Thursday, January 26, 2023

Tapfuma Makina is the new host of Ultimate Braai Master on for season 8.

by Thinus Ferreira

The new host of Ultimate Braai Master for the reality braai competition's 8th season is Tapfuma Makina who is replacing show creator Justin Bonello.

Tapfuma Makina joins the Trace Studios produced series in which several teams of two will once again compete against each other - this season across venues in the Western Cape - to see who South Africa's latest braai champions are, in 13 episodes starting on on Saturday 5 February at 17:00.

Tapfuma Makina takes over as presenter from Justin Bonello for the 8th season, with the series retaining judges Peter Goffe-Wood and Benny Masekwameng from previous seasons.

Tapfuma Makina who has presented various TV series and is also known as a TV sports news anchor on and a radio host, has a B.Sc degree in biochemistry and microbiology, and says he's excited to be a part of Ultimate Braai Master as the new host.

On taking over from Justin Bonello as Ultimate Braai Master host, Tapfuma Makina says "it's an honour to take up the baton. Justin created one of South Africa's most iconic and longest-running reality TV shows".

"That we're now in season eight of the show proves how phenomenal a concept it is, and how loved he was as a host. It's a privilege to be a part of the house that Bonello built".

"I love food but I am no chef, and have nothing but respect for those with that innate talent - I leave that to the experts Benny and Pete, now in their 5th season together on Ultimate Braai Master. Who better to judge?"

"I'm simply taskmaster, my job is to help the braai master hopefuls, and our audience navigate the mechanics of the show, and steer them through the twists and turns that comprise the journey to finding the next Ultimate Braai Master."

After travelling across South Africa in previous season for challenges, the series switched to using just the Eastern Cape province in the 7th season and now just the Western Cape for the latest upcoming season, marking a slight format change for the show which will likely start to utilise specific provinces for future seasons. 

With Ultimate Braai Master that was picked up by Netflix last season besides its airing on, Ultimate Braai Master with its new Western Cape season plans to "showcase the wealth of produce celebrated in the region, from free-range dairy and grain-fed cattle, to fresh grown organic vegetables from farm to braai to table". cancels Imbewu after 5 seasons.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Grapevine Productions show Imbewu on has been cancelled after 5 years with the KwaZulu-Natal series which will conclude at the end of March and get replaced by a new locally-produced drama series. gave no reason for the Imbewu cancellation which launched in April 2018 and has been one of the most-watched shows on the red letter channel the past half a decade, with eMedia saying that it remains "committed to its investment in local programming".

The late prime-time series focused on two Durban families - the Bhengus and Rampersads - and aired over 1 000 episodes.

"We'd like to thank the production for its commitment in delivering five great seasons of compelling stories, despite the highly competitive timeslots it found itself at 21:30 and 21:00," says Helga Palmer, eMedia's head of local programming.

The Imbewu co-executive producers, Leleti Khumalo; Duma Ndlovu and Anant Singh, in a statement say "We are proud to have created a trailblazing show that showcased the multicultural environment of Durban and KwaZulu-Natal".

"Imbewu changed the face of the daily drama offering on South African television with its unique storylines, cliffhangers and high drama, resulting in it becoming one of the most-watched shows. We are grateful to our broadcast partner, for their support of the show and for the opportunity."

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

MultiChoice adds two DStv SWITCH'D ON pop-up content repeat channels to try combat South Africa's crippling Eskom electricity blackouts.

by Thinus Ferreira

Following eMedia that launched a Power-UP! pop-up channel on Openview on Monday 23 January with repeats to combat Eskom's electricity blackouts in South Africa, MultiChoice is also launching two pop-up channels, both called DStv SWITCH'D ON, on DStv, starting on Tuesday 24 January.

With the two DStv SWITCH'D ON channels, MultiChoice and M-Net will repeat various of its own, locally-produced shows from the Mzansi Magic, Mzansi Wethu and kykNET & Kie channels for DStv subscribers who can't watch it during prime time due to Eskom's crippling electricity blackouts.

Content on the two DStv SWITCH'D ON channels will repeat up to 5 times.

DStv SWITCH'D ON on DStv's channels 109 and 110 will rebroadcast shows like The River, DiepCity, Gqerberha the Empire, Gomora and Arendsvlei and will be open to DStv subscribers in South Africa and Lesotho customers.

DStv SWITCH'D ON on channel 109 will run from 06:00 in the morning until midnight for DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus and DStv Compact subscribers.

DStv SWITCH'D ON on channel 110 will run from 07:30 in the morning until midnight for DStv Access and DStv Family subscribers.

eMedia's Openview adds Power-UP! as content repeat channel to try combat South Africa's crippling Eskom electricity blackouts.

by Thinus Ferreira

eMedia's Openview free-to-air satellite TV service has added a Power-UP! pop-up channel to Openview's channel line-up with Power-UP! which is designed as a second windowing opportunity to repeat content for South African viewers who miss shows due to the country's crippling electricity blackouts because of Eskom.

