Friday, July 28, 2023

MultiChoice rebranding its DStv Now app as DStv Stream from August 2023 for some reason.

by Thinus Ferreira

From 1 August 2023 MultiChoice will be rebranding its DStv app as DStv Stream for reasons not yet known.

MultiChoice's DStv streaming app has also been known as DStv Now, DStv Catch Up and the generic DStv App. 

The reasons for the latest branding changes are not yet clear but it is taking place before MultiChoice's relaunch of its Showmax video streaming service at the end of 2023 together with Comcast and NBCUniversal.

I'm told that MultiChoice has tried to improve the content discovery process further with the DStv Stream rebrand - something that remains one of commercial video streaming's biggest hurdles.

Users of video streaming services frequently say that they're overwhelmed by swiping tiles, don't know what content or shows are about, where to find the content that they want to watch, and don't know how to get to what they might be interested in watching.

With the upcoming DStv Stream rebrand for its app, MultiChoice likely also wants to more clearly delineate the difference between DStv streaming - now DStv Stream from August - and Showmax, as separate services.

This will be especially important once Showmax 2.0 becomes operational and is launched by the end of this year.

MultiChoice said in its latest financial results report that the Randburg-based pay-TV operator intends to relaunch Showmax before the end of its next financial year, meaning the end of March 2024, but CEO Calvo Mawela has since clarified that MultiChoice has moved the relaunch date up and will now do so before the end of this calendar year, meaning before the end of December 2023.

By Friday afternoon there's been no press release or media statement from MultiChoice or its various PR agencies. MultiChoice was asked about DStv Stream on Friday and why the change is taking place. Comment will be added here when received.

On Friday, after reporting that the DStv app is getting rebranded as DStv Stream from 1 August, some DStv subscribers told TVwithThinus that they had actually received "emails" from MultiChoice about the upcoming DStv app change to DStv Stream which will be happening from August.

In an email send to DStv subscribers on Friday afternoon, Mawela wrote that "From the 1st of August your DStv app will now be called DStv Stream"

According to Calvo Mawela, the DStv Stream rebrand means "Better personalisation for you to discover content. Profiles for each family member. A smoother, simpler streaming experience. Change soundtracks to your local language where available."

"As a sport lover, my personal favourite is the league and tournament pages feature. They make following your favourite teams, cups and leagues so much more enjoyable, and this is just the beginning."

"We have so many exciting new features and experiences planned to enhance your enjoyment. Combined with more live sport than any other broadcaster in the world, Superfans like myself can kick back and enjoy the home of sport."

"I look forward to your feedback and hope you enjoy the updates to DStv, via our DStv Stream app. You will be able to enjoy these features with an update to your existing app from the 1st of August."

UPDATE Wednesday 2 August 2023 10:45am:
One of MultiChoice's PR agencies issued a press release on Tuesday 1 August which was sent only to some media.

"MultiChoice South Africa is excited to announce the launch of DStv Stream: our newly renovated home of entertainment. The all-inclusive entertainment platform continues to bring you the best sport, local and international content, anywhere," the press statement reads.

MultiChoice says DStv Stream will offer "Better personalisation for you to discover content in your profile, a smoother, simpler streaming experience" as well as the option to "Change soundtracks to your local language where available. This includes live sports commentary IsiZulu, isiXhosa, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and English."

"From the initial launch of the first decoder to pioneering digital satellite TV and now with DStv Stream, what drives innovation for us, is providing our customers with the content they love, in the way that’s best for them.” says Marc Jury, MultiChoice South Africa CEO.

"The launch of DStv Stream is just the start. As the home of entertainment, sport and local we will continue to deliver unrivalled value and choice for our customers. This way, every single South African can enjoy the magic of our content."

ANALYSIS. Can or kykNET save 7de Laan?

by Thinus Ferreira

After the SABC's shocking cancellation of 7de Laan which will end with its 24th season on SABC2 on 26 December, can rivals or M-Net's kykNET (DStv 144) save the show?

The short answer to the question is no, the longer answer is: "It's complicated". But 7de Laan's most-famous faces are not lost and will remain on TV - just not where and like you've seen them until now.

Let's take a deeper dive into why Hillside is very likely over the hill permanently and why neither nor kykNET can - or is willing to - pick up and take over production and broadcast of 7de Laan.

Here's what and kykNET might do and how they're going to pivot and gain audience share from the SABC's unforced error.

Can save 7de Laan?
eMedia spokesperson Bennum van Jaarsveld didn't respond to a media query last week asking if is able to take over 7de Laan, or, if it has this ability, if it indeed is something might consider.

