Tuesday, October 31, 2023

MultiChoice sorry for R19.95 Rugby World Cup DStv billing mistake.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is apologising for billing chaos around its R19.95 access offer to watch the 2023 Rugby World Cup final that angered DStv subscribers, with the pay-TV operator saying customers who suddenly got saddled with big bills won't be expected to pay more.

Last week Friday MultiChoice suddenly started to advertise a R19.95 once-off offer for customers to watch Saturday's final between the Springboks and New Zealand on DStv on the DStv Access streaming package.

The R19.95 price point was a play on the year 1995 when South Africa first won the Rugby World Cup.

From a marketing perspective MultiChoice leveraged the high interest in Saturday night's sports content from SuperSport as a DStv driver for sampling, event TV ratings, customer retention and possible new subscription adds.

A problem arose shortly after Saturday night at midnight - with the Rugby World Cup final match which ended just before midnight - when DStv Access sampler sign-ups who made use of the R19.95 to watch the game, cancelled or tried to cancel their one-day sign-up again.

They suddenly discovered they now owed and had an outstanding balance of -R175 instead of owing nothing. It's unclear where the R175 billing came from since DStv Access costs R99 per month.

Multiple complaints started on social media like X, formerly branded as Twitter, with people upset with DStv, and nothing that they're suddenly required to cancel with 30-days notice to MultiChoice and are saddled with negative balances.

People like Kayla shared screenshots of their DStv accounts, saying "I was celebrating now I'm crying. I signed up for R19.95 and now you want me to pay R175.50." People also said that DStv's customer support channels and call centre operators were unhelpful to resolve the billing mistake.

On Monday night MultiChoice told TVwithThinus the Randburg-based pay-TV operator apologises for the billing mistake, that it will be corrected soon and that nobody who made use of the R19.95 will be expected to pay more.

"MultiChoice would like to assure customers who signed up for the R19.95 Rugby World Cup deal that they will continue to enjoy their subscription to DStv Access (including an additional mobile Extra Stream) for a full month from their date of subscription for R19.95."

"Should customers choose to extend their subscription, they will be billed at R99 per month from the second month onwards."

"MultiChoice acknowledges and apologises for an error in customers' calculated amount on their statements. This will be corrected shortly. MultiChoice remains committed to bringing our customers the very best in sports and entertainment."

MultiChoice said that people who are having problems with the R19.95 offer can use the email address of RWC_Queries@DStv.com for help.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Morgan Freeman on Netflix's Life on Our Planet: 'It's Earth's milestones in the history of life'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix has released the Steven Spielberg-produced Life on Our Planet with Morgan Freeman as narrator as a new 8-episode series - tracking the rise and fall of life in its myriad of forms on Earth across 4 billion years.

Life on Our Planet is filled with life-like special effects, recreating creatures from millions of years ago as it tracks the story of life through Earth's previous mass extinction events.

Made over nearly five years, Life on Our Planet blends groundbreaking visual effects with state-of-the-art nature photography to show the story of what happened to some photorealistic animals that once roamed this planet.

Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, of Amblin TV and Silverback Films, Life on Our Planet uses the latest technology and science to bring long-extinct creatures back to life as it tracks the incredible story of life on Earth that today is home to 20 million species.

According to the producers, Life on Our Planet shows viewers "the story of life unfolding through its most pivotal moments: from the first single-celled life form, to the first animals to move out from the
sea and onto land, to the first creatures to take flight".

"Revisiting one of Earth's longest-lived dynasties, the dinosaurs, viewers bear witness to the cataclysmic downfall that led to the age of the mammals and the rise of the most dangerous animal the earth has ever seen: us."

With special effects done by Industrial Light and Magic, Life on Our Planet is similar to Prehistoric Planet on Apple TV+ - but not just showing extinct species, but also those who managed to adapt and the evolutionary adaptations they employed to survive over millions of years.

Life on Our Planet tracks the five mass extinctions that have happened over the span of Earth's history and how close the planet is to its sixth mass extinction event.

