Tuesday, February 28, 2023

NASTY. A press release about M-Net, Quizzical Pictures and Fremantle was given to The Hollywood Reporter 'exclusively' before South Africa's media about the casting for its new drama series White Lies.

by Thinus Ferreira

In a very nasty and extremely insulting move, a press release about South Africa's M-Net (DStv 101), Quizzical Pictures and Fremantle with a general announcement (that it will only be send to South Africa's media on Wednesday morning) has been given to America's The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday evening about the new 8-episode local South African series White Lies which will soon start filming in Cape Town with British actor Natalie Dormer.

Utterly dissing South Africa's publications, journalists and media who are good enough to constantly report on M-Net's news and convey its information to the local TV and film industry, the general press release about M-Net was sent to The Hollywood Reporter to appear as an "exclusive".

In this general press release published as an "exclusive" - although the exact same information will be sent to other media - M-Net "announces" that the Game of Thrones starlet Natalie Dormer is in Cape Town for White Lies which will start principal photography on 6 March together with South African actor Brendon Daniels as detective Forty Bell.

In a big middle finger to South Africa's own media - although MultiChoice and M-Net continue to do lip service about how it supports local - M-Net will send the same general press release out to South Africa's media but only on Wednesday morning. 

Meanwhile an American media outlet had already published it - with South African media getting it half a day after giving it was already given to foreign media first.

It appears as if M-Net and Quizzical Pictures have a lack of understanding about why South African journalists and publications won't bother covering White Lies later, why they find this type of behaviours offensive within a media environment, and why local South African media will be resistant to give the show any actual exposure in print and otherwise, later.

What is really happening and being communicated, is that PR people are actively and directly angering and disrespecting local South African media, editors and journalists - upfront showing them that they presumably matter "less" than American media when it comes to M-Net getting a press release "exclusives" in overseas media.

Besides Natalie Dormer, The White Lies cast of the M-Net series will also star Langley Kirkwood, Morgan Santo, Daniel Schultz, Jane de Wet, Katlego Lebogang, Robert Hobbs and Athenkosi Mfamela.

M-Net in the press release describes White Lies as a "murder mystery series" which was created by Sean Steinberg and written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey. The series will purportedly "explore race, privilege, and inequality".

According to the M-Net general press release which M-Net will only send to South African media on Wednesday, "White Lies is set in the wealthy neighbourhood of Bishopscourt, Cape Town and sees Dormer taking on the role of an investigative journalist Edie Hansen, who gets caught up in the ugly underbelly that lies beneath the picturesque beauty of the city".

"Following her estranged brother's murder in his luxury home, Edie's world plunges deeper into chaos when her brother's teenage children become prime suspects for the crime."

"As Edie investigates, she finds herself at loggerheads with veteran detective Forty Bell, and grapples with the crumbling local police force, a corrupt political system, and the secretive world of extreme Cape wealth," M-Net says.

In a prepared quote in M-Net's press release, Natalie Dormer says she is apparently "thrilled to be in Cape Town and begin this beautiful, gripping show. South Africa has so much to offer an international audience in its storytelling".

"I'm truly excited to bring Darrel''s 8-episode page-turner to life with such a group of talented directors, led by John, and a superb ensemble cast," Natalie Dormer says in the general press release that M-Net didn't want to send to South African media on Tuesday.

There is also a prepared quote from Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures creative director and White Lies producer, in the press release.

She says "We are very happy to be working again with our partners at M-Net and Fremantle, and especially delighted to have Natalie Dormer join our South African cast. Once again, we are happy to showcase the wealth of South African talent both behind and in front of the camera".

M-Net also has a prepared quote in the general press release from Waldimar Pelser, M-Net's director of premium channels.

"White Lies brings together an exceptional creative team and stellar cast in a riveting story set in Cape Town, an iconic city with great natural beauty but also hidden undercurrents."

"We believe White Lies will resonate with series lovers locally and globally. Partnerships such as this one with Quizzical Pictures and Fremantle give shows the best shot at reaching their full potential, and cements M-Net's reputation as the home of world-class entertainment."

Unfortunately, and ironically, what is actively getting damaged here is M-Net's reputation with local media through very disingenuous PR general press release distribution decisions.

TV RATINGS January 2023: South African television loses another 2.5 million viewers due to Eskom blackouts while MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic's Big Brother Titans and Gqeberha The Empire are rating flops.

by Thinus Ferreira

After collectively wiping over 5 million TV viewers during primetime from the country's television ratings in December 2022 Eskom's ongoing electricity blackouts in South Africa up to Stage 6 load-shedding did further damage to the country's viewership which was down another 2.5 million viewers in January.

Meanwhile, MultiChoice's new season of Big Brother: Titans which started on DStv on 15 January, as well as the Tshedza Pictures telenovela Gqeberha: The Empire produced in the Eastern Cape and which started on 16 January on DStv, both had disappointing viewership premieres.  

Between SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 collectively the South African public broadcaster lost another 2.53 million viewers in January from its top 20 shows.

eMedia's free-to-air commercial TV channel e.tv kept steady, showing a slight increase from 33 to 33.2 million viewers in January for its top-rated shows. 