Also, is the development and broadcast of a locally-produced Afrikaans-based TV soap at 18:00 something that might now consider - given that it's already dubbing Turkish telenovelas into Afrikaans to compete with 7de Laan? is unlikely to be able to take over 7de Laan which is produced by Danie Odendaal Productions. 

Interestingly, soaps like Scandal! are produced alongside 7de Laan within the same Sasani Studios (owned by eMedia) complex in Johannesburg. already has an Afrikaans dubbed Turkish soap and timeslot at 17:00 - currently Roekelose Dade - with the half-hour timeslot at 18:00 which has mostly become filler over the last few years precisely because 7de Laan was on.

Something like the disappointing uBettina Wethu that doesn't rate well in the 18:00 timeslot is mostly filler - just has to schedule something there as counterprogramming until Nikiwe does better at 18:30. 

But now with 7de Laan vacating the 18:00 timeslot on SABC2 - with the SABC literally "giving" the timeslot away or in a sense opening it up - it wouldn't at all be surprising if jumps at the chance.

Channel execs at could go one of two ways: Quickly develop a new Afrikaans-infused TV soap ready for air by January 2024 for 18:00. This will give audiences flicking the remote controls and discovering 7de Laan is gone but looking for an Afrikaans story, the opportunity to find a new South African story in Afrikaans on once Oppiekoffie has shut its doors.

Or: could move its Turkish telenovela timeslot later, to 17:30 or 18:00 and schedule and programming its Afrikaans-dubbed telenovela(s) there, or slot in a new one in the 18:00 timeslot.

 Although it won't be locally produced, even a Turkish telenovela now at 18:00 on will see higher ratings in the absence of 7de Laan, stealing free-to-air viewers away from SABC2 where former 7de Laan viewers will now be looking for a new home to park their TV watching at six o'clock in the evening.

7de Laan's 1.91 million viewers during the timeslot which made it SABC2's second most-watched show on the channel is a prize and viewers that would not say no to.

Conclusion: is very likely not in a position to save 7de Laan specifically but will very likely make hay by programming its 18:00 timeslot with "something" Afrikaans to lure and keep the disgruntled Afrikaans viewers of SABC2, who will go looking for something else similar and new to watch during the timeslot. 

Even if can win over just a fraction of the 1.2 million viewers 7de Laan pulled it will improve the audience rating of's 18:00 timeslot with not a lot of effort required to create some programming favourable to these viewers.

With the demise of 7de Laan, has the most to gain from the SABC's decision to no longer have 7de Laan in this timeslot and programming something there.

Can kykNET save 7de Laan?
The truth is that kykNET is actually what we call over-subscribed when it comes to Afrikaans TV soaps and telenovelas - it already has Suidooster (at 18:00), Diepe Waters (at 18:30), Binnelanders (at 19:30) and Arendsvlei on kykNET & Kie (DStv 145) at 19:30. 

Can it really take over 7de Laan - but more importantly: Does it even want to when the TV cupboard is fully stocked?

When asked last week if kykNET has the ability to, and if it has the ability, want to take over 7de Laan, a channel spokesperson said kykNET has no comment on the matter although it's aware of what SABC2 is letting go of.

When 7de Laan ends - since it's happened before - a portion of those free-to-air viewers might very well bite the bullet and transform into pay-TV viewers by subscribing to DStv. 

When the SABC cancels or loses popular programming - for instance sports or now 7de Laan - a portion of public broadcaster viewers go: "The SABC is no longer offering what I watched, or I feel I must keep watching, I will now begrudgingly pay for DStv".

Thus, over the short term, expect a small ratings bump for Suidooster at 18:00 on kykNET from January 2024.

Those will be former 7de Laan viewers switching from free on SABC2 to DStv and continuing to watch in that timeslot because they want to watch something Afrikaans during that habitual TV viewing timeslot they've become accustomed to and organise their evening household routine around.

Is kykNET able to take over 7de Laan? It's more tricky. kykNET certainly has the ability and financial means to, but it might very well be barred from doing so if the Danie Odendaal Productions concept of 7de Laan belong to the SABC. 

What does this mean? 

In simple terms and without making the explanation too complicated, some shows "belong" to the SABC outright - they created the idea and commissioned it, some shows were taken to the SABC by producers but remain the property of the producers (the SABC shows it but doesn't own the intellectual property or IP), and some shows were taken to the SABC who then in the contract say they buy the IP as well.

There is a reason that no other broadcaster or TV channel picked up and continued with Top Billing after the SABC cancelled it on SABC3 - even though they want to. 

While the Top Billing brand name and show concept have a lot of brand value and name recognition and most certainly would do well as a reimagined show with the same slick production values and content on for instance a M-Net (DStv 101) channel, M-Net or or NBCUniversal's E! Africa (DStv 124) can't take it over or start a show called Top Billing that looks like what Top Billing looked. 