Power-UP! started on Openview on Monday on channel 114. It's now clear for how long Power-UP! will remain available as a temporary channel with eMedia which didn't specify an end date. Power-UP! will run for 18 hours daily with a repeat of local content like prime time drama series and soaps.

Power-UP! runs from 06:00 until midnight for 7 days a week with shows like Durban Gen, House of Zwide, Scandal! and Imbewu which repeat from Mondays to Fridays with 2-hour loops. The Black Door will repeat on weekends from 23:00.

Power-UP! will also carry omnibus repeats of the Afrikaans telenovela series #DisComplicated, Daai Crazy Somer and Die Vertroueling on weekends on Saturdays and Sundays.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The voice of ‘Tonight on eee’ Bongani Njoli falls silent at 53.

by Thinus Ferreira

The voice-over artist and DJ Bongani Njoli, the often-ridiculed but unique and beloved voice of's programming promos died on Sunday night. Born Lala Ngoxolo Bongani Njoli on 7 September 1969, he was 53.

The former Good Hope FM and Magic 828 presenter became iconic for his gravelly-voiced promos, often starting with a raspy "Tooonight on eeeee", as well as " Thuuursday night is action night" wrestling and Friday Action Night movies - all with an imitation American accent he added to everything from Bruce Wills movies to upcoming Walker Texas Ranger episodes.

His peculiar voice-over inflection led to comedian Trevor Noah starting to imitate Bongani Njoli's announcements in some of his comedy shows, with audiences roaring with laughter about someone they'd never seen but all instantly knew the voice of. 

"South Africa is a peculiar country," Bongani Njoli told BBC Radio's Outlook show in a 2017 interview. "A whole lot of us are English speaking but you also get those differentiations, you know, where I as a black person have to do a black English voice as just opposed to some other person doing a voice. We normally come with black English that sounds exactly like me".

The qualified teacher with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Diploma in Higher Education joined UCT Radio in 1990 during his student years and was the first black DJ on Good Hope FM in Cape Town where he joined in 1994 where he did an audition after he worked at Nampak.

After initially being rejected after auditioning for, he got a callback and then proceeded to do's TV promo voice-overs for 17 years for 2000.

Bongani was part of the team that launched Discom Vibes as a retail radio station for Clicks in 2004, where he was a presenter and music compiler until 2007 when he joined Cape Town's Heart 104.9FM doing two shows until 2009.

He joined Cape Town's Magic 828 in 2016. As a music producer, having worked on two SAMA-nominated albums in 2000 he started a music production company, Ebomvu Entertainment in 1999 with producer, Gabi le Roux.

The cause of his death is not immediately known.

"How many times can you watch Anaconda on a Friday night? Well, it depends on how Bongani Njoli can say 'This coming Friiiiday night on eeeee, Anaconda' and that's what got you to watch," Lester Kiewit of CapeTalk said on Monday morning.

About his voice, Bongani told the BBC that his voice helped to get him out of trouble and certain situations. "Once I got into trouble with the cops and one of the cops recognised my voice. 'Aren't you that guy who does 'Only on eee'? and said "I know you man, listen, go home and stop doing stupid stuff".

eMedia in response to a media query from TVwithThinus, on Monday afternoon said that the company will be making a contribution to Bongani Njoli’s funeral and that his death came as a shock to the family.

"Everyone at the family is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Bongani Njoli."

"As the most recognisable voice of our Friday Action Night movie promos and weekend blockbusters, “Bongs” was a true legend and part of the e family for 17 years."

"His untimely passing comes as a shock, he was in studio with us in December 2022 for a new movie campaign. But unfortunately, as he was too weak to record, we put the campaign on hold."

"A part of our history is gone with his passing, but we will forever remember him as 'the voice' – our voice. Those of us who worked closely with him will sorely miss Bongani's easy-going, gentle manner and utter professionalism. We have reached out to the family, and will be making a contribution for the funeral."

Friday, January 20, 2023

The SABC is about to make a very big change about TV repeats, will start to remove repeats across sister channels as it dismantle transversal strategy.

by Thinus Ferreira  

The SABC is set to soon make very big changes around repeats on the schedules of its three terrestrial TV channels and will soon get rid of cross-channel rebroadcasts to try and give a more distinct content character to SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 in an attempt to stem the channels' TV ratings slide.

Over the past decade, SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 diluted much of their unique channel identities as one channel's shows bled into the other two through multiple repeats - something the SABC called its "transversal strategy".

The aim was twofold: As the public broadcaster was forced to spend less and less on original local content, a myriad of repeats of one SABC channel's shows on another served to pad schedules and fill gaps, reducing the need to commission and schedule fresh content in those timeslots and keeping costs down.

Secondly, the SABC argued that the "windowing" of content from one channel on another was a promotion exercise, bringing in more viewers for rating tallies - especially in morning timeslots, and making potential new viewers aware that a show exists that they can watch in prime time as new episodes on another channel.

Now the SABC is finally starting to dismantle its transversal strategy after many years. 

The public broadcaster plans to return to programming and scheduling SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 as uniquely branded TV channel destinations and thereby reducing content bleed and channel brand identity dilution.