In pay-TV, MultiChoice continued to shed thousands of DStv subscribers in January whose TV sets and decoders don't work when Eskom and cities leave suburbs powerless during Stage 6 loadshedding.

SABC1 lost another 1.81 million viewers across its top shows in January. Uzalo as the channel and the country's most-watched show kept steady with a slight viewership gain from 5.19 to 5.27 million viewers.

Generations - The Legacy in second place also held steady at 4.11 million viewers compared to December's 4.1 million viewers, while Skeem Saam as SABC1's third most-watched show gained viewers, going from 3.57 to 3.89 million viewers. 

The Zulu TV news bulletin made gains rising from 1.966 to 2.198 million viewers, while the Xhosa TV news bulletin rose from 2.053 to 2.194 million viewers. The country's 2022 matric results announcement on 19 January drew 1.813 million viewers.

Spidey snares viewers for SABC3 web
On SABC2 the channel's most-watched show Muvhango showed small growth, going from 1.548 to 1.66 million viewers as the channel's only show pulling over a million viewers.

Kgatelopele was flat at 784 283 viewers, compared to December's 786 740, with Afrikaans soap 7de Laan also flat at 775 339 compared to December's 764 955 viewers. The Afrikaans TV news bulletin declined from 616 357 to 568 255 viewers.

The Setswana TV news bulletin climbed from 484 646 to 545 338 viewers, while Morning Live held steady at 444 316 viewers. The Venda/Tsonga TV news bulletin drew 367 592 viewers.

SABC3 showed slight ratings growth in January, going from 519 808 viewers who watched the FIFA World Cup match between Japan and Spain December as the channel's most-watched number, to the Sunday night film Taken pulling 597 658 viewers on 22 January.

Spidey helped to prop up SABC3 in January, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 luring 379 683 and Spider-Man 3 grabbing 372 941 viewers, while The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 caught 301 172 and 299 076 viewers in their webs respectively. The English TV news bulletin pulled 315 462 viewers, slightly up from December's 289 308.  

DStv's Big Brother: Titans and Gqeberha: The Empire flop
On the red letter channel its top show Scandal! ebbed slightly from 4.01 to 3.9 million viewers, while House of Zwide in second place held steady at 3.2 million from December's 3.12 million viewers, as did Imbewu in third place with 2.158 million viewers compared to December's 2.13 million.

The Black Door was slightly down from 1.85 to 1.73 million viewers in January, and Durban Gen was 1.63 to 1.53 million viewers. 

e.tv's 20:00 TV news bulletin went from 1.54 to 1.46 million viewers, while the Leon Schuster-fronted film Mr Bones was the channel's most-watched film for the month, grabbing 1.79 million viewers.

On pay-TV, MultiChoice's DStv continues to suffer declining ratings with its most-watched show Gomora on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) down from 912 173 to 783 149 DStv subscribers who tuned in during January.

The telenovela Gqeberha: The Empire which premiered on 16 January during Stage 6 loadshedding had a disappointing 413 227 viewers at most during January. 

The latest Big Brother season with housemates from Nigeria and South Africa, Big Brother: Titans which also made its debut during Stage 6 loadshedding has also been a ratings dud, not rating well despite being shown on the Mzansi Magic, Mzansi Wethu and its own dedicated DStv pop-up channel.

The third season of Big Brother Mzansi a year ago in January 2022 still had a lowly 529 041 viewers but with little promotion and barely any PR support Big Brother: Titans has less than 330 000 viewers and couldn't even rate on the list as one of DStv's 30 most-watched shows during January. 

Isencane Lengane on Moja Love (DStv 157) drew 625 293 viewers in January while the channel's Uyajola 9/9 was down from December's 670 983 to 621 234 viewers. 

The Queen was down from 620 601 to 608 313 viewers. Diep City lost 30 000 viewers on Mzansi Magic, going from 553 799 to 523 354 viewers.

X-Repo on Moja Love dropped from 518 780 to 497432 viewers.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Goldbergs and Succession to end.

by Thinus Ferreira

The long-running American comedy series The Goldbergs will end with its current 10th while the American business dynasty drama series Succession will end with its upcoming 4th season.

The Goldbergs seen in South Africa on M-Net (DStv 101) and produced by Sony Pictures Television, was inspired by the life of the series creator Adam F. Goldberg and told stories from the viewpoint of the 11-year old Adam (Sean Giambrone) growing up as a teenager during the 1980s in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown.

"It's been an honour to be part of The Goldbergs for the last decade," executive producer McLendon-Covey said in a statement. "I'm really proud of what we accomplished with the show, and I'm so lucky to have had such a rewarding experience. I will miss my TV family and every last crew member."

Craig Erwich, president of ABC Entertainment and Disney branded television streaming originals, says "We are so proud of the 10 years we were able to spend with The Goldbergs. This is an incredible team and we're so thankful for the joy and entertainment they brought to so many over this time. We look forward to celebrating their final chapter along with the fans in the weeks ahead".

The upcoming fourth season of HBO's Succession seen on MultiChoice's Showmax video streamer in South Africa and in which grown children battle for control of their father's business empire, will debut at the end of March.

Series creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong told New Yorker magazine in an interview that the decision was made for the fourth season to be the last.