The SABC commissioned the show and owns the show (concept and IP) - it just doesn't want to do anything with it anymore. The result is that nobody else can touch it. 

The same very likely goes for 7de Laan: Even if kykNET is interested in it and in taking it over from SABC2, it might effectively be barred from doing so since 7de Laan is "owned" by the SABC.

What kykNET soaps will do with 100% certainty, is pick up several of the 7de Laan actors and crew who will start to pop up before long in the end-credit rolls and as on-screen talent in Suidooster, Binnelanders and Diepe Waters which is what has happened before and will again after the demise of other Afrikaans TV soaps or the exits of actors.

Hilda and her scarves for instance got transformed after the character's exit from 7de Laan, as Kate for Suidooster on kykNET. Look for several of these TV transformations to take place as the actors find new work (on kykNET shows).

Conclusion: Just like, kykNET will definitely keep a keen eye on the 18:00 timeslot. It's however already in a "better" position, since it already has Suidooster there for DStv subscribers looking for Afrikaans soap content, in that timeslot. 

kykNET has less to gain than by making changes at 18:00 but might still play out programming scenarios and move around some TV pieces of its line-up puzzle. Even if kykNET could save 7de Laan and is "allowed" to, is doesn't really have an incentive to do so. 

7de Laan actors will start to show up as new characters in various kykNET shows on pay-TV.

M-Net names its year-at-the-seaside new drama series set in Simon's Town as Summertide.

by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net (DStv 101) has named its year-at-the-seaside series from Red Letter Day Productions set in Simon's Town as Summertide with the 52-episode drama which will debut on the channel in January 2024.

The local production from Corné and René van Rooyen who have helmed the drama series Alles Malan, on kykNET (DStv 144) as well as the films Vaselinetjie and Moorivier – follows a widowed marine biologist with two children who relocates to Simon's Town in the Western Cape province following to start a penguin rehabilitation centre.

Currently in development, Martin Field has two teenage children, Tristan and Lucy. 

Summertide will include his parents - retired naval commander Jack and his mother Wilma - as well as his brother Gavin described as "a surfer who leads a careless life of sleeping around and repeatedly losing jobs".

Martin also gets reacquainted with his first romantic love interest Rebecca Solomons who worked as a Michelin star chef in New York. M-Net and Red Letter Day Productions haven't yet announced any casting.

"We are incredibly excited about this new series and the creative team involved in bringing it to life," says Waldimar Pelser, M-Net director of premium channels. "Prepare for an unforgettable journey with an authentic family set against the picturesque backdrop of False Bay."

Red Letter Day Productions says "We are thrilled to be introducing our Simon's Town Field family to South African audiences and take them on a highly entertaining weekly journey where we explore the themes of family, love, and community against the backdrop of saving the oceans in the incredible setting of False Bay."

2023's 75th Primetime Emmy Awards indefinitely postponed to 2024 due to the Hollywood strike.

by Thinus Ferreira

Exactly as I said would happen, the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards which was set for 18 September has now been indefinitely postponed to sometime in 2024 with the American awards show that will no longer take place due to the ongoing strikes by writers and actors in the United States.

While the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences hasn't issued any statement, American publications reported late on Thursday nights that various vendors supplying products and services to the Emmys, told the Academy they would no longer be involved.

The members of the SAG-AFTRA union representing actors in the United States and the Writers Guild of America representing writers in the United States, are striking and demanding better deals with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The AMPTP represents all of America's biggest TV and film studios as well as streaming services ranging from The Walt Disney Company to Netflix.

Actors and writers are demanding policy protections from the AMPTP against the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as better contracts and more transparency from streamers - most notably an increase in residual payments for their work carried on video streaming services like Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and others.

The last time the Primetime Emmy Awards was postponed was in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City when it was pushed to November of that year.

In South Africa, the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards would have aired live on M-Net (DStv 101) at 03:00 on Tuesday 19 September and again during primetime on the same day.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

7de Laan: Petition to save TV show grows to thousands as fans rally to save 'beacon of hope'.

by Thinus Ferreira  

Following the SABC's shocking cancellation of 7de Laan on SABC2, viewers have started an online petition, #Red7deLaan/#Save7deLaan, which had close to 25 000 signatures and comments by Thursday morning as desperate fans plead with the SABC, or kykNET to save the TV show which they call "a beacon of hope".

The final episode of 7de Laan is set to be recorded on 21 October and will air on 26 December.

The SABC gave the crew and cast of the Danie Odendaal Productions show the news that it was cancelled last week Monday morning, with the public broadcaster saying that the show is too expensive to keep on the air given its viewership. 

7de Laan had 1.19 million viewers in June, making it the most-watched Afrikaans show on South African television and the second-most-watched show on SABC2 after Muvhango with 1.4 million viewers. 

