by Thinus Ferreira
South African television shed a shocking over 4.2 million viewers in prime time during May as TV ratings tanked because of Eskom's Stage 4 electricity blackouts, combined with the ongoing switch-off of analogue TV signal transmitters.
South Africa's TV ratings - as the country starts to move from autumn into winter - were supposed to show a slight increase as cooler weather and an earlier sunset keep more TV households indoors.
Yet the country's most-watched shows during prime time on SABC1, SABC2, e.tv and MultiChoice's DStv were damaged by massive viewership drop-offs during May as Stage 4 Eskom load-shedding kicked in at 17:00, lasting until 22:00.
Uzalo and Generations on SABC1 as South Africa's two most-watched shows plunged by a combined 1.6 million viewers during May. Uzalo shed 687 950 viewers, falling from 6.4 million in April to 5.7 million viewers. Generations - The Legacy lost almost a million viewers: 928 965 fewer viewers from 5.56 million to 4.63 million viewers in May.
SABC2's most-watched show, Muvhango, lost a whopping 876 721, plunging from 3.28 million to 2.4 million viewers in May.
e.tv's two most-watched shows also took a hammering: Scandal fell by 454 506 viewers from 5.27 million to 4.82 million viewers, while House of Zwide lost 69 030 viewers from 4.58 million to 4.52 million viewers.
The channel's timeslot switcheroo of Imbewu and its risque new local telenovela The Black Door brought further bad TV ratings for e.tv's for both shows for a second month in a row, with Imbewu shedding 531 656 viewers, falling from 2.86 million to 2.32 million viewers, and with The Black Door plunging 217 964 viewers from 2.44 million to 2.23 million viewers.
SABC3 turned in its second-worst ratings performance of the year, topping out at just 518 197 viewers at most for an episode of the BBC's Serengeti natural history series and everything else down as analogue signal switch-off keeps taking further TV household number bites out of the channel's potential audience.
To note: SABC3 is the SABC's TV channel most-affected by the ongoing Sentech analogue TV signal transmission switch-off.
On pay-TV, Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) saw Gomora sag by losing 150 368 DStv subscribers from 1.27 to 1.12 million viewers, while The Queen shed 325 234 viewers from 1 077 302 to 752 068.
Some uppers among the downers
On SABC2 the Afrikaans weekday soap 7de Laan showed slight improvement during June, up from a low 897 739 viewers to 1 040 016 viewers in May.
Morning Live on SABC2 also remained buoyant, improving from a great 482 301 to 492 423 viewers in May.
On e.tv its South Africa Tonight news at 19:00 was marginally up from 1.67 million to 1.7 million viewers in May, while the 20:00 e.tv News bulletin which went through a retrenchment process in May decreased slightly from 1.92 million to 1.75 million viewers in May.
The cancelled Durban Gen rose slightly from 2.75 million to 2.82 million viewers during May.