"Every single living thing alive today can trace its heritage back four billion years," says Morgan Freeman.

"Life on Our Planet explores the most important milestones in the history of life. This is the story of the great battles for survival and the dynasties that would take over the world. This is the story of life."

"We are the first species in the four billion-year story of life to understand what is happening to our
world. We are also the first species to understand what is needed to put it right."

"Our intelligence got us this far and it's the only thing that can save us. Our future and that of the planet is yet to be written. How we act now will determine the next chapter in the story of life."

M-Net’s Recipes for Love and Murder renewed for second season.

by Thinus Ferreira

The murder mystery series Recipes for Love and Murder on M-Net (DStv 101) has been renewed for a second season which will start filming in April 2024.

Recipes for Love and Murder - a co-production between M-Net, Acorn TV and production company Both Worlds Pictures - will have a second season of eight episodes, bringing the total number of the series to 18 episodes. 

The first season with director Christiaan Olwagen was broadcast on M-Net in March 2022.

Recipes for Love and Murder is based on the novel Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery of the South African author Sally Andrew with the culinary murder mystery that revolves around Maria Purvis (Doyle Kennedy) who is a recipe advice columnist for a small town newspaper.

"Recipes for Love and Murder has since its global distribution once again proven the appetite for our stories told through authenticity by Africa’s most-loved storytellers," says Nomsa Philiso, general entertainment CEO at the MultiChoice Group in a press release that was issued globally but not to South African media.

"We look forward to building on the success of this title through our international partnerships."

Catherine Mackin, managing director of Acorn Media Enterprises on behalf of Acorn TV, says "We are delighted to welcome our audiences back to the beautiful region of the Karoo in South Africa and the exciting but often dangerous world of Tannie Maria, led by the incomparable Maria Doyle Kennedy".

"There are still many investigations with shocking twists and turns to uncover, and with Tannie Maria leading the charge, justice is surely a small discovery of detail away."

Thierry Cassuto, Both Worlds Pictures managing director, says "We're overjoyed to announce the renewal of our beloved Recipes for Love and Murder for another season".
"This achievement is a testament to the dedication and talent of our creative team. To our partners, your support has been invaluable. To our fans, your love for the show has been the ultimate reward. And to Maria, we can't wait to have you back in South Africa and to cook up more magic together."

Mission: Impossible 8 with new name pushed to autumn 2025.

by Thinus Ferreira

Because of the Hollywood strike Paramount Pictures has now pushed out the premiere of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible 8 by a year from 2024 to autumn 2025 with the film which will also get a new name.

Instead of June 2024, cinemagoers will have to wait a year longer for Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 2, which will also undergo a name change. 

Paramount announced the Mission: Impossible 8 date shift as part of a raft of cinema release date changes in its latest release schedule update to the industry.

Paramount Pictures and Skydance blame the ongoing and protracted SAG-AFTRA strike by Hollywood actors demanding a better ideal from the various Hollywood studios including Netflix, with Million: Impossible which had to shut down production similar to many other films and TV series.

Filming for the second part of Dead Reckoning took place worldwide in places like Norway and the United Kingdom and including South Africa, with Tom Cruise who jumped out of an aircraft in the South African skies.

Cast of M-Net's Summertide sea-setshow filled with soap alums and CGI penguins.

by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net (DStv 101) has announced the cast of its upcoming generations-spanning drama series Summertide with Frank Rautenbach, Monique Rockman, Tyrone Keogh (right), Andre Jacobs and Terry Norton headlining the Cape South Peninsula sea-set show.

Summertide - an ambitious 52-episode drama which will unspool from late January 2024 on M-Net on Sunday evenings at 18:00 as the Carte Blanche lead-in - is produced by Red Letter Day Pictures and is currently filming in and around Cape Town's South Peninsula, including Simon's Town, Kommetjie and Kalk Bay. 