The petition that was started on is the second time a 7de Laan petition was started and quickly went viral on the platform. 

The previous time was in January 2021 when news leaked that SABC2 was cutting down 7de Laan from five to just three episodes per week from April 2021 which quickly amassed thousands of signatures and comments from concerned viewers.

At the time, the SABC said that it was aware that a "public petition was circulated, in an attempt to prevent the SABC from diversifying its content on SABC2". The petition worked and six months later 7de Laan returned to five episodes per week on SABC2.

The latest petition on, started by Jermaine Christians, reads: "The SABC decided not to renew 7de Laan for the next season. We as the loyal viewers completely disagree, with no reasons provided why 7de Laan has not been renewed for another season."

"The show has reached so many milestones 23 years on air, 24 seasons and even 5000 episodes. This is not the first time that viewers see the soapie being attacked by the SABC. This is not just an attack on us as loyal fans and viewers but on the Afrikaans community as well. This soapie is known for its large road show campaigns to interact with fans and viewers."

"We would like to urge SABC to reconsider the decision and renew 7de Laan. The success behind the show comes from real-life storylines, multiculturalism and catering for the needs of every South African who could relate."

"We the fans of 7de Laan would like to urge other production houses such as or even kykNET to buy into the idea of 7de Laan not just saving the jobs of cast members, the crew but also the number 1 Afrikaans soapie in South Africa."

"Just the idea that +- 120 people could be left jobless in a country with an already failing economy is sickening to say the least."

"This is not just about the entertainment but also the beacon of hope this soapie was unto so many when it came to job creation with their yearly internship programme."

"This is not the first time SABC tried calling off the shots when it comes to 7deLaan and therefore we plead with other production houses to make use of this opportunity to try and #Save7deLaan for good this time."

"How do you shut the doors of an award-winning soapie with millions of viewers, this does not make sense and we believe as viewers there's more to the story behind SABC trying once again to shut down one of the most loved soapies."

On Tuesday the SABC was asked for comment about the new 7de Laan petition but didn't respond to the media query.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Could Jack have survived on the Titanic door? James Cameron and Nat Geo find out.

by Thinus Ferreira

Jack and Rose clung on for dear life on a door as the Titanic sank after he finally also slipped into the deep - now director James Cameron returns to find out in a new National Geographic special on Wednesday night if it was ever possible for him to have survived.

In Titanic: 25 Years with James Cameron on Wednesday night at 21:00 on National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220) the filmmaker James Cameron returns to the scene of the sinking to settle the debate once and for all - in a scientific way - as to whether Rose and Jack could possibly both have survived.

Long after the smash-hit film, fans have argued for decades as to whether Jack, played by Leonardo DiCaprio could have survived if Rose made more space atop the Titanic door, or whether the two star-crossed lovers could have done something else to have ensured that both survived the icy tragedy in the frigid Atlantic Ocean.

The aftermath of Titanic's sinking however goes beyond just whether there was room for two on a piece of debris. The deeper story - one that some claim James Cameron got wrong - is whether Jack could have changed the outcome had he acted differently.

National Geographic settles this once and for all together with James Cameron, by staging a few scientific experiments to find out what Jack and Rose could have done differently within the circumstances, and whether it would have changed anything.

"Ever since the movie came out, people have insisted they both could have survived," says James Cameron. "Let's test it - let's do some science. I'm going to recreate Jack and Rose on the raft in a controlled laboratory setting. There's a genuine element of danger to these experiments," he says.

"We find out, once and for all, whether Jack could have survived the sinking of Titanic," James notes.

In a pool of -2 degrees Celcius, two stunt people who have the same height and weight as Kate Winslet and DiCaprio, are dressed up in the same attire and put into the water with the same debris that the two clung to in the movie.

Was there really not enough space for both on top of it? That's the question of the first experiment and it's shocking what you see when both get on the door, since something else happens.

In a second experiment, Jack will again get on the debris, but in a way where only half their bodies remain further out of the water. Would Jack and Rose be able to survive in this scenario, and if so, for how long?

And in a third and last test: What happens if Rose gives Jack her lifejacket? Does he then live and does she then die?

7de Laan: 'Old' faces could return to Oppiekoffie for jaw-dropping moments.

by Thinus Ferreira

There's a very strong possibility of some golden characters who might return to Hillside over the next few months - some "old", familiar and beloved faces - once again showing up in 7de Laan as the cancelled TV soap now builds up to its swansong episode on 26 December on SABC2.

7de Laan viewers will now have to wait and see whether it's maybe Oom Francois (Chris van Niekerk), Xander (Theodore Jantjies), Hilda (Annelisa Weiland), Ryno (Chris Vorster), Christelle (Anna-Mart van der Merwe) or any of a whole host of former actors returning to reprise their iconic character roles.