"We're looking at reducing our repeat ratio in prime time, and then realigning the network repeat schedule," Merlin Naicker, head of SABC video entertainment, told parliament.

"We'll start to remove repeats across sister channels. So you won't see Uzalo on SABC1 as an example, repeat on SABC2 and SABC3 going forward."

"We'll contain them from an audience perspective. It will be on the primary channel, and repeat on the primary channel as well. This also takes into cognisance that we have now launched our SABC+ streaming service, so repeat content would be better served there, than utilising the scarce spectrum we have in terms of linear broadcasting."

"The challenge we have on a linear TV channel service, what you broadcast goes to the entire population. With SABC+ which is an on-demand platform, it becomes much easier to repeat content where it's done on an individual basis."

"Each user can decide whether they want to watch a show or not. That's how SABC+ helps us with repeats."

"If you've missed it on the linear service, you can get it on SABC+ as a repeat and that's a viewer consumption pattern that we're starting to entrench with audiences that will allow us to exploit fresh content without impacting repeats," Merlin Naicker said.

The Real Housewives of Abuja to debut on 17 February on Showmax will bring a second set of Nigerian woman to NBCUniversal reality franchise.

by Thinus Ferreira

With the format proliferating like TV hamsters, MultiChoice's next African edition of The Real Housewives franchise will be The Real Housewives of Abuja which will be released on Showmax on 17 February across Africa, showcasing the lives of six women living in Nigeria's capital and eighth largest city.

The Real Housewives of Abuja, set in another Nigeria city similar to The Real Housewives of Lagos, will release a new episode on Showmax every Friday and will include the Abuja women Arafa, Comfort Booth, OJ Posharella, Princess Jecoco, Samantha Homossany and Tutupie, as "they navigate their opulent lives, relationships, family and businesses within the powerful city of Abuja and beyond".

The reality series's launch will follow after the debut of The Real Housewives of Gqeberha which will have its TV debut on M-Net's 1Magic (DStv 103) on 3 February following women in the Eastern Cape's Nelson Mandela Bay metropole.

The Real Housewives of Abuja and The Real Housewives of Gqeberha are the latest two African franchise editions, joining existing series like The Real Housewives of Johannesburg, The Real Housewives of Pretoria, The Real Housewives of Lagos, The Real Housewives of Cape Town, as well as The Real Housewives of Durban which will have its third season starting on 1 February on Showmax.

The Real Housewives of Abuja is produced by Delmedia Productions.

Busola Tejumola, MultiChoice head of content and West Africa channels, says "Telling our local story is at the core of what we do, and we are glad to continue this partnership with NBCUniversal Formats, to bring the franchise to a second city in Nigeria".

"The new series will follow the luxurious lives of six influential and successful women in Abuja."

Arafa, creative director and founder of Selaralifestyle is a married mom of twins and an art entrepreneur. 

Comfort Booth is a partner at Asia Ahmed & Co and is a lawyer, social commentator, travel blogger and talk show host.

Ojoma Sule, known as "OJ Posharella", is an entrepreneur and CEO of the Posharella Group of Companies.

The hotelier Princess Jecoco is a married mom or two as the managing director of the Sefcon hotel group and is a lawyer, brand ambassador, influencer and content creator.

Samantha Homossany is the creative director of Zohi Taglit and is a wellness entrepreneur. She is married to an Israeli millionaire and the mother of four kids. 

Tutupie is the creative director of Urban Day Party and is an event curator who is a certified chef.

Netflix adds 7 million subscribers, will enforce password crackdown more broadly in 2023 as Reed Hastings steps down as co-CEO.

by Thinus Ferreira

In its 2022 4th quarter earning report presentation on Thursday night Netflix announced that it had added 7 million subscribers, that it will enforce its newly-implemented password crackdown drive more broadly in 2023 and that Reed Hastings is stepping down as the video streamer's co-CEO.

Netflix added 7.66 million new subscribers during the last quarter of last year, more than the 4.5 million new subscribers it projected. It means that Netflix ended 2022 with 230.75 million subscribers in total worldwide, also higher than its projected 227.59 million.

Netflix announced that Reed Hastings, who co-founded Netflix and who will remain executive chairperson, is stepping down as co-CEO, while Ted Sarandos will remain as co-CEO.

Greg Peters is promoted to co-CEO, with Bela Bajaria promoted to chief content officer and Scott Stuber getting promoted to Netflix Film chairperson.

Netflix grew by 3.2 million subscribers in its Africa, Europe and Middle East region, 910 000 subscribers in the United States and Canada, added 1.76 million Latin American subscribers and another 1.8 million subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region.

In its shareholder letter, Netflix writes that "2022 was a tough year, with a bumpy start but a brighter finish".

'We believe we have a clear path to reaccelerate our revenue growth: continuing to improve all aspects of Netflix, launching paid sharing and building our ads offering. As always, our north stars remain pleasing our members and building even greater profitability over time."

Password crackdown for Africa
Netflix which started to introduce a password crackdown on sharing accounts in some regions in late-2022, plans to roll this out more broadly this year, including across Africa and South Africa.

"Later in Q1, we expect to start rolling out paid sharing more broadly," Netflix says in its latest shareholder letter.