"I got together with a few of my fellow writers before we started the writing of season four, in about November, December, 2021, and I sort of said, ‘Look, I think this maybe should be it. But what do you think?"he said.

"And we played out various scenarios: We could do a couple of short seasons, or two more seasons. Or we could go on for ages and turn the show into something rather different, and be a more rangy, freewheeling kind of fun show, where there would be good weeks and bad weeks. Or we could do something a bit more muscular and complete, and go out sort of strong. And that was definitely always my preference."

Friday, February 24, 2023

Netflix cuts prices by up to 60% in 100 countries - South Africa excluded.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix has done a price cut of up to 60% and is lowering fees for users in 100 countries including some in Africa, but while Namibia, Kenya, Botswana and Lesotho made the list for lower prices South Africa is not included.

A Netflix spokesperson on Friday told TVwithThinus that South Africa is excluded from the price adjustment in which users in 100 countries are now paying less for the global video streaming service.

The price cut comes as Netflix is cracking down on password sharing and rolling out limits on a country-by-country basis, while introducing a cheaper ad-funded tier - neither of which has been applied to South Africa yet.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix is cutting prices in 30 countries, with follow-up reports in other publications that peg the number to be closer to 100 countries where users will now be paying between 13% to 60% less for the service.

The countries range from the Middle East to Asia, Latin America and Europe to Africa.

In Africa the countries which made Netflix's price cut list include Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bassau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Other countries include Yemen, Jordan, Iran, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and many more.

Like South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom are also not seeing Netflix subscription fee price cuts. 

In South Africa, Netflix competes with global streamers like Amazon Prime Legacy, Appel TV+ and Disney+, as well as against legacy satellite pay-TV providers like MultiChoice which announced its annual price increase for 2023 last week coming in effect from April, and with China's StarTimes SA that said it won't be increasing prices for StarSat in South Africa this year.

Another interesting note is that countries getting a price cut are places where Netflix is charged in American dollar.

In January Netflix executives still spoke about how they are looking at increasing Netflix pricing, with Disney+ that echoed the same market future guidance earlier this month.

As to why Netflix is now doing a price cut in certain countries, the Los Gatos-based company in a statement says "We know members have never had more choices when it comes to entertainment. We're always exploring ways to improve our members' experience. We can confirm that we are updating the pricing of our plans in certain countries."

Russia's RT channel pulled from StarTimes Media SA's StarSat on the one-year anniversary of Russia's Ukraine war.

by Thinus Ferreira

On the one-year anniversary of Russia's war with Ukraine, Russia's propaganda TV channel Russia Today (RT) has now also been removed from StarSat in South Africa and StarTimes across sub-Saharan Africa after nine months.

Following Russian president Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine and the subsequent war, Russia Today went dark on MultiChoice's DStv pay-TV service on channel 407 on 2 March last year, after a flurry of severe international sanctions and trade restrictions imposed against Russia. 

Russia Today has been widely criticised for its one-sided coverage of Russia's war with Ukraine.

Trade sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) saw Russia Today's satellite uplinking - a channel feed connection making use of European companies for transponder uplinking - cut off at the same time that Google and other companies blocked RT's YouTube streaming.

MultiChoice makes use of the Intelsat IS-20 satellite as a transponder through which the Randburg-based company leases capacity on and which is subject to the EU blocking of Russia Today.

Two months after Russia Today disappeared from DStv, the channel suddenly popped up on StarSat in South Africa and StarTimes in the rest of Africa since May 2022. 

StarTimes and StarSat are run by China's StarTimes Media SA on channel 260. 

While China officially takes a neutral position over Russia's war in Ukraine, the country has refused to criticise Russia for its actions or call it an invasion and is helping prevent efforts to condemn Russia at the United Nations.

StarSat told TVwithThinus in May 2022 in response to a media query about how it was able to show Russia Today when satellite transponder companies have been blocked from distributing the channel, that "After we reached a carriage agreement with RT, they deliver the feed to our uplinking station straightly, then we uplink to SES-5 and broadcast to our customers".

StarTimes was uplinking the Russia Today channel feed through SES S.A.'s SES-5 satellite transponder on which StarTimes/StarSat is leasing space.

Similar to Intelsat which has its corporate headquarters in Luxembourg, SES S.A. is a satellite and terrestrial telecommunications network provider also based in Luxembourg in Europe.

In May 2022, SES SA told TVwithThinus that the company had engaged with European regulatory bodies to suspend the distribution of specific Russia Today channels across Europe and that SES "turned the designated signals off per the European sanctions passed on 2 March 2022" but that Russia Today delivered through SES-5 "is not one that has been banned by the European Union".

SES SA said that the company has been "engaging with our customers and regulatory authorities to assess both what we can do and must do under the various legal regimes to which we are subject. SES is prepared to take immediate action and implement any instructions we receive from regulatory authorities".

On Thursday Russia Today abruptly disappeared from StarSat and StarTimes after nine months after EU sanctions have now been applied to block the channel on the Midrand-based pay-TV operator's platform as well.

StarSat in a notification says it "regrets to inform our subscribers that effective immediately, Russia Today (channel 260) will be offline until further notice".