Might it be Charmaine (Vinette Ebrahim) who returns to Oppiekoffie, or will it be Paula (Diaan Lawrenson) suddenly waltzing back into Hillside, with a certain "je ne sais quoi"?

After dealing with the shocking cancellation news that the crew and cast of 7de Laan received last Monday from the SABC on-set at Sasani Studios in Johannesburg, the staff and the writers' room at the Danie Odendaal Productions immediately shifted to an "all hands on deck" approach to make the last remaining months in production as memorable as possible for viewers.

Original 7de Laan episodes of its 24th season will still film until 21 October, leaving three months for the producers to plot behind-the-scenes to try and bring back memorable and popular characters, scrap some storylines, create some new ones and to pivot 7de Laan and all the characters of Oppiekoffie towards a new climactic final episode.

7de Laan will bow out the day after Christmas on SABC2 on 26 December with the producers who now want there to be "not a dry eye left in any house" when the episode airs.   

Although it is the most-watched Afrikaans TV show on South African television and the second-most-watched show on SABC2 with 1.19 million viewers, the SABC has decided to cancel 7de Laan since it has become too expensive for the broadcaster to keep on the air. 

The decision to cancel 7de Laan was done by Merlin Naicker, head of SABC video entertainment; Lala Tuku, SABC head of content for video entertainment, David Makubyane, general manager of video entertainment platforms; and SABC2 channel head Gerhard Pretorius. 

The SABC is also looking at cancelling more long-running shows across SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3, with Lala Tuku, SABC head of content for video entertainment, saying the production cost of some SABC shows are too high for the ratings they deliver.

"The cancellation news initially hit us like a heavy blow," an insider told me. 

"There were tears and we're all sad. It definitely brought an air of uncertainty into our lives. Everyone is still working through it. Some days will be better than others. As we now approach the filming of the final episode in October, more emotions can be expected to surface."

According to sources, the filming of the final episode and final scene on 21 October "will likely be a bittersweet moment, filled with both celebration and reflection. Hopefully everyone will be able by then, to say farewell to a product they've worked on with so much passion". 

Piet Matipa, 7de Laan scriptwriter and head of storylines and content at the show, told me "There are definitely elements of surprise and the possibility to bring back older characters especially if the actors who've portrayed those characters are available and willing".

"The creative process is ongoing and then consultations will start once it's approved. To say goodbye is emotional and to do so forever even more."

Kayleen Bessit, 7de Laan publicist, told me that 7de Laan "is thankful for the years that our fans and viewers gave us the ability to live out and express our creativity and talents".

Monday, July 24, 2023

MultiChoice Ghana hikes DStv fees by up to over 18% from August for a second time in 2023.

by Thinus Ferreira

After hiking DStv prices by up to 19% in February this year, MultiChoice Ghana has once again announced that DStv fees in the West African country will be increased from August 2023 by up to another 18%, blaming Ghana's runaway inflation rate.

The August DStv price hike will be the second price increase in Ghana within months, and the second price hike within the same year - similar to what has been done by MultiChoice Kenya in East Africa.

So far MultiChoice South Africa increased prices in 2023 in South Africa while MultiChoice Africa hiked prices in countries ranging from GhanaNigeriaUganda, Zambia, from July in Tanzania and for a shocking second time in Kenya within months.

MultiChoice Ghana is hiking DStv Premium from 1 August 2023 by 16.5% from GH₵515 to GH₵600.

MultiChoice Ghana is also hiking DStv Compact Plus by 16.9% from GH₵325 to GH₵380, increasing DStv Compact by 15.9% from GH₵220 to GH₵255 and increasing DStv Family by 18.1% from GH₵110 to GH₵130.

MultiChoice Ghana is hiking DStv Access by 16.6% from GH₵60 to GH₵70.

Nii Armah Dagadu, MultiChoice Ghana corporate affairs manager, says the DStv price hikes are due to Ghana's inflation and the instability of Ghana's currency.

"The stability of our currency is quite an issue but remember that this particular increase is heavily driven by the cost of inflation." 

Big Brother Naija already secured for a 9th season in 2024 as part of MultiChoice and M-Net's 2-season renewal with Banijay Rights.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice has picked up Big Brother Naija for two seasons, meaning that the Nigerian version shown across sub-Saharan Africa on DStv and its streaming service Showmax has essentially already been "renewed" for a 9th season in 2024.

The 8th season of Big Brother Nigeria, entitled Big Brother Naija: All Stars started on Sunday night on DStv and Showmax but before its debut, MultiChoice and M-Net have already signed for this 8th season as part of a two-season rights pick-up from Banijay Rights. 