"Today’s widespread account sharing (100M+ households) undermines our long-term ability to invest in and improve Netflix, as well as build our business. While our terms of use limit use of Netflix to a household, we recognise this is a change for members who share their account more broadly."

"So we've worked hard to build additional new features that improve the Netflix experience, including the ability for members to review which devices are using their account and to transfer a profile to a new account."

"As we roll out paid sharing, members in many countries will also have the option to pay extra if they want to share Netflix with people they don't live with. As is the case today, all members will be able to watch while travelling, whether on a TV or mobile device."

Revived Gossip Girl cancelled, Outlander ending with prequel series spinoff.

by Thinus Ferreira

The revived Gossip Girl series has been cancelled after two seasons, while Outlander will be ending after eight seasons although the story will continue in a spinoff series.

Josh Safran, showrunner of the revived Gossip Girl series, has revealed that the show has been cancelled after two seasons. 

The 2021 Gossip Girl, from Warner Bros. Discovery's HBO Max seen on MultiChoice's streamer Showmax and the Me (DStv 115) channel, was a reboot of the 2007 series which chronicled the "scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite" teenagers.

"So here's the goss: it is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce Gossip Girl will not be continuing on HBO Max," he wrote on Instagram.

"The EPs and I will forever be grateful to the network and studio for their faith and support; the writers for their devious brains and dexterous talent; the superstar cast for being the greatest of collaborators and friends; and the crew for their hard work, dedication and love for the project."

"This was honestly the greatest set I ever worked on, top to bottom. We are currently looking for another home, but in this climate, that might prove an uphill bottle, and so if this is the end, at least we went out on the highest of highs. Thank you for watching, and I hope you’ll tune into the finale next Thursday to see how it all comes together. xoxo."

"A big thank you to all the GG fans around the world. You’re the reason we came back in the first place, and who knows, maybe the reason we will meet again. Much love."

HBO Max in a statement says "We are very grateful to showrunner/executive producer Joshua Safran, and executive producers Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz for bringing us back to the Upper East Side and all the scandals at Constance Billard".

"Although we are not moving forward with a third season of Gossip Girl we thank them for the enticing love triangles, calculated backstabbing and impeccable fashion this series brought to a new audience."

Outlander ending - with a spinoff
Meanwhile, Outlander, seen on M-Net (DStv 101) will be ending although the story will continue with a new spinoff, prequel series.

The 16-episode 7th season of Outlander will be broadcast this year, with the 8th season likely sometime in 2024 which will have 10 episodes.

"For nearly a decade Outlander has won the hearts of audiences worldwide and we're pleased to bring Claire and Jamie's epic love story to a proper conclusion," says Kathryn Busby, president of original programming at Starz, in a press statement announcing Outlander's ending.

"But before we close this chapter, there is plenty of their passionate story to tell over the course of 26 new episodes and even more to explore of this dynamic world and its origin story. We're thrilled to continue to partner with Matthew, Maril and Ronald and can't wait to see where their alluring storytelling takes us next."

Outlander will be followed by a prequel series, Outlander: Blood of My Blood, which will chronicle the love story and romance of Jamie Fraser's parents, Brian Fraser and Ellen MacKenzie.

"Outlander: Blood of My Blood is, at heart, a love story. It will explore what lengths a person will go to find love in a time when love is considered a luxury, and when marriages are made strategically, often for political or financial gain," says Matthew B. Roberts, Outlander showrunner who will continue as showrunner on the prequel series.

"The title is a nod to Jamie Fraser's marriage vow to Claire and there will be several names and faces that Outlander fans will know and recognise."

"Jamie and Claire's TV story may be coming to an end with season eight, but Diana is continuing on with their literary journey in her wonderful book series and is working diligently on book ten. With Jamie and Claire, and now Brian and Ellen, there is still so much more to come in the Outlander universe, and we cannot wait to continue sharing these stories with our dedicated fans."

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Notable theatre and arts critic Bob Eveleigh dead at 86.

by Thinus Ferreira

The indefatigable South African theatre and arts critic and reporter Bob Eveleigh has died from Covid-19 complications. He was 86.

The Herald newspaper where he had worked for decades reported Christopher Robert Eveleigh's death on Thursday, after his family confirmed that he had died early on Wednesday morning. 

Bob Eveleigh fell ill on Wednesday last week and was admitted to a hospital in Gqeberha where he was placed on a drip and received oxygen.

The beloved arts critic and reporter started out as an insurance broker but moved into arts journalism in 1973.

As an influential writer, journalist and columnist, Bob Eveleigh's passion was promoting and covering arts - especially theatre, although he covered all forms of art, including film and television - and served as the arts and entertainment editor of The Herald, The Evening Post and The Weekend Post from 1980 to 2007.

He continued covering arts and culture as a freelance writer for the past 15 years.

In 1991 Bob Eveleigh founded the annual Port Elizabeth Showtime Awards.

"Bob had a wealth of global show business knowledge and was instrumental in the development of many young musical theatre actors’ careers through his annual Showtime productions," his niece Nici Lovemore, who is also the chairperson of the Port Elizabeth Dance Festival Committee, wrote on Facebook.  