Written and lensed by the married production duo Corné and René van Rooyen, Summertide is described as a multi-generational drama series exploring "the profound depths of grief and the transformative power of love".

tells the story of 
marine biologist and father of two children, Martin Field Frank Rautenbach, left), who moves to the False Bay area to get away from a big secret – the death of his wife. There he starts a marine conservation trust for False Bay but life isn't as simple as it seems.

The series explores the lives of the Field family and the interesting characters who cross their paths, each one with their own secrets and desires. 

Headlining Summertide is Frank Rautenbach as charismatic marine biologist Martin, with Monique Rockman portraying a Michelin-star chef and Martin's former lover, Rebecca. She is currently in a relationship with his brother.

Also on the call sheet are veteran stage and screen actors Andre Jacobs and Terry Norton as Martin's parents Jack and Wilma Field.

Starring as Martin's children, the 16-year-old Tristan and 10-year-old Lucy are Jan Combrink and Evangelina Hallock.

Tyrone Keogh who was seen in M-Net's soap opera The Wild will be seen in the role of Martin's brother, Gavin a hedonistic retired professional surfer. 

Other talented additions include Ntombi Makhutshi who will also appear in M-Net's upcoming crime thriller drama series Devil’s Peak, Cassiel Eatock-Winnik, Euodia Samson, Maurice Carpede and Morné Visser. Amalia Uys is Martin's deceased wife Julia.

Interestingly Summertide will also feature two penguins brought to screen with the help of CGI special effects.

Another massive price hike for Apple TV+.

by Thinus Ferreira

Apple TV+ is once again doing a massive price hike of 43% with the monthly subscription fee of R125 set to increase to R192 per month.

It's another massive price hike after Apple increased the Apple TV+ subscription fee by 47% a year ago when it increased the price from R85 per month to R125 per month in its first-ever increase in October 2022.

Apple TV+ subscribers will now be paying R67 more per month with the subscription fee in dollar terms raised from $6.99 to $9.99, which means that Apple TV+ subscribers will be paying double what the video streaming service cost just a year ago.

"We are focused on delivering the best experiences possible for our customers by consistently adding high-quality entertainment, content, and innovative features to our services," Apple said in a statement about the latest Apple TV+ price hike.

"Since launching four years ago, Apple TV+ has made history for streaming services by crossing major milestones in a short span of time, thanks to its extensive selection of award-winning and broadly acclaimed series, feature films, documentaries, and kids and family entertainment."

According to Apple "existing subscribers will see these price increases 30 days later, on their next renewal date. We are focused on delivering the best experiences possible for our customers by consistently adding high-quality entertainment, content, and innovative features to our services."

Apple TV+ has steadily grown its collection of AppleTV+ original titles which includes shows like Foundation, The Morning Show and Ted Lasso, as well as Lessons in Chemistry, For All Mankind and Silo.

Apple which is yet to disclose how many subscribers it has for Apple TV+ and is set to report its fourth-quarter earnings next Thursday, isn't alone in hiking prices for its video streaming service, with Netflix and Disney+ that have increased prices this year and Amazon Prime Video and Netflix planning further price hikes in 2024.

MultiChoice's Showmax will announce a new price plan restructure when it relaunches a retooled Showmax within months in partnership with Comcast's NBCUniversal and Britain's Sky with the redone Showmax which will now carry sports content folded in like the English Premier League (EPL).

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

MultiChoice axes the Da Vinci kids channel from DStv.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice is ending and removing the global Da Vinci kids channel from DStv.

Da Vinci (DStv 318), owned and run by Macademia, is removed three years and nine months after it was added in March 2020 with the channel that will go dark for pay-TV subscribers on 14 November.

When MultiChoice added Da Vinci almost four years ago, it said that it was doing so since Da Vinci provided a "a safe space for children and parents to choose from a range of age-appropriate content that is entertaining and educational for both" and that the addition of the channel was "in line with our commitment to delivering content that caters and resonates with the whole family".