Big Brother Naija: All Stars is produced by Red Pepper Pictures.

MultiChoice and M-Net's two-season pick-up marks their first two-season acquisition of the Big Brother format, meaning that another season which will be Big Brother Naija's 9th season, will definitely be happening in 2024. 

"Big Brother has earned the right to be called the most-watched, and followed, show across Africa," says Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, in a statement. 

"For us at MultiChoice, it aligns with our commitment to delight and entertain our viewers across the continent. This two-year partnership with Banijay ensures continuity and an uninterrupted delivery of Big Brother, which fans and our viewers are always eager to tune in to watch." 

Robin Pollok, vice president of sales for the Africa, Middle East, Greece & Israel region at Banijay Rights, says "After the recent finale of Big Brother: Titans, which notably featured contestants from both South Africa and Nigeria, this follows on as a fantastic double pick-up from M-Net". 

"Big Brother is a show that's consistently generated incredible ratings and entertainment value and we're delighted to be working once again with our Nigerian broadcast and production partners."

To date, Big Brother has had 66 adaptations, broadcast across 72 countries, with over 520 seasons and 35 000 episodes. Last year there were 33 versions of Big Brother done, shown across 26 markets. 

Big Brother Naija: All Stars will be shown for 24 hours a day on the Big Brother Naija pop-up channel on DStv channel 198, with various weekly highlight programmes on the Africa Magic Urban (DStv 153), Africa Magic Family (DStv 154) channel.

Big Brother Naija: All Stars is running for 10 weeks (70 days) until 1 October which is Nigeria's Independence Day, featuring returning contestants chosen from across season three's "Double Wahala" to season 7's "Level Up", with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu who is back as the host of the show.

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. The KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission's 10th Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards came and went. Eye-roll.

by Thinus Ferreira

The KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission's 10th Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards came and went on Saturday night. You probably don't know about it or even who won because there's barely any coverage and a lack of real reporting about it.

It's what happens when you get starstruck, don't know how the media functions, and decides to work with social media influencers who are in it to promote themselves instead of what you're actually doing or trying to showcase.

For the record: TVwithThinus was invited but didn't attend. Also for the record: The KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission in its infinite wisdom decided that only people from Johannesburg would be flown to Durban. 

On Monday morning the question is: Where exactly is all the coverage from all of these people from Johannesburg that the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission took to Durban to cover the 10th Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards?

Where exactly are all the interviews, the articles, the opinion pieces, the show-and-tell stories from the red carpet, what the awards did, how it was the same and different this year, or what the KZN Film Commission's work is and what this body is trying to do? 

There's nothing about it because the KZN Film Commission apparently lacks an understanding of how to engage and work with the media, who exactly the members of the media are in South Africa who cover the country's film and TV industry, how they operate, and why influencers and their here-today, gone-tomorrow flash-snaps isn't something that truly builds an industry or has permanence.

Besides Daily News reporting about Saturday night's industry awards - in a general provincial newspaper, where exactly is the industry coverage? What did the KZN Film Commission and the award organisers do in the weeks prior to secure coverage like that? 

Everybody wants South Africa's TV and film industry to be "more American" - meaning more professional and to operate closer to that model: With things running and happening and more people just generally doing things "right".

That should start with people actually doing things. 

Dear KZN Film Commission and organisers of the 10th Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards: You can't sit back and expect coverage and exposure for the awards and the province's work within the country's broader film and TV biz without actual ... effort.

Nothing is going to yield ... nothing. 

Is it really too difficult, cumbersome, time-consuming and "expensive" to invite media to a Zoom meeting or interaction of half an hour to discuss the awards? To actually send press releases? To get to know actual journalists, what they would cover and want to cover and to help to get those articles done and to secure that earned media?

What's the real actual return on the investment from the influencers and people who were flown at cost from Johannesburg to Durban to "cover" the 10th Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards? Selfies?

What was done and reported that build these awards and the KZN Film Commission and has some type of permanence and legacy beyond ethereal social media scrolling that lives for now and is gone and forgotten in a second? 

While something like a provincial film and TV awards is laudable and the effort surely appreciated what does something like the 10th Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards really mean if enough people -the public and the industry - don't really take notice, and if there isn't a real and tangible media presence to cover it?

When it comes to the Simon Mabhunu Sabela KZN Film and Television Awards the KZN Film Commission should really do some serious introspection - especially around proper media engagement, what it is, how it works, and how to foster and get it.

Work harder but also smarter.

SABC: Cancellation of more shows likely, Isidingo could possibly return.

by Thinus Ferreira

After the shocking cancellation of the long-running 7de Laan on SABC2 the South African public broadcaster says it's not the only show that will be axed with the broadcaster reviewing the content of the SABC's entire TV offering across SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 - with Isidingo which might be revived.