"His Showtime Awards have become coveted and prestigious acknowledgements of local theatre excellence. You shone a unique, extraordinary light Uncle Bobby. You will be greatly missed. There will be a small, private funeral for family only."

Linda-Louise Swain, co-founder of the Rother Swain Drama Studio and drama teacher, wrote on Facebook that Bob was "such an example of pure joie de vivre for the arts, energy and endless vision for the next project".

"Your many years as arts editor are a tribute to the dedicated journalist that you were. Fly free, special soul."

The Eastern Cape South African Championships of Performing Arts (Sacopa) said Bob "had the utmost respect for the world of the performing arts and its people, he showed kindness and compassion towards up and coming performers and wrote fair reviews true to his character. He was truly a cornerstone of the theatre community, a true force to be reckoned with who ensured that the world knew about the endless talent in the Eastern Cape".

Bob Eveleigh leaves behind his wife Glenda with the couple who have been married for 57 years.

MultiChoice adds Qwest TV to DStv, StarTimes adds Kartoon Channel! for StarSat as 2023's first TV channel add-ons.

by Thinus Ferreira 

MultiChoice is adding Qwest TV as a music channel while StarTimes is adding Kartoon Channel! as a kids channel, as the first two pay-TV channel additions for 2023 to DStv and StarSat.

Quincy Jones' Qwest TV will launch on 20 January on MultiChoice on DStv channel 330, with the channel which will be available to all DStv subscribers in South Africa and 43 other African countries.

Qwest TV which started in 2017, shows concerts from legendary artists as well as upcoming stars from across the world, as well as music documentaries and interviews with artists. The channel says it plans to bring "genre-agnostic musical content to the African continent".

Reza Ackbaraly, Qwest TV CEO, says "We are elated to be part of the MultiChoice family and to launch Qwest TV to the African market. We are expanding our mission to offer high-end music to everyone."

Georginah Machiridza, MultiChoice head of general entertainment channels, says that "whilst our audiences are driven by an appetite for homegrown content, we also complement it with the best in international content. To this end, we work with a selection of partners to ensure a comprehensive one-stop shop for our customers. Our partnership with Qwest TV is one we are thrilled about, and we cannot wait for our DStv customers to experience it".

Meanwhile, China's StarTimes pay-TV operator in Africa is adding the Kartoon Channel! from Genius Brands to the channel line-up of StarSat in South Africa and 46 other African countries from the end of January.

Kartoon Channel! will be available to StarTimes and StarSat subscribers on the basic tier, with kids shows like Genius Brands Originals like Stan Lee's Superhero Kindergarten, Rainbow Rangers, Thomas Edison's Secret Lab and Llama Llama.

Over weekends Kartoon Channel! will broadcast family-friendly films like Stan Lee's Mighty 7, Ella Bella Bingo, Toys & Pets and Boonie Bears.

INTERVIEW. SABC video boss Merlin Naicker on SABC+, sports, SABC3 and shaking up repeats: 'We’re evolving'.

by Thinus Ferreira 

If there's an embodiment of the mythical Sisyphus, it's Merlin Naicker, head of SABC video entertainment, cursed - or is it blessed - with the gargantuan task of trying to give everybody everything when it comes to public television in South Africa - then going to sleep, waking up and having to do it all over again.

TVwithThinus sat down with Merlin Naicker for a wide-ranging conversation about SABC+ and the aspirations and plans for this new streaming service, what his message is to producers and viewers, how the SABC wants to streamline the commissioning of content, and plans to cut down on the schedule disruption with sports programming.

Find out how the broadcaster dramatically plans to change the scheduling of repeats across SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 within the coming months, why Merlin says SABC3 remains a pivotal TV channel in South Africa, and if he thinks the broadcaster's linear TV ratings slide can be turned around. 

Over the past six years the SABC antagonised and alienated many in South Africa's production industry with cancelling contracts for shows. There's been late payments and non-payments to producers and companies said they prefer working for Netflix now and taking projects to MultiChoice channels like Mzansi Magic or M-Net. 
Over the last few months the SABC has been doing roadshows across provinces to talk to the producers. What is the SABC's message to producers and the country's production industry about the SABC?
Merlin Naicker: Firstly, we're not comparing apples with apples. 

When the streaming services go out none of them are required to fulfil mandated requirements, so they not compelled to broadcast education, religion and kids content, they can broadcast whatever is most popular. Typically, they follow the audience, where we as the SABC talk to social cohesion and building a nation. We're not in the same boat as they are. 

We also run by volume and value larger productions than anybody else, we're running about 200 productions currently today at a cost of about R1.3 billion to put that out to air.

The message we want to get across to producers is that the SABC is a broadcaster to be considered in terms of their productions, but we have a specific way in which we operate. Since we are a state-owned entity, we have to account for every rand and cent we spent in a lot more detailed way when compared to other broadcasters out there. 

