."

Jonathan Proctor says Randall Abrahams has been instrumental in the turn-around and refocusing of the SABC commercial radio portfolio where he worked under Peter Matlare, and also worked in the complex merging and transformation of Universal and EMI Music Groups, as well as with the turn-around of the South African Music Awards (SAMAs).

Randall Abrahams previously served on various regulatory bodies such as the South African Standards Authority, the NAB and the Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) among other public service contributions. 

"I see him not only playing a critical role in entrenching Primedia as a forward-looking, leading-edge media company, but also in helping to accelerate talent development across our prized suite of media offerings."

Monday, May 23, 2022

Stage and TV actor Jamie Bartlett (55) has died from cardiac arrest.

by Thinus Ferreira

The multi award-winning South African stage and TV actor Jamie Bartlett also known as James Bartlett, most well-known for his role of TV villains Mike O'Reilly in Isidingo on SABC3, David Genaro in Rhythm City on e.tv, and as a judge on SA's Got Talent on e.tv has died from cardiac arrest. He was 55.

Jamie Bartlett's death was confirmed to eNCA (DStv 403) who spoke to a family member.

Jamie Bartlett was born in 1966 to his South African mother and a British father in Maidenhead, England. 

He went to school at St Stithians Boys College in Johannesburg, Rondebosch High School in Cape Town, and Brynston High School and although he wanted to become a professional rugby player, after completing high school, he studied speech and drama at the University of Cape Town.

Later he did a post-graduate master-class at Chrysalis Theater Acting School in London.

His first major role was in the US film American Ninja 2: The Confrontation in 1987 before making numerous appearances in both international and local films, ranging from Big Game, Blind Justice, In the Name of Blood, The Sandgrass People, The Revenger, American Ninja 4: The Annihilation and Sweet n Short, to Warhead, Ernest Goes to Africa, the M-Net film The Sexy Girls, Bravo Two Zero, Beyond Borders, 12 Days of Terror, Red Dust, Swansong for Charlie, Avenger, the horror thriller Prey, 2010's White Lion, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom as James Gregory, and 2013's Nothing for Mahala

Jamie Bartlett was married to actress Camilla Waldman and they later got divorced; they had a son, Hector together, wth Jamie who leaves behind his partner Rosa Onious.

Jamie Barlett was most famous for his TV character of Mike O'Reilly in Isidingo on SABC3 and had the distinction of appearing in scene one as the first character to ever speak in Isidingo.

After several years he moved on to Rhythm City on e.tv, playing David Genaro for which he won a SAFTA until the character got shot in February 2020. He was one of the judges during the 7th and 8th seasons of the reality variety competition series SA's Got Talent on e.tv.

Other TV roles included that of Richard Sterling in the second season of BET's (DStv 129) Black Tax and Family Secrets, as well as a role in Jozi-H

Jamie Bartlett also appeared on TV in the 1996-series Homeland as Miles Wilson, in Screen Two as Dickie and recently in the second season of The Republic on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) as a Russian ambassador to South Africa.

Most of Jamie Bartlett's theatre work happened at the Market Theatre, where he appeared on stage in 1986's Cock and Bull Story, portraying a gay boxer and which won him a Vita Award for Most Promising Actor.

A year later in 1987 he won the Vita Best Actor Award for his Market Theatre role in the satire East, after which he starred in 1990's Rainshark also at the Market Theatre. 

He played the lead in The Great Outdoors and toured Switzerland with The Fire Raisers, and he returned to the Market Theatre in 2011 for Death of a Colonialist as a 60-something history teacher and for which he won the Naledi Theatre Award for Best performance by an actor in a lead role.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Technical problems and personal info breach mar the Disney+ launch in South Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

Multiple technical problems and shocking breaches of personal consumer information marred the launch of The Walt Disney Company's Disney+ video streaming service in the country on Wednesday.

While some new Disney+ SA consumers logged in only to find the personal profiles and things like email addresses and cellphone numbers of other people, many potential subscribers complained that they didn't get the link or code that Disney+ promised to email or send if they registered beforehand for the once-off R950 special sign-up offer.

Moms who wanted to surprise their kids when they come home Wednesday afternoon with Disney+ were exasperated trying to sign up through the buggy Disney+ SA app, while others said they're angry and disappointed that they haven't received the link to the R950 offer by noon.

"What do you tell a 9-year old who has been looking forward to getting Disney+ today? Who is using his own pocket-money to pay for Disney+ and who has been so excited and looking forward to watching Disney+ today? He's coming home this afternoon with so much anticipation and we didn't get any link yet. It feels as if Disney wants to force us to pay the R1190 and to forget about the promise of giving it for R950 if you registered you're interest," an angry mom told Channel24 on Thursday. 