The SABC admits that because of revenue and budget constraints, it's now focused on making smaller shows with a lower production cost. 

The broadcaster sent shockwaves through the local TV industry when it confirmed the cancellation of 7de Laan a week ago and said that the Danie Odendaal Productions show will air its final episode on 26 December after 24 seasons.

Now the SABC indicates that no programmes on the public broadcaster are safe with more cancellations likely coming down the pipeline similar to what happened to Top Billing, High Rollers, The Estate, Motswako, Pasella, Live AMP and others as the broadcaster struggles to lift ratings for its three TV channels which keep eroding year after year.

Lala Tuku, SABC head of content for video entertainment, told Rapport newspaper that the SABC is reviewing the entire SABC's TV content offering, not just that of SABC2.

7de Laan got cancelled as the most-watched Afrikaans TV show on South African television and in June was the second most-watched show on SABC2 where it pulled 1 191 198 viewers for its most-watched episode last month. 

7de Laan's viewership is just behind the long-running Venda soap Muvhango with 1.43 million viewers. 

Asked if other shows on SABC2 are facing possible cancellation if 7de Laan isn't deemed cost-effective enough with a rating of 1.19 million viewers, Lala Tuku said "absolutely".

"We're busy with a new strategy for the channel. We're investigating viewership patterns, are reviewing old programmes and the landscape is changing. To remain competitive we need to make decisions which are popular and less popular".

Asked if the SABC now wants to make smaller shows with a lower production cost, Lala Tuku said "yes, but we have to remain globally competitive and maintain a high standard. The production cost is however very high and the viewership figures influence advertisers".

"I wish more South Africans watch the SABC so that we can produce more local content. Advertising income is our revenue." About the broadcaster's upcoming announcement of yet another annual financial loss which will be above R1 billion, Lala Tuku says that plays a role in the cancellation of content.

"That's why difficult decisions are now being made. 7de Laan is one of them."

Tuku notes that while shows with huge appeal and massive brand awareness like Pasella and Top Billing have been cancelled in recent years "I'm currently working to try and revive some of these programmes, like Isidingo, and that makes me excited".

Friday, July 21, 2023

Netflix rolling out its password-crackdown in South Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix has started to roll out the video streaming service's password crackdown in South Africa as part of its ongoing plans to try and convert content leechers globally to content payers.

In its latest quarterly report, Netflix noted that its password crackdown initiative it first started to test last year, is now truly going global since this week.

Netflix started its password crackdown - a process it calls "paid sharing" - across South American countries like Chile, Costa Rica and Pery last year, and followed it up in February this year by expanding it to Canada, Portugal, New Zealand, Spain and since May in the United States. 

Now it will be rolled out to virtually every other country Netflix is available in.

Netflix says it netted an additional 6 million subscribers in the quarter at the end of June and that a lot of the additional new subscribers are people it managed to convince to switch to pay for their own Netflix accounts after having borrowed and used the login details of family and friends.

Netflix's big rival in South Africa, MultiChoice, started its own password crackdown initiative in March last year by suddenly limiting DStv subscribers to just one online watch stream from an account. 

This move which was beset with technical problems was met with heavy criticism and backlash by DStv subscribers with MultiChoice that later last year said it was working on some corrections and changes. By mid-2023 no changes to the single concurrent DStv stream has yet been announced or implemented.

Netflix uses a combination of checking for IP addresses and device ID details to determine whether various Netflix account logins are coming roughly from the same location, meaning the same household.

In its Q2 quarterly report, Netflix notes that it will now be expanding its password crackdown initiative to "almost all" of its remaining countries, saying that "we're rolling out paid sharing to almost all of the remaining countries".

South African actors on the US strike: 'We're absolutely in this fight with our American counterparts'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Filming of at least one series of a video streaming service, done in Cape Town, has shut down following the SAG-AFTRA actors' strike in the United States with more overseas productions done in South Africa which will follow, while the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) says they stand united in the fight behind their American counterparts demanding better contracts and working conditions. 

American actors have joined writers, who have been striking for 80 days and counting, with three of Hollywood's big three labour unions that are now on strike.

It comes after SAG-AFTRA asked its 160 000 members to strike after the drawn-out negotiation period with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) which represents Hollywood's biggest studios and video streaming services like Netflix, expired.

SAG-AFTRA demands structural changes and improvements to the residuals paid to actors by video streaming services - the money actors earn when their work is shown on streamers. SAG-AFTRA also wants regulations to be put in place around the utilisation of generative artificial intelligence (AI) when creating TV shows and films.

"SAGA stands in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America (WGA)," Jack Devnarain SAGA chairperson told TVwithThinus.