With the roadshows we were very positively received in all of the provinces, producers were encouraged to note that the SABC is going out and doing roadshows on the productions we're looking for and how they can work with us. It's about relationship building, it's also about taking the challenges that they see in terms of working with us and ironing those out so that we become a lot more efficient going forward.

What is the SABC trying to simplify?
We've introduced an e-commission portal. If you go to the SABC website you'll see the commissioning tab and you register there as a producer or as a content owner and you'll be able to submit your concepts to the SABC a lot faster. 

No longer do you need to send 7 written copies of your proposals to us. 

The system is designed in such a way that it should take your information and it will pre-qualify you based on our requirements, so you'll know before you finish your submission whether you're submission is going to proceed or not. We deal with compliance issues immediately.

In the previous way of doing this, you wouldn't know until somebody went through that proposal and came back to you and say "We don't have your TV licence data or don't have you logged on the central supplier data base".

We're also committing to turning around these concepts and proposals within 21 days after you submit something to us, we will write back to say whether we're interested or not interested. We're really fast-tracking and speeding up that process of feedback. 

As a producer you can also log onto the website and see exactly where your proposal is at any point in time. It will relieve a lot of frustration not knowing what's happening. You can't use the portal just yet, the team said let's do it first thing in 2023. We'll open the portal and really put it through its paces.

The last open call we did, we got 1284 proposals, so we deal with a lot of volume. The e-portal is to move that along a lot faster.

I remember when the SABC used to issue a request for proposals (RFP) book annually with everything the SABC was looking for. Is the SABC still issuing an RFP or has that been phased out? Will we see that again?
It's difficult to say but I want a lot more flexibility in my business. 

I can't issue an RFP at the beginning of the year, wait for that and then at the end of the year go and decide whether we got through all of the proposals. What we will do is a combination. 

We acquire content through an RFP, we have a solicited window and we have an unsolicited window. The RFP is our real long-running shows and our big value items like Generations and Muvhango

We will definitely put out RFPs for those programmes in the future. Then the solicited window is where channels and the content team have the ability to go out to the market to solicit ideas within a specified genres or a specified duration or a specified target demographic, in which case we wouldn't go through a full RFP process. The idea is to engage the industry.

In the unsolicited window we invite people to submit idea to us that have no definition from the SABC. In this case, what will happen the producer will say "We see that a lot of this is happening internationally. Why aren't you doing these kinds of programmes? I can supply you with X, Y and Z, or I can propose this'.

So there are three different strategies. Firstly we will tell the industry about mandated content. In the solicited window we engage the industry in terms of what concepts could work, what they see as being suitable for the SABC. In the unsolicited window, it's really the industry engaging with us.

'South Africa's TV universe is on
 a growth path but the challenge
 is that people are changing
 their viewing patterns'

There's ongoing Eskom load-shedding and blackouts, flooding last year, the analogue transmitters switch-off coming,  a lack of new content - all of it contribute to the decrease in linear TV channel ratings. Can falling ratings be turned around?
Yes, definitely. You know, South Africa's TV universe is on a growth path but the challenge is that people are changing their viewing patterns. 

There are definitely a lot more TVs available but a lot of these TVs are not connected to linear TV services, they're connected to on-demand services.

What we've found is a lot of volatility in the market. The Covid pandemic has really changed people's content consumption patterns and we see fluctuations that are quite drastic. In one month we might have grown by a million people watching a particular programme and the next month it drops by 700 000. That is something we're trying to stabilise. The growth in audience numbers is a little bit flatter from an advertising perspective. 

With the analogue switch-off coming in, we've launched our SABC+ platform allowing us access to a digitally enabled consumer and gives us entry into the on-demand space.

The SABC is working on a big change regarding repeats and rebroadcasts. Repeats of SABC prime time shows on a specific SABC1, SABC2 or SABC3 channel are no longer going to repeat in the mornings on another SABC channel.
In analysing audiences, we started to look at things viewers don't necessarily verbalise to us but which you see with the data. 

When your repeat broadcast generates a significant audience - in some cases a repeat can generate more viewers than the premiere broadcast - you start to look at what is on at the time of the premiere broadcast elsewhere. What we pegged it down to is the fact that viewers have a lot of choice during prime time. 

If your content is repeated or is widely available, viewers go: I'm not really keen to watch something in its premiere slot, I can pick it up elsewhere.

It's the same thing with in the past you could only buy bread from the supermarket. Now you can pick up bread from the garage store, so you don't go to the supermarket specifically to go get bread.
Similarly, our audiences are not coming specifically to a channel for a show in its premiere run because there are so many repeats available.

Our forward-looking strategy is that if we make content available on a primary TV channel, we should exploit a repeat on the primary service. Because we have SABC+ as our over-the-top (OTT) platform, repeats are no longer a convenience factor that we should be offering on a linear service. 

You can get SABC+ free as an app and you can go and watch the content at any point in time that you like. That opens up the schedule for more premiere content and more strategically placed content on the schedule which is what informs this strategy.

From when will this be?
We have scheduled this with our new fiscal but on-demand has a nature of its own, right? 

This is not my first time doing on-demand. I said to the team, looking at the research, we really need to react a little bit faster to that, so we're looking at probably implementing this as soon as is feasible.