"The satellite company responsible for beaming RT to StarSat has terminated the signal due to sanctions implemented by the European Union. Please note for now it will only be available on the StarTimes On App. We apologize for any inconvenience caused."

Meanwhile, Russia Today's work continues on setting up its new African headquarters in South Africa under Paula Slier, the South African TV reporter who previously worked for SABC News and who was posted in Jerusalem, Israel, as RT's correspondent for that region. She is now overseeing the creation of an African bureau.

RT told News24 in July "We are indeed currently focused on developing our English-language Africa hub in South Africa, headed up by Paula Slier - a South Africa native, RT's longtime correspondent and formerly head of RT's Jerusalem bureau".

Friday, February 17, 2023

Netflix doing deep-dive documentary on Pornhub's sex scandals and success.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix is doing a 90-minute documentary on the scandals and success of the Pornhub website, looking at how the website fundamentally changed how hardcore pornography is made, distributed and consumed globally.

Entitled Moneyshot: The Pornhub Story, the documentary will be released on the streamer on 15 March and contains interviews with porn stars, activists, and past Pornhub employees, looking into the various scandals behind-the-scenes, as well as the website's success.

Pornhub "enabled erotic content creator to reach a massive audience while the company made billions of dollars - but it also became embroiled in allegations including non-consensual material and trafficking on the site," Netflix's logline for the documentary reads.

"As anti-trafficking organisations seek justice for victims, can the online giant protect those from whom they profit, or is this a new wave of censorship for adult performers making consensual porn?"

Moneyshot: The Pornhub Story is produced by Jigsaw Productions, with Nicki Carrico as producers and Stacey Offman and Richard Perello as executive producers.

"This documentary requires us to grapple with what sexuality and consent means when billion-dollar internet platforms thrive on user-generated content," says producer Suzanne Hillinger.

"Who has, and who should have, the power in these environments? Our hope is that this film generates important conversations about sex and consent, both on the internet and out in the world."

Warner Bros. Discovery replaces Boomerang with Cartoonito from 25 March across Africa, Cartoon Network in the territory remains safe.

by Thinus Ferreira

Warner Bros. Discovery's Boomerang kids channel is ending its run across Africa on 25 March is and being replaced by Cartoonito, targeting a younger audience and family viewing as part of the company's linear kids channels restructuring, with the company saying Cartoon Network as a top TV brand in Africa remains safe.

Boomerang is becoming the first pay-TV channel lost to South African viewers in 2023 as Warner Bros. Discovery is phasing out the brand in Africa and territories, terminating the channel on 25 March and replacing it with Cartoonito across the continent.

Where Cartoon Network and Boomerang - both Warner Bros. Discovery linear channels - targeted roughly the same demographic of younger viewers, Cartoonito is geared towards a younger pre-set of three year olds and family viewing. Cartoon Network, which reaches over 15 million viewers monthly in South Africa, is aimed at seven to 12-year olds.

Cartoonito, which will now more directly compete with DStv channels like Disney Junior and the BBC's CBeebies, was first added in October 2011 as a preschool kids' programming block to Boomerang's schedule.

The channel flip in Warner Bros. Discovery's kids content portfolio is part of Warner Bros. Discovery's larger adjustment of phasing out the Boomerang brand across Europe - something also impacting Africa in terms of pay-TV channel distribution.

Several Boomerang shows will however remain on the Cartoonito channel (DStv 302) when Boomerang is replaced and rebranded on 25 March with Cartoonito.

Cartoonito will add new shows aimed at a pre-schooler audience like Batwheels from 25 March, Bugs Bunny Builders from 10 April and Intersteller Ella from June.

Cartoonito will keep Boomerang hold-overs like Zig & Sharko, Mr Bean, Masha and the Bear, Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo and Looney Tunes Cartoons, Lucas the Spider, Dino Ranch and Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go.

Cartoonito will launch on 25 March with a TV special, Secret Origins of the Batwheels at 08:40.

"The rebrand of Boomerang Africa into Cartoonito Africa enriches our channel universe, bringing together the crème de la crème of Boomerang with more adventures and more friends to be part of one big Cartoonito family" says Ana Gonzalez, editorial lead for Southern Europe and Africa for kids brands at Warner Bros. Discovery.

"We know kids and families love our shows, and we're looking forward to adding even more amazing content that brings the whole family together."

Cartoonito change part of global realignment
"Boomerang has been very, very successful in Africa. It's a very well-known brand so that's not the reason why we're changing it," Ana Gonzalez told TVwithThinus.

"The reason is very simple. The reason is that we are aligning with our international strategy. Cartoonito is now a global brand for the company and all Boomerang channels in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region will become Cartoonito."

"Everything depends on a country-by-country basis since the pipeline of brands we have is not the same in every country, but overall that's the strategy." She said that "we are rebranding everything that's Boomerang now, so everything that currently is Boomerang from 25 March, will become Cartoonito".

Cartoon Network is safe
Following rumours a few months ago that Warner Bros. Discovery is no longer looking at investing in new content for Cartoon Network and even considering shuttering the linear TV channel in certain territories to shift the focus on its HBO Max video streamer, Ana Gonzalez told TVwithThinus that Cartoon Network is not going anywhere.