In response to a media query, MultiChoice confirmed it's removing Da Vinci.

The Randburg-based pay-TV operator says that it "regularly reviews its channel line-up to ensure we offer customers the best in local and international content" and that "as part of this ongoing process, Da Vinci will no longer be available on DStv from 14 November 2023".

Monday, October 23, 2023

SABC adds little-publicised entertainment magazine show The Sauce to SABC1.

by Thinus Ferreira

The SABC has added another entertainment magazine show, The Sauce to the SABC1 schedule, barely promoting it and with little publicity effort.

The SABC didn't bother to share or send out even a basic press release for The Sauce produced by Bonngoe Productions, and there were no roundtable interviews or any publicity push for the show. 

Ironically and sadly - but unexpected for the SABC - the show is about the local entertainment industry, but the SABC wasn't able to actually engage with the local entertainment industry properly about it.

Last week, two days before the broadcast of its first episode on TV the SABC suddenly had a lunch event for The Sauce in Johannesburg for some Johannesburg media only (who likewise did little to absolutely no reporting about it but will probably be invited again), although SABC1 is a nationally-seen channel. 

Nomalanga Shozi is the presenter of The Sauce. On Wikipedia it says she was in Rhythm City, the now-cancelled soap on e.tv, and is a TV and radio presenter and an actress. In 2018 Nomalanga Shozi went to Las Vegas to cover the backstage area and red carpet of the 2018 BET Soul Train Awards and hosted BET Breaks.

The SABC complained in parliament earlier this month that the money it has spent from its last government bailout failed to lift ratings for any of the new shows produced by that money.

The Sauce is another great example of that where the SABC makes content and doesn't bother to properly publicise or promote it with the media through anything remotely resembling proper PR. It's as if it doesn't exist although it costs a lot of money to make it.

The Sauce is apparently an entertainment show, like E! News, doing "takedowns of everything celebrity, entertainment news, influence and lifestyle" with a "tongue-in-cheek comedic approach". 

It sound and looks stale and dated and completely from a bygone 2000s era like trying to redo Nicky Greenwall's The Showbiz Report that was on e.tv. Another here-today-gone-tomorrow show or will The Sauce survive for longer than a season?

The Morning After with a British singer washing up on a Cape Town beach is Amazon Prime Video's first South African drama series.

by Thinus Ferreira

Filming has started on Amazon Studios' first South African drama series, The Morning After, in which a British singer and party girl wakes up naked on a Cape Town beach after she broke out and escaped rehab and is then taken in by a group of young people.

The Morning After as the first original South African drama series for Amazon Prime Video comes after the disappointing and little-publicised Gangs of Lagos which finally made its debut earlier this year with very little fanfare or media traction as the first Amazon Original film from Africa.

Amazon Studios also announced that it is doing a format version of LOL: Last One Laughing South Africa with Trevor Noah as host, as well as a Nigerian version, LOL: Last One Laughing Naija.

Then the streamer also commissioned a new Nigerian travelogue reality show Ebuka Turns Up Africa, with all of these shows which will make their debut in 2024 when Amazon's localised retail presence and portal also launches in South Africa.

The Morning After with eight episodes is produced by Both Worlds Pictures and Paradoxal for Amazon Prime Video, with British actress Amara Okereke in the main role as Nina who makes friends with a group of twentysomething beach cottage mates Michaela, Mandisa, Cleo and Justin after she bails on the upmarket rehab centre New Life in Cape Town.

The Morning After, created by Thierry Cassuto and Karen Jeynes also responsible for M-Net's Recipes for Love and Murder, also stars Carmen Pretorius as rich kid turned artist Michaela, Danica Jones as camerawoman Pauline, Richard Gau as aspiring techbro Justin and Khaya Dladla as nightclub impresario Tarquin. 

Tarryn Wyngaard plays lawyer Cleo and Gaosi Raditholo is model Mandisa.