Other users said they were told by Disney+ technical support to sign up and get billed for the R1190 and to claw back the promised discount later.

Other said they struggled to sign up for Disney+, and several explained how, when they logged in, were suddenly linked to other people's personal profiles with access to their accounts and saw other people's email addresses, cellphone numbers and personal details.

The technical launch side of Disney+ SA is handled by Disney Hotstar in India.

In an interview on Tuesday the day before Disney+'s South African launch, Christine Service, The Walt Disney Company Africa senior vice president and general manager, said "We've worked really hard to make sure that the sign-up is seamless and we've done a huge amount of testing, but absolutely if something goes wrong for a customer you can go to the platform and either deal with any queries through a chat; you can ask for a callback from our call centre, or if you're accessing it from mobile phone you can actually click straight through and have a voice chat with the call centre as well".

"We hope that we will have very high volumes in the next few days as people who are exited, sign up."

Disney Africa was asked on Wednesday a range of questions about the technical issues that Disney+ users faced, and about people accessing other people's personal consumer data.

Disney didn't respond with an official reply to questions but insiders reiterated that Disney and Disney+ take the security of its customers' accounts very seriously.

According to insiders, a technical issues which impacted subscribers were resolved by Wednesday afternoon and no payment details were exposed and subscribers accounts remained secure. 

Insiders reiterated that emails and SMS messages are being sent to interested customers throughout the day and that people who haven't heard back from Disney+ should get in touch with our customer team. Everyone who pre-registered their intent should receive an email or SMS on Wednesday.

On Twitter Disney+ SA said it has "resolved the technical issue that temporarily impacted some of our subscribers seeing issues on their subscription details reflecting on their account profile. Please clear any app/browser cache and try again. We apologise for the inconvenience."

MultiChoice gives some DStv subscribers a R49 discount if they add Disney+ at R119 but a R110 DStv Access Fee is also required.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice has revealed how it will tie Disney+ SA into its DStv offering, with the traditional pay-TV operator who will give R49 off to DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus and DStv Compact subscribers who add Disney+ as a streaming service to their existing DStv subscription.

DStv Family, DStv Access and DStv EasyView subscribers are also able to add Disney+ to their existing DStv subscription but won't get any discount.

DStv subscribers who add Disney+ to their existing account, will pay one MultiChoice debit order for their subscription to DStv.

Disney+ launches today in South Africa as a stand-alone over-the-top (OTT) subscription video-on-demand service for R119 per month or R1190 as an annual subscription.

Disney+ will however also be available as an app on MultiChoice's DStv Explora Ultra decoder next to Netflix SA and Amazon Prime Video as part of commercial partnership with The Walt Disney Company, with DStv subscribers from the top three packages will be able to subscribe through DStv and then get R49 off of the R119 per month fee.

Oddly, MultiChoice states in its terms and conditions for Disney+ for these packages that "This offer terminates 31 March 2021, after which the discount will be discontinued".

MultiChoice is offering DStv subscribers who are part of its DStv Rewards loyalty programme three months of Disney+ for free.

A DStv subscriber who takes up Disney+ through MultiChoice, can only add one Disney+ subscription to their account. When a DStv subscriber's account is suspended for non-payment or by request, Disney+ will be suspended and stop working as well.

A DStv subscriber must pay the DStv Access Fee of R110 in addition to a Disney+ subscription fee for Disney+ to work. The DStv Access fee enables access to DStv Catch Up, DStv BoxOffice and Disney+.

With the R49 per month discount, a DStv Premium subscriber taking Disney+ with DStv Access fee will therefore pay R1019 per month, a DStv Compact Plus subscriber will pay R729, and a DStv Compact subscriber will pay R609.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

TV RATINGS April 2022: e.tv loses a million viewers as its audience shut their eyes for The Black Door, revived Big Brother Mzansi ends as DStv's 9th most-watched.

by Thinus Ferreira 

Viewers fled the debut of e.tv's risque new sex-scene filled local telenovela The Black Door in April, with e.tv that lost a shocking one million viewers in a month during prime time after switching the 21:30-timeslot from Imbewu to the Black Brain Pictures produced show.

Elsewhere in April's South African TV ratings, instead of sinking, Titanic came to SABC3's rescue, SABC2's ratings decline continues and Biggie's live broadcast bye-bye on Mzansi Magic was only DStv's 9th most-watched show.