"We are very aware of the issues that they have raised during their negotiations with the streamers. We think that these are critical issues which are of global importance because even in South Africa we are confronted with the same issues."

"American actors are looking for better residual payments for their work on the streaming platforms and very importantly, they are also looking for protection from AI so that their work can't be replicated or co-opted by software programmes. These are some of the big issues that we are facing in South Africa as well," Jack Devnarain said.

"The big difference is that while in the United States those actors have the right to unionise and to engage in industrial action, in South Africa freelancers are not protected by the Labour Relations Act - in fact, we are specifically excluded. It means we may not form a union, or engage in union activities, or to engage in industrial action like going on strike".

"This is an important opportunity in terms of establishing an industry standard around the world," Jack Devnarain said.

"Because the US is such an important engine for creative industry growth and productivity, it means that the issues they are confronted with were always going to reach boiling point much faster than anywhere else in the world. Now we are there."

"The unions in the US have taken a bold and absolutely necessary stance to stop the abuse of performers and writers and to stand for some kind of protection and to guarantee the residuals that need to be paid to performers."

"Of course in South Africa, not only are we denied royalty payments, but we also have the streaming platforms that have come into South Africa and are shamelessly exploiting South African talent while claiming that their business model does not allow for any residual payments."

"We absolutely are in this fight with our American counterparts," Jack Devnarain said.

SA: There will be show suspensions
SAGA said it's knowledgeable of at least one show for a global streaming service that suspended production in South Africa last Friday which is one of the Cape Town-based shows.

Jack Devnarain said that "We are likely to see more of those, and those are necessary suspensions because they are using US talent. Yes, there will be suspensions, and as a result there may be work being diverted towards South African writers, possibly even South African actors."

"There is however no chance that any member of the South African Guild of Actors or the Writers Guild of South Africa would exploit any such opportunity to their benefit."

Netflix South Africa which has the most shows in production in the country of the global streamers on Friday didn't respond to a media query seeking comment about the shuttering of its local shows utilising American talent. 

Amazon Prime Video SA which has also started to commission and produce shows in South Africa like LOL: Last One Laughing South Africa which has comedian Trevor Noah as host, also didn't respond to a media query.  

SA: Battle for residuals continuing
According to Jack Devnarain the discussion around actor royalties in South Africa "is still very much on the table and following the parliamentary process".

"What we are looking at is the procedural delays that happen when you are engaged in that parliamentary process. Right now the bills are sitting with the National Council of Provinces and we are expecting that in July the provinces themselves will be making their representations on the changes that they have approved on the bills. We expect a final vote from the National Council of Provinces by September."

"With that timeline - in the course of that delay - we are very aware of a very strong lobbying effort that is being conducted by such organisations as the Commercial Producers Organisation of South Africa (CPA), the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO), Netflix and MultiChoice. These are some of the organisations lobbying very strongly against the bills."

M-Net slams rumours that Gqeberha: The Empire is cancelled, says season 2 for Mzansi Magic is being planned.

by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net is slamming rumours that the TV series Gqeberha: The Empire has been cancelled or will end after its first season on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and says planning is underway for the second season.

MultiChoice and M-Net are however investigating allegations of abuse at the Tshedza Pictures produced show done in the Eastern Cape province, with the production company that is investigating the allegations ranging from underpayment and a lack of catering and enough food, to the alleged ill-treatment of staff.

Tshedza Pictures is also responsible for series like The River on 1Magic and The Legacy on M-Net.

After social media rumours started that Gqeberha: The Empire has been axed and will to an abrupt end after just one season, MultiChoice and M-Net are refuting the social media chatter, saying it's not true and that planning is in fact underway on the second season.

Gqeberha: The Empire which made its debut in January to less than stellar ratings has improved somewhat over the past few months as Mzansi Magic's first isiXhosa telenovela to be filmed in the Eastern Cape.

The series follows polygamist businessman Luzuko Mxenge and a sprawling family empire story revolving around issues ranging from money and power, to lust, respect and love.

"The channel can confirm that Gqeberha: The Empire is scheduled to remain on-air for the foreseeable future," Mzansi Magic told TVwithThinus on Friday.

"Plans are in progress for the next season and further details will be communicated in due course. Mzansi Magic has just been made aware of the allegations of mistreatment of cast, we take such allegations seriously and we will be reaching out to the production house to verify the same."

"Gqeberha: The Empire has been welcomed by our audiences,  as a great avenue to connect with beautiful region of the Eastern Cape and we are proud of what this project has achieved in this province," Mzansi Magic says.

Gqeberha: The Empire lured 645 476 DStv subscribers in June as MultiChoice's fifth most-watched show of the month on pay-TV.