"Definitly not - Cartoon Network is not closing, it's not disappearing; and specifically in terms of Africa - it is our first and most popular brand there. It's very successful, so definitely Cartoon Network will stay in Africa, and I hope for very long." 

Thursday, February 16, 2023

StarSat: 0% price increase for 2023 'is the least we can do'.

by Thinus Ferreira

StarSat says the pay-TV service will not be increasing its subscription fees this year like rivalMultiChoice and is giving a week free of the StarSat Super bouquet for StarSat Special customers who buy one month of StarSat Super.

After the Randburg-based MultiChoice on Wednesday announced its annual DStv price hike, the Midrand-based StarSat is responding by saying that "From 1 April 2023, StarSat will be increasing its prices by 0% across its pay-TV portfolio".

StarSat currently offers three packages: StarSat Special at R120 per month for 60 TV channels, StarSat Super at R230 per month for 79 TV channels, and StarSat Max at R330 per month for R140 TV channels.

StatSat, run by China's StarTimes Media, in a jab to MultiChoice, says that its 0% pay-TV increase in 2023 "is to help South Africans afford their escapism in a country rife with difficulties".

"The Covid-19 lockdowns and the current power crisis have caused tremendous financial strain on the people of South Africa. StarSat's 0% price increase across its entire TV portfolio is aimed at reducing some of that burden. StarSat hopes that these non-adjustments, which are far below the projected inflation rate for 2023, will help its customers continue to enjoy great TV at affordable prices."

StarSat says that "not increasing prices is the least that StarSat can do to contribute to inclusive and affordable public access to digital television. StarSat will continue to do its best to manage key input costs to keep price increases below inflation".

"Our quest to enrich our content offer is on track. We will soon announce premiere dates for several new internationally acclaimed channels for inclusion in the Super bouquet." 

StarSat also announced that it is introducing a policy to award loyal customers. 

StarSat customers who've been on the StarSat Special package since before 8 February, whether dormant or active, can now buy one month's access to the StarSat Super bouquet and will get one week extra free. StarSat says this limited-time offer is available until 5 March. 

"If a customer commits for a year, they will receive one month extra free," StarSat says.

StarSat's 0% increase comes as eMedia is preparing to enter the pay-TV arena with MultiChoice and StarSat soon, in the form of a pay-TV service through its own existing Openview decoders.

Openview Ultra which will be available through existing Openview decoders will offer existing Openview customers the options of adding pay-TV Bollywood and gay bouquets.

M-Net, kykNET add eye-popping Sunday night docs about Zephany Nurse and diamond dealer Louis Liebenberg.

by Thinus Ferreira

Riding the tide of the local true crime genre, M-Net and kykNET have added eye-popping documentaries to their Sunday night programming slates telling the story of the abducted Zephany Nurse found two decades later, and investigating the house of cards of diamond packets kingpin Louis Liebenberg.  

This Sunday night at 20:00 on M-Net (DStv 101) the channel premieres Girl, Taken from directors Francois Verster and Simon Wood which won in the Best South African Documentary category at the Durban International Film Festival, telling the intricate and unbelievable story of the abducted-and-found Zephany Nurse.

The emotionally layered and filled with twists Girl, Taken explores how Zephany was abducted as a baby, raised as Miche Solomon, found almost two decades and how everyone coped since, in a story that caught the world's attention.

In Girl, Taken, Zephany speaks about her upbringing; the devastation caused by her abduction coming to light; the dramatic criminal trial of the mother who raised her; and why she chose to stay with the Solomon family, even after learning that she had been abducted and given a new identity.

Zephany's biological parents, Celeste and Morne Nurse, are also included in the documentary and open up about the pain of losing their baby, the joy of finding her again, and the torment of losing her a second time.

Girl, Taken follows the process of two broken families climbing the difficult path towards forgiveness and wholeness.

With his detractors believing he belongs behind bars and investors in his scheme demanding the millions of rand they've invested which they now can't get access to, kykNET is screening the investigative news Afrikaans documentary special, Onthul: Skurk of Samaritaan?, also this Sunday night at 20:00.

Is the diamond trader Louis Liebenberg with alleged messages relayed from God to him from inside his shower a hero, cult leader or a classic pyramid scheme scammer?

Currently embroiled in a legal battle with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) because he has been accused of operating a ponzi scheme and of buying rough diamonds from illegal diamond diggers, kykNET is investigating the glitzy diamond tzar who owes many people millions of rand.

Louis Liebenberg is constantly hogging the newspaper headlines with issues around his diamond trading concept, Forever Diamonds and Gold (FDG), which has managed to attract around 40 000 investors.

Some believe he's a scoundrel who deserves to be in jail while some see him as a businessman who helps people gain financial freedom. Nina Swart is the director of this new doccie which forms part of a series of investigative Onthul news documentaries produced by IdeaCandy.

According to kykNET Onthul: Skurk of Samaritaan? takes an unflinching and incisive look at Louis Liebenberg's business practices, with Louis being asked directly and which he answers.

Various people, including people who invested in his diamond business, for instance Dirk Lotriet, editor of Die Waarheid Media, as well as the former Springbok Derick Hougaard sing his praises. Victims of his scheme also get the opportunity to tell their side of the story.