The big ratings shocker of the month is on e.tv, where, after its April debut, The Black Door managed to lure what would seem to be a respectable 2.44 million viewers (6.33 AR / 35.1 share) after it took over Imbewu's 21:30-timeslot.

In context, however, the 2.4 million viewers for The Black Door are a shocking plunge of one million viewers in the timeslot where Imbewu still got 3.44 million viewers in March. e.tv's audience share of the timeslot also drop from 42.6% in March, to 35% in April.

Imbewu itself also got damaged in the new timeslot that show got shunted to, still luring 2.86 million viewers in April in the 21:30-timeslot before it was moved earlier and then dropped. 

Also quite telling: The Black Door's TV rating of 2.44 million in April is lower than Durban Gen's 2.75 million viewers in April on e.tv - a show that e.tv has decided to cancel. 

Elsewhere on the red letter channel, Scandal! was up further from 4.89 to 5.27 million viewers retaining its title in April as e.tv's most-watched show, followed by House of Zwide also up from 4.3 to 4.58 million viewers - the show's highest TV rating since it launched on the channel in July 2021.

While e.tv's eNews TV bulletin at 20:00 continued strong and stable with 1.92 million viewers in April, eNCA's South Africa Tonight simulcast on e.tv at 19:00 made a good showing with 1.67 million viewers.

Scheduling the drama series Is'phindiselo which was originally meant to be an eVOD streaming service exclusive on Sunday nights, is paying off handsomely for e.tv and lured 1.74 million viewers. Viewers also love e.tv's Afrikaans-dubbed Turkish telenovelas with Droomverlore grabbing a strong 1.66 million viewers in the 17:30-timeslot. 

SABC1's mixed bag 
On SABC1 the channel and the country's most-watched show sagged from its 7 million viewers in March to 6.4 million viewers for Uzalo in April, with Generations - The Legacy that remained flat at 5.56 million viewers.

Skeem Saam edged up slightly to 4.096 million from 4.040 million viewers in March, while Selimathunzi rose from 1.87 million to 2.15 million viewers during April. The Zulu TV news had 2.62 million viewers, while 2.6 million tuned in for the Xhosa TV news.

SABC2's ratings slide continues
SABC2's ongoing ratings slide continued in April as the channel starts to mirror the beginning of the troubles that led to SABC3's ratings problems. 

From just three shows left with over one million viewers in March, SABC2 further deteriorated to just two shows with more than a million eyeballs.

Muvhango as the most-watched show on SABC2 declined from 3.3 million to 3.28 million in April, while Hlala Kwabafileho at 1 066 447 viewers was the only other show to get more than a million viewers on the channel.

The Venda series Giyani dropped from 1 026 424 viewers in March to 987 098 viewers in April. 7de Laan remained stable at 897 739 viewers compared with 897 861 in March. 

The Afrikaans TV news improved from 595 955 to 649 046 viewers, while the latest season of the Afrikaans travelogue show Voetspore pulled a respectable 499 996 viewers to the channel in the 19:00 timeslot.

Morning Live continues to shine with 482 301 viewers.

SABC3 gets Titanic support
Titanic as a Saturday movie lifted SABC3's sinking ratings in April as the most-watched piece of programming and pulling the channel up from March's 576 562 viewers to higher viewer waters with 793 301 viewers.

Another film, Ice Age: Continental Drift, also helped lift S3 with 630 920 viewers as the month's second most-watch content. Even the English TV news at 18:00 was up from 440 491 to 524 295 viewers in April.

The channel's mix of BBC documentaries, films and variety shows had viewers tuning in for Serengeti (559 490), The Masked Singer (429 838), A Perfect Planet: Oceans (394 972), Britain's Got Talent: The Champions (375 071), The Shape of Water (349 121), and Water for Elephants (335 628).

Biggie's goodbye placed 9th on DStv
MultiChoice and M-Net's revival of Big Brother Mzansi showed slight improvement for its Sunday night finale on 3 April with 752 573 DStv subscribers who tuned to Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) but the live broadcast still ended as only the 9th most-watched show on DStv for the month.

It caps a disappointing ratings season for the reality show during which the channel lost 25% of its DStv audience on Sunday nights - roughly 400 000 viewers less than what the channel used to get in the timeslot before Big Brother Mzansi and the ratings-damaged 17th season of Idols occupied it.

Gomora on Mzansi Magic remained the most-watched show on DStv during April and grew a bit from 1.063 million to 1.27million DStv viewers, with The Queen which also grew a bit again from 814 637 to 1 077 302 viewers.