If you remove content from the schedule, you have to replace it with something else. So it's always a toss-up with keeping the costs in alignment but also giving the audience the content that they want. 
So between now and April 2023 we will start to implement our strategies.

'SABC3 has seen a lot of growth in the
 last year, so much so that over the weekend
the audience has doubled and tripled'

The BBC has four terrestrial channels and just said it's looking at shutting down its these linear channels in future. BBC Four is already a library content repeat channel the BBC plans to shut down. With them going from four channels to three, what is the reason for existence of SABC3? Wouldn't it be better to shutter SABC3 and consolidate and improve the offering of SABC1 and SABC2?
The two public broadcast channels SABC1 and SABC2 speak directly to African language services which we need to cover and SABC3 is a public commercial service talking to inclusivity and with content predominantly in English - so three very different portfolio of services.

We do have 11 official languages which are unfathomable in any other market. The UK faces other competition; you can also pick up over 200+ channels in the UK for instance free-to-air. Just point your satellite at a different position in the sky.

The SABC is fulfilling a public mandate. Our content is available to the entire population at no cost. That mandate will continue to exist. 

We also have a very different economic environment than Europe or the UK. A lot of their market is middle-income earners. We have a lower-income earner as well who still needs to be entertained and informed and educated on what's happening.

What we're trying to do really hard now is to really compete. As much as we're the public broadcaster, we still compete in a commercial space. So we had to make sure that our content stand head and shoulders above our competitors. We certainly get that right with SABC1. 

SABC3 has seen a lot of growth in the last year, so much so that over the weekend the audience has doubled and tripled.

We definitely see all three services definitely continuing, standing alongside each other. It's a matter of trying to find that balance between public mandate and commercialisation that we're busy working on.

Sports programming on the SABC has caused schedule disruption. Something would at short notice come in - for instance suddenly cricket then pushed on SABC3 and then you lose your Isidingo prime time audience for a week. 
With SABC Sports now in existence as a channel, how do the SABC envision streamlining sports content allocation and reducing schedule disruption?
We had always conceptualised and thought of a sports channel as something after analogue switch-off - in which case all services would have the same distribution on the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform.

It means SABC Sport would have the same coverage as all of our other linear services, so we wouldn't be competing from a schedule perspective because whatever audience you get on SABC Sport would be the same audience you'd get on SABC1, SABC2 or SABC3.

The challenge for us has been that the analogue switch-off has been delayed, so that strategy hasn't really borne fruit for us.

The first part is to recognise that with the analogue switch-off we will have the same distribution, so we would have three TV channels that talk specifically to general entertainment, and one thematic channel that talks to sports.

The idea was that we would remove all sports content from the other services so we could really deliver on our mandate and drive our schedule from an entertainment perspective, and then sports content would sit on SABC Sport, without disrupting or displacing any revenue on the other services.

The strategy on sport is from a public service mandate to cover all sports of national interest, as well as sports which include the South African national teams across all disciplines. We've been really working hard at it and I think we've been fairly successful. SABC Sport commands a huge audience even when we broadcast content that some of our competitors have as well. We see larger audiences on our services compared to the other platforms.

 There's definitely an appetite in the market for sports content and we will continue with that. 

With SABC+ that we've launched it also makes it easier for us to offer "events" on an event-by-event basis. 

We could continue the main channel as SABC Sport and we can now also have a pop-up channel come up like what we've got now with the SABC Festive channel on SABC+. It allows us to experiment as well and a pop-up channel gives you that flexibility as a broadcaster.

For the  Women's World Cup we're definitely looking at doing a pop-up type channel.

Would you ever put first-run, original content, made specifically for SABC+ first on the streamer to make that a compelling destination? for instance commissioned eOriginals going first to eVOD to lure viewers there, and then it gets a linear airing on months later.
It's important to note that we are the public broadcaster so our strategy is not going to be the one you're seeing from other broadcasters.

Everyone assumes that once you've launched a video streaming service you start commissioning content for that and continue. We do not get funded like everybody else gets funded. We exist to provide content to the South African audience on a free-to-air basis. SABC+ continues that but in a digital realm. 

Ultimately we'll get to a critical mass where SABC+ will stand on its own. 

And it's entirely possible that at that point in time we'll start to commission shows for OTT as a first-run and then it may come back to a linear platform as well. There's definitely a lot of fluidity we're seeing right now. 

We're not prescribing how we're going to roll out the model but for this first phase of its lifespan it's about access and it's about capturing a digital audience. 

As we go forward, once we generate the required traction and we get that critical mass in terms of numbers, most likely we'll be able to fund content directly for SABC+.

'This 85-year-old organisation
still has a lot of life in it'

Lastly, what message do you have for the viewer?
This 85-year-old organisation still has a lot of life in it. 

We acknowledge that our consumers sit across a very large age spectrum. They're diverse culturally and in their value spectrum and there's something for everybody on the SABC at any point in time. SABC+ really brings that about for everybody to understand. 

I had some comments from people who said they've never watched Shaka Zulu and they're seeing it now on the OTT platform and they're "wow, this is fantastic stuff, we didn't know that the SABC did this kind of content". 