The drama series is directed by Cindy Lee and Karen Jeynes with Rémy Jacquelin at Paradoxal and Thierry Cassuto, Karen Jeynes and Thato Cassuto at Both Worlds Pictures as co-executive producers.

Nina is "determined not to give her stepfather the satisfaction of seeing her fail and takes on a series of hustles to earn enough for rent, food and weed, putting her singing talents to good use, and relishing the world-renowned carefree sunkissed Cape Town lifestyle".

Rémy Jacquelin says The Morning After "is a very special project whose time has finally come for Paradoxal and Both Worlds, the second in our slate which got disrupted by Covid. It's a fun, sexy and bingeworthy comedy-drama set, with an amazing young cast, in stunningly beautiful Cape Town and we can't wait to share it with viewers from all around the world".

Friday, October 20, 2023

eMedia's Openview renames Proud bouquet to Edge as OUTtv prepares to debut The G-List filmed in South Africa.

by Thinus Ferreira

eMedia's Openview satellite service has renamed its Proud bouquet, offering gay content, the Edge bouquet, with the OUTtv channel that is getting ready to debut The G-List from the end of the month as a new show that it commissioned and filmed in South Africa.

Openview's formerly Proud and now Edge bouquet continues to carry two subscription TV channels - OUTtv and Fuse.

About the bouquet name change, Openview says that the Edge bouquet "embraces diversity and inclusion with a colourful world of exclusive content and has something for everyone".

"Reflecting the dynamic and inclusive nature of the content and programming on the channels found on the bouquet, Edge symbolizes a forward-thinking approach, pushing boundaries and embracing a variety of perspectives".

"The Edge bouquet is our way of broadening our scope while staying true to our commitment to quality entertainment and representation."

Meanwhile OUTtv getting ready to debut its South African-filmed original series, The G-List at the end of October.

The G-List is described as "a captivating reality series that delves into the lives of three dynamic queer
individuals navigating the vibrant world of South African entertainment and media: Kyle Clark, a charismatic media mogul and brand influencer; Mthaux, a bold, non-binary fashionista challenging norms; and Lula Odiba, a vivacious YFM DJ blazing a trail for women in broadcast".

The G-List will offer an "intimate look at their lives in the spotlight. With humour, heart, and plenty of drama as "as a riveting exploration of success, identity, and the pursuit of dreams in the colourful realm of South African media and entertainment and the country's bustling LGBTQI scene".

Openview says the first episode of The G-List will also be available for streaming on e.tv's eVOD service.

The Edge bouquet has a free 3-day trial period after which a monthly subscription fee applies. There is also a 2-hour open window period daily between 21:00 and 23:00 for viewers to sample-watch the channel's content.

Joseph Tshabalala biopic Music is My Life is South Africa's 2024 Oscar entry as NFVF once again submits a project after snubbing local filmmakers in 2023.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Mpumi "Supa" Mbele-directed biopic Music is My Life about Joseph Tshabalala has been chosen as South Africa's official Oscar entry for 2024's 96th Academy Awards with the NFVF that has once again submitted a film after snubbing the country's filmmakers last year with no entry.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) chose Music is My Life - Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo as South Africa's official entry for the 96th Annual Academy Awards set for 10 March 2024 in Los Angeles.

Last year, for the first time in 15 years, the NFVF's secret selection committee courted controversy and angered South African filmmakers after it decided not to enter any of the submitted films, claiming that none of the films properly depicted their "marginalised communities"

To date the NFVF has refused to give any of the filmmakers any feedback on what it meant, what was allegedly specifically wrong with their films and how and what to improve. 

This year four films made the shortlist and were evaluated by the group with Music Is My Life - Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo chosen as the official selection.

The biopic which was screened at the 2023 Joburg Film Festival at the start of the year as well as other international film festivals and was broadcast in August on SABC1, tells the story of the late Dr. Joseph Shabalala.

From his humble beginnings in rural KwaZulu-Natal until his death in 2020, Shabalala rose to international acclaim with his iconic band Ladysmith Black Mambazo and contributed to the success of Paul Simon's Graceland album. 