The River on 1 Magic (DStv 103) also grew from 707 169 to 804 304 viewers, as did Umndeni on Moja Love (DStv 157) from 514 116 to 613 948. The latest season of Housekeepers pulled 497 549 viewers, while Diep City improved from 655 496 to 829 222 viewers.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Event planner Aleit Swanepoel (47) dies in his sleep.

by Thinus Ferreira

The event organiser Aleit Swanepoel who is the founder and chairman of The Aleit Group has died in his sleep during Sunday night. He was 47.

The event organiser and wedding planner was known for his TV series Tyd met Aleit on kykNET (DStv 144) that ran for 6 seasons.

In a statement, The Aleit Group says "It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our founder, Aleit Swanepoel".

"Aleit passed away in his sleep, and while there is no further information to share at this moment, we ask that you keep his family in your thoughts as they go through this difficult time."

"Aleit was an innovator, perfectionist, and creative genius whose flamboyant persona and dedication will be greatly missed. We will continue to uphold and nurture his great legacy through all Aleit businesses and entities."

Aleit Swanepoel forged a career in South Africa's hospitality industry where he worked in several hotels and also managed a 5-star restaurant in Stellenbosch, worked at a wine company and in PR after which hs founded the Aleit Wedding and Function Coordination in 2002.

By 2006 it became the Aleit Group that did wedding planning and bridal styling, including Aleit Munich as its first international branch, corporate events, an online shop, and the Aleit Academy offering an events coordination course.

His first book, 100 Words about Weddings, was published in 2007. He leaves behind an adopted daughter, Kateline.

Aleit Swanepoel who was born in 1974 in Worcester in the Western Cape and studied at Unisa, previously appeared as a presenter of DeKATtv across three seasons, and across shows ranging from Top Billing to Pasella. He became known as a celebrity wedding planner, managing the wedding of the former Miss SA and Miss World, Rolene Strauss.

Waldimar Pelser, M-Net director of kykNET channels, told TVwithThinus in a statement on Monday "It was with shock that the kykNET team this morning learnt of the passing of Aleit Swanepoel who was a popular presenter with our viewers".

"His unbridled energy and passions touched everyone who got to know him. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues."

eMedia's Openview adds The Home Channel+ from Arena Holdings as a spinoff home programming TV channel.

by Thinus Ferreira

eMedia Investment's Openview s has added The Home Channel+ from Arena Holdings to its satellite TV service on channel 113.

After it initially ran as a weekend programming block on Summit TV from May 2005, The Home Channel launched in October 2007 on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service with an growing slate of design, décor, food and home-related programming and has been available only on that platform for the past 14 years.

The Home Channel+, packaged as a spinoff channel, will now be on Openview with a lot of the same content that is and has been seen on DStv.

The Home Channel+ branded spinoff channel will show the usual favourites, as well as additional content that will be new to Openview viewers, ranging from local shows like Design for You, The GardenerSA’s Finest Homes and the Property Game with Proverb, to international series including Grand Designs, Escape to the Country, Property Brothers: Forever Home and Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals.

"The launch of The Home Channel+ is another step in our relationship with eMedia," says Mzi Malunga, Arena Holdings CEO.

"Our content business Ochre Media makes e.tv's top-rated series Scandal! while our film distribution division Empire supplies titles to the various eMedia movie channels and their eVOD platform."

"We see free-to-air broadcast as a growing business and look forward to exploring additional opportunities together in the future."

Vernon Matzopoulos, Arena's head of broadcast, says: "“We are delighted to bring South Africa's leading lifestyle TV brand to the Openview audience. With nearly 3-million households this significantly increases our reach. We look forward to inspiring a whole new audience to create their dream home space."

May highlights on The Home Channel + include:

All About Property
Covering the local South African property market, various real estate professionals and stakeholders shed valuable insight into all forms of property dealings – from buying and selling, renting and maintenance, to finance, legalities, disputes, technology, and so much more.

Grand Designs UK
Following intrepid home-builders as they pursue their architectural dreams. Designer and writer, Kevin McCloud is on hand to witness the trials and tribulations of those willing to put everything on the line to build homes they hope will transform their lives.

Ten Minute Kitchen
It's dinner time and there are hungry mouths to feed, but you're out of ideas and you only have 10-minutes to conjure up an amazing meal. The impossible is now possible with Ten Minute Kitchen - a celebration of creative, easy, family-friendly meals that anyone can cook at home.

The Gardener
If you're looking for inspirational gardens, practical DIYs and solutions for your garden problems, then join Tanya Visser for a brand-new season of The Gardener. Whether you’re into annuals, looking to maintain the perfect lawn, want to show off with spectacular orchids or garden on a small scale, The Gardener has you covered.