The documentary also investigates claims that Liebenberg is illegally digging for diamonds in Namaqualand, as well as his ties to various ANC members.

Other experts who weigh in, are Pieter Steyn, senior journalist for Rapport newspaper; Dr Kosie de Villiers, business consultant affiliated to Stellenbosch University; Prof. JP Smit from the department of philosophy at Stellenbosch University, as well as the clinical psychologist Louis Awerbuck.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

e.tv to launch Openview Ultra as a pay-TV service with Bollywood and gay bouquets.

by Thinus Ferreira

e.tv is testing and putting the finishing touches on Openview Ultra as a new satellite pay-TV service which eMedia plans to launch soon and which will represent South Africa's biggest traditional pay-TV market shake-up in decades.

Openview Ultra will launch with two pay-TV bouquets: a gay bouquet carrying LGBTQ content, called the "Pride Bouquet", as well as a Bollywood bouquet branded the "Spice Bouquet".

Openview Ultra's Pride Bouquet will include TV channels like the lifestyle and documentary channel fuse, as well as OUTtv that MultiChoice tested as a DStv pop-up channel in 2018

Openview Ultra's Spice Bouquet will include Indian TV channels like ZEE Family and Star Select.

No monthly subscription fee pricing is available yet although eMedia plans to price OpenviewUltra very competitively as it takes on South Africa's duopoly pay-TV market dominated for decades by MultiChoice's DStv and the much smaller StarSat from China's StarTimes.

Openview Ultra as a subscription version of eMedia's existing Openview free-to-air satellite TV decoders, will function through three existing models of the existing Openview set-top box (STB), giving users who want to subscribe at a fee, access to these additional pay-TV bouquets and TV channels. 

By September 2022, Openview - growing by 500 00 activations per year - was already present in over 3 million homes across Southern Africa. 

It means that enabling pay-TV functionality and giving those 3 million users the option to become subscribers, would instantly transform eMedia's Hyde Park-based Openview Ultra into the biggest traditional pay-TV rival in South Africa to the existing Randburg-based MultiChoice. 

South Africa's broadcasting regulator Icasa granted e.tv a traditional pay-TV licence 16 years ago in 2007 under the banner e.Sat which it decided never to use.

Instead, it opted to become a TV channel supplier, for instance producing the eNCA (DStv 403) TV news channel for MultiChoice since 2008, and offering DStv other general entertainment channels as well.

Bennum van Jaarsveld, eMedia spokesperson, told TVwithThinus in response to a media query that the company is currently busy testing Openview Ultra.

In late November 2022, Khalik Sherrif, eMedia CEO, commenting on the group's interim results, said in a statement that the group is set to "launch a smarter set-top box with functions that will be unique in the South African market".

In last year's annual report, Sherrif noted that "The 2023 year will see the group enter the pay television market". 

eMedia has created new social media pages for Openview Ultra on Facebook and Instagram, as well as a website at www.ultraview.tv which is still under construction.

Ewan Strydom returns to SABC3’s Expresso after 3 years: ‘I missed that rush of live TV’.

by Thinus Ferreira

After exiting SABC3 in April 2019 to appear on kykNET for the past three years, Ewan Strydom is back at Expresso as a TV presenter saying that he missed the rush of live TV.

Ewan Strydom who lives in Blouberg and turns 40 on 8 March, will now appear simultaneously on two TV channels - in the mornings on SABC3's breakfast show produced by Cardova Productions in Tokai, Cape Town; as well as on Sunday evenings on Bravo! on kykNET (DStv 144), which is produced by Homebrew Films in Montague Gardens.

Ewan Strydom made his surprise Expresso return on Wednesday 8 February last week. It happened without any fanfare and no press release like when the disgraced relationship cheater Katlego Maboe unexpectedly returned to Expresso in August 2022 after two years with a sit-down on-camera interview.

kykNET confirms to TVwithThinus that Ewan Strydom remains part of the presenter team of the Sunday night Afrikaans celebrity profile magazine show Bravo!, the series he left Expresso for three years ago. 

Last year, Ewan Strydom who is married to Adrienn (38) and has two sons Kèan (9) and Dominic (6), was also the presenter of the first season of the Afrikaans reality competition show Plaasjapie on kykNET.

Ewan Strydom tells TVwithThinus that "the best way to describe being back is 'refreshing'. I have missed my feel-good family tremendously, and that rush of live TV."

"After nearly 3 years, a lot has changed. I grew in so many ways, yet returning to Expresso, I feel familiarity….and I'm excited. Stepping back onto the Expresso studio floor brings back so many feel-good memories, and I'm looking forward to making a lot more."

Patience Stevens, producer, says "We are delighted to welcome back Ewan Strydom as a regular presenter on Expresso on S3. Viewer response has been very positive – with the comments being that it is as if Ewan had never left, and how seamless and natural it is to have him back on the show again."

After 4 months without one, legal action looms over CEO's 'appointment' as SABC board.

by Thinus Ferreira

Today marks exactly four months of the unstable South African public broadcaster having no board, with public pressure groups saying they're preparing to go to court over the illegal move by the minister of communications, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, to appoint SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe to act as if he's the SABC board.

The former SABC board's term expired on 15 October 2022, with no replacement board in place. 

It follows after politicians serving on parliament's portfolio committee on communications waited too late to start the public process to interview for new board candidates, after which president Cyril Ramaphosa failed since December 2022 to rubberstamp the list of 12 names put forth by parliament excluding two contentious names involved in conflict of interests.  

According to Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Madoda Mxakwe has suddenly been "designated by the minister of communications and digital technologies with the concurrence of the minister of finance as the board of the SABC" - a shocking move that the SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) say they're "deeply concerned" about.

Uyanda Siyotula, SOS Coalition coordinator, says in a statement the "SOS Coalition and MMA believe the decision is unlawful and that the two ministers exceeded their powers".

"On a simple basis of good governance, it cannot surely be legitimate for one individual to be given board powers and make decisions that otherwise require 15 members of which 12 are non-executive members."

"The minister's assertion that the CEO is the board is at odds with even the most rudimentary elements of governing the SABC."

"It is the failure by parliament to fulfill its mandate in a timeous manner coupled with the president's failure to act swiftly to appoint the SABC board that has resulted in us being in a scenario where we now must contend with the absurdity of a CEO being the SABC board."

"The public was not informed of the decision when it was taken and its basis which raises further questions about the decision. The lack of transparency gives credence to rumoured political interference and orchestrated delay tactics in appointing the board," the SOS Coalition and MMA say.

According to them "there is currently no accountability and no oversight at the SABC because the current gimmicks do not amount to adequate governance".

"We know of at least two key decisions that have been taken in the absence of the SABC board. These include; a submission pertaining to the Analogue Switch Off (ASO) date due to the ministry on 27 January 2023. It is not clear who made the submission and on what basis it can be an SABC position when there was no Board."

"The public then learned of the launch of a 24-hour news channel in January 2023."

"Who oversees the implementation of the activities? Who is SABC management accountable to? Are the decisions being taken based on resolutions of the previous board and are they being implemented accordingly without deviation?"

According to Uyanda Siyotula the Broadcasting Act 13(13) doesn't make any provision for SABC executives to be appointed in the absence of the SABC board.

"Thus, we believe the appointment of the SABC CEO as the accounting authority is illegal and a breach of the Broadcasting Act."

"Seven weeks have passed since the president received the recommended names on 20 December 2022. We ask that the president proceeds to make appointments of the 10 candidates that aren't implicated as the board would still quorate."

"It is unacceptable to have the SABC be without a board for more than 16 weeks. The vacuum created by the absence of a board is causing further damage and deepening an entirely preventable crisis. SOS and MMA demand the urgent appointment of the SABC Board - in the public interest."

"SOS and MMA are currently taking legal advice and will act on an urgent basis if necessary."

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

MultiChoice: Here is the pay-TV company's DStv pricing from April 2023.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is once again increasing the subscription fees of South African DStv subscribers from 1 April - although by a smaller percentage than in previous years, dropping the price of its ADD Movies bolt-on package and keeping the price of its streaming-only services unchanged.

From 1 April 2023, the Randburg-based pay-TV operator is increasing DStv Premium subscribers' monthly bouquet price by R40, or 4.77%. These subscribers will continue to get a 100% rebate when accessing MultiChoice's streaming service Showmax.

DStv Compact Plus subscribers will pay R30 (5.46%) more, while DStv Compact subscribers are getting a 4.66%, or R20 increase. 

The DStv Family bouquet is increasing by R10 (3.24%), while DStv Access will cost R9 (7.5%) more. The price of the DStv EasyView bouquet will remain unchanged.

DStv Compact, DStv Compact Plus, DStv Family and DStv Access subscribers will continue to get access to Showmax at a 50% discount. 

From 1 April the DStv access fee is increasing by R5 (4.55%) from R110 to R115.

The price to rent a movie through DStv BoxOffice will remain unchanged, while the "ADD Movies" bolt-on package, with a collection of movie channels, is decreasing by R20 (20%).

Here is how the DStv bouquet pricing will change from April this year:

Package            Currently    Percentage change    1 April 2023 price
Premium            R839                4.77%                                R879
Compact Plus     R549                5.46%                                R579
Compact             R429                4.66%                                R449
Family                R309                3.24%                                R319
Access                R120                7.5%                                    R129
EasyView            R29                0.00%                                R29

Consumers under pressure
MultiChoice, in a statement, says that "the average 4.3% adjustment across all of DStv's offerings is far lower that the projected consumer price index (inflation) for 2023".

MultiChoice says that "These nominal adjustments help DStv to ensure that South Africans continue to enjoy the best value, and unrivalled access to entertainment, anywhere, anytime, and at the most affordable price".

Noting that South African consumers are under massive pressure with their discretionary spending, MultiChoice says that "The challenges and financial strain that South African consumers have had to face were considered and once again DStv absorbed as much of the increase of the cost of doing business as possible in order to implement minimal adjustments"

"The pressure that consumers are facing due to remnants of the pandemic, as well as the continued rolling blackouts nationwide has not been lost on us. These adjustments will help us to ensure that South Africans continue to enjoy their favourite shows at the most affordable price."

MultiChoice says "we hold firm that by creating increasingly unique and authentic local content we will continue to resonate with our customers".

"This year subscribers can look forward to more sparkling entertainment such as Big Brother Titans and the highly anticipated Shaka Ilembe, as well as major sporting events like the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the 2023 Women's Cricket World Cup and the Women's Netball World Cup."

Saturday, February 11, 2023

South African rapper Kiernan 'AKA' Forbes (35) murdered in Durban drive-by double killing; 'we're awaiting further details from police,' parents say.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African rapper and songwriter Kiernan "AKA" Forbes was murdered in a Friday night Durban drive-by double killing along with friend Tebello "Tibz" Motsoane (34), while a bodyguard was wounded. 

Kiernan Forbes was 35. 

Kiernan Forbes leaves behind an 8-year-old daughter Kairo Owethu Forbes he had with musician DJ Zinhle in 2015 and was in a romantic relationship with rapper Nadia Nakai at the time of his murder. His former fiance Anele Tembe fell to her death from a hotel room in April 2021 in Cape Town and he dated Bonang Matheba Matheba between 2015 and 2017.

Colonel Robert Netshiunda, KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson, says Kiernan "AKA" Forbes was shot and murdered along with another man in a drive-by shooting in Morningside along the coastal city's Florida Road on Friday night.

Robert "AKA" Forbes was killed while he was shot at by two drive-by vehicles at 22:00 sitting at a table at the Wish restaurant with friends who were all drinking before he was set to perform later that night at the YūGō nightclub. Their bodies were covered by table umbrellas and were removed at 02:00 on Saturday morning.

In a statement, his Kiernan Forbes' parents, Tony and Lynn Forbes, say "It is with extreme sadness that we acknowledge the passing of our beloved son on the evening of 10 February 2023. We are awaiting further details from the Durban police". 

"To us, Kiernan Forbes was a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend, most importantly father to his beloved daughter Kairo."

"To many he was AKA, Supamega, Bhova and the many other names of affection his legion of fans called him by. Our son was loved and he gave love in return. In time of grief we appeal for your compassion, space and time to congregate as a family to decide on the upcoming days."

"We thank you for the love and support we have received thus far, and ask you continue to keep us in your prayers and uplifting in the Lord."

Amanda Bani-Mapena, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for arts and culture, in a statement says the province has "learnt with shock and sadness of the fatal shooting of rapper Kiernan Forbes known as AKA late on Friday evening in Durban's bustling Florida Road precinct".

"We hope the law enforcement agencies will do their work in bringing the perpetrators to justice."

Sony Music in a statement, says "It is with profound sadness that Sony Music Entertainment Africa acknowledges the news of the untimely passing of the South African music icon and culture figure Kiernan "AKA" Forbes".

Sean Watson, Sony Music Entertainment Africa managing director, says "Our hearts are broken. We've lost not only an icon but someone who was dear to us as a member of the Sony family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones today."

"All of us at Sony Music convey our deepest sympathies and condolences to his family, friends, the Megacy and South Africa."

SABC1 in a statement says the TV channel and South African public broadcaster "is saddened by the untimely passing of award-winning musician Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, known professionally as AKA, who passed away on Friday".

M-Net said on Saturday that its Channel O (DStv 320) music channel on MultiChoice's DStv service would be playing musical song tributes of Kiernan Forbes' music throughout the day. 

Kiernan Forbes was the first season host of The Braai Show on SABC1. "SABC1 sends its heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues". 

Kiernan Jarryd Forbes was born and grew up in Cape Town. With two of his friends they formed a hip hop group Entity in 2002. 

He rose to fame in 2010 after his single "Victory Lap" from his debut album Altar Ego. He went on to release albums like Levels in 2014, Touch My Blood (2018), Be Careful What You Wish For in 2017 with Anatii, and Bhovamania (2020). His upcoming album, Mass Country, is set to be released later in February 2023.

In 2019 AKA was the roastee for Paramount's Comedy Central Roast TV special on Comedy Central (DStv 122) and he was nominated for Best International Act twice at the BET Awards.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Canal+ continues to gobble up more MultiChoice shares and with a 30.2% stake now owns almost a third of the DStv company.

by Thinus Ferreira

France's Canal+ has gobbled up further shares in MultiChoice and announced on Friday that it now owns close to a third - 30.27% of the pay-TV company that runs DStv.

Canal+ continues to constantly and aggressively buy MultiChoice shares since it started investing in the company in 2020.

Groupe Canal+ first acquired a 5% shareholding in MultiChoice in April 2020. Canal+ then increased it to 12%, then increasing it to 15%, upping it to 20.12%, then 18.44%, and then 26.6% by September 2022

Just seven months ago, Canal+ still sat at 20% of MultiChoice shares.

Now Canal+ owns close to a third of MultiChoice shares. Interestingly, South African law restricts foreign ownership to 20%.

MultiChoice tells TVwithThinus in response to a media query about Canal+'s increased shareholding that "The Group regularly engages investors with its strategic partners and maintains an open dialogue with the investment community. Our policy is not to comment on individual shareholders nor on our interactions with them".

Canal+ is owned by the French billionaire Vincent Bollore's Vivendi SE.