The film was produced by Carolyn Carew over a period of half a decade inspired by an idea of director and filmmaker Mpumi "Supa" Mbele. 

With the help of the Shabalala family archive, the film is an indelible collection of several never-before-seen recordings and frank conversations that help to illustrate Shabalala's illustrious life and career.

"It is always a great and privileged opportunity to have a South African film represent the country at the global industry's foremost awards," says Thobela Mayinje, acting NFVF CEO. "The fact that this particular film tells the authentic South African story of the iconic Dr. Shabalala is even more special".

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Paramount cancels 2023 MTV Europe Music Awards over Israel-Gaza crisis: ''This does not feel like a moment for a global celebration'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Paramount Global has abruptly cancelled the upcoming 2023 MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) that was set for 5 November in Paris, over the growing violence in the Middle East between Israel and the terrorist Hamas in Gaza, noting that "This does not feel like a moment for a global celebration".

The 2023 MTV Europe Music Awards was supposed to take place on 5 November at the Paris Nord Villepinte and would have been seen in more than 150 countries including on Paramount Global Africa's MTV (DStv 130) and MTV Base (DStv 322) TV channels on MultiChoice's DStv.

The 2023 MTV Europe Music Awards just announced its line-up earlier this week on Tuesday, highlighting performances by BTS' Jung Kook, Coi Leray, David Guetta, Manuel Turizo, Ozuna, Sabrina Carpenter, PinkPantheress Rema, Renee Rapp, The Kid Laroi, Thirty Seconds to Mars and others.

Taylor Swift had the most nominations with seven, followed by Olivia Rodrigo and SZA with six nominations each. 

Asake, Burna Boy, Arya Starr, Davido and Rema were the nominees for the brand-new Best Afrobeats category, with Monde Twala, senior vice president and general manager for Paramount Africa and lead for BET International who said that 2023 marked a "historic moment for the MTV EMAs" with the introduction of the Best Afrobeats category.

In a statement late on Thursday afternoon, Paramount Global says "Given the volatility of world events, we have decided not to move forward with the 2023 MTV EMAs out of an abundance of caution for the thousands of employees, crew members, artists, fans, and partners who travel from all corners of the world to bring the show to life".

"The MTV EMAs are an annual celebration of global music. As we watch the devastating events in Israel and Gaza continue to unfold, this does not feel like a moment for a global celebration. With thousands of lives already lost, it is a moment of mourning."

"We look forward to hosting the MTV EMAs again in November 2024."

The MTV EMAs has taken place annually since 1994.

Barry Dubovsky out at Showmax as MultiChoice's streamer loses COO just after CEO exit and before its Comcast's NBCUniversal relaunch: 'The optics look awful'.

by Thinus Ferreira

Barry Dubovsky is out as Showmax chief operating officer (COO) shortly after the abrupt exit of Yolisa Phahle as Showmax CEO a month ago, with Dubovsky's gap now being plugged by Joe Heshu who is now moved to Showmax after he was recently moved to the position of Southern Africa regional director at MultiChoice.

Insiders tell TVwithThinus "the optics look awful" for a video streaming service which is supposed to be relaunched within months with the help of Comcast's NBCUniversal and Britain's Sky, to try and more effectively compete with Netflix on the African continent.

Neither MultiChoice nor Showmax shared the latest management upheaval and changes with the media - similar to the CEO position exit of Yolisa Phahle. Comment will be added here if received.

The Australian Barry Dubovsky was at MultiChoice for 5 years after joining in 2018 - first as group exec of digital for MultiChoice Africa and later moved to the Showmax COO role.

In an internal email, similar to the one issued belatedly to MultiChoice staffers when they were informed that Yolisa Phahle is no longer Showmax CEO, MultiChoice said that Barry Dubovsky played "an integral role in closing the Peacock Platform agreement as part of the Comcast deal".

Similar to Yolisa Phahle who will