If we as the SABC make the content more discoverable, a lot more available ... certainly the feedback has been overwhelming. A lot of people have been very complimentary to the changes and we want to continue that success.

We will start to introduce user-generated content, we will start to introduce interactivity into our services - viewers will start to vote and participate. We also launched on the same day our sports portal - that's everything to do with sports whether we have the rights for it or not. 

That's something that's also very integrated into the SABC+ platform, so we really are putting content together, as opposed to separating it and spreading it out on multiple platforms. If there's anything you want on the SABC, you just go to SABC+ and pick up everything there. Keep watching. This space is growing. We're evolving.

INTERVIEW. Andy Cohen on Below Deck, Real Housewives and giving good TV.

by Thinus Ferreira

If television were a circus - well, who are we kidding, TV is a circus! - then Andy Cohen with his devious smile is its ringleader. 

Since mid-October, the host and executive producer of Bravo's American talk show Watch What Happens Live! with Andy Cohen can now be seen on weeknights in South Africa on E! (DStv 124).

TVwithThinus sat down with Andy from his home, to get him to spill some of the tea on The Real Housewives success, Below Deck's ocean of South Africans, and how he keeps control of his talk show guests.

What advice he has for people who want to go into the entertainment biz? Andy shares everything - including some secrets from his set. 

In the Bravo reality series Below Deck and the various spinoffs we now see on E! there are so many South Africans, I'm wondering what you make of that?
Andy Cohen: Well, you know in my experience with yachting there are for whatever reason there's good representation ... you're well-represented in boat crews for some reason. 

And I love it! Listen, you guys are cheerful and chipper and great at what you do, upbeat and fun and great looking. So, what can I say? You're perfect on Below Deck!

You're one of the executive producers on The Real Housewives. What on earth did you unleash on the world Andy? 
We have four South African versions in four different cities here on MultiChoice's DStv now. Nigeria has one. Dubai has one. There are all of the American ones. If you look back now, did you have any idea it would become this successful?
Andy Cohen: No, I mean, absolutely not.  I absolutely did not think I would still be talking about this show 16 years later. 

It's changed my life, and it's changed a lot of people's lives. It certainly changed the lives of everybody on it. There are so many international versions. 

I have nothing to do with any of the international versions except for Dubai. But I hear Durban is great! 

To me, I was always a great fan of soap operas growing up, so I think for a lot of people for a generation, has replaced soap operas. I'm proud of the show, I'm still a fan of the show, and I'm excited and surprised and gratified and grateful that Watch What Happens Live! is now broadcast for you all on E!. It's great!

'I have a sense of what we need to get,
 and what the viewers are looking for' 

Since you started Real Housewives, how has it changed and how has it changed from what you've set out to do?
Andy Cohen: I think that as it has gone on, I think certainly you can't overlook that this is now an institution, this show. 

In the early days it was more experimental, a lot of them didn't know what they were getting into, and what it would be, and I think some people join the show with an expectation of, you know, this is what I'm supposed to do. 

I think that's good and bad because the truth is we want people to be themselves, we don't want them to be who they think we want them to be. You know what I mean?

You mention the soap operas. In your very first biography, Most Talkative, you wrote that when you went to summer camp you asked your mom to record your soap operas and TV shows. 
I think so many people who end up in the industry entertainment can so relate. Television and those stories are all we had to show us other bigger worlds.  What advice might you have for young people who want to go into television or film?
Andy Cohen: Follow your dreams. Do whatever it takes to follow your passion. 

Follow the kernel that is the thing that you're interested in. It will then reveal itself further. If you think "Oh, I'm interested in this a little bit" follow that and see where it goes. 

With Watch What Happens Live!, what have you learnt in terms of - you're kind of like to me Twitter before Twitter started. Volatile guests sometimes, slightly unhinged, they're erratic and it's all unpredictable and you don't know who's going to say or do what. 
What did you learnt about enjoying it as host but also having to keep it from going off the rails?
Andy Cohen: Well, you know, it's my job and I think that being a producer of the show helps because I have a sense of what we need to get, and what the viewers are looking for and what's important and what's going to make good television.

I think I know my limits with the women and they know what they're there to do also. It's an interesting dynamic.

The backdrop of Watch What Happens Live!. So beautiful. How much of that stuff is real and from maybe your life or house?
Andy Cohen: Well, it's funny that you ask because I'm on my home office right now which you can see mimics the set of Watch What Happens Live! 

The answer is pretty much everything on Watch What Happens Live! are things I brought to the set when we launched 13 years ago or things that we've accumulated over the years. Some of them have historic significance to The Real Housewives, some of them have significance to me, and others are just things that look good. 

It's fun to look back there and figure out ... there are things audience members have given me. It's 13 years of history there.

And the beautiful rainbow spined books, what is that because I need to get that from Amazon.
Andy Cohen: Those are Childcraft encyclopaedia. They're vintage from my childhood. It's called Childcraft. The whole set of them. 

Watch What Happens Live! with Andy Cohen is on E! (DStv 124) weeknights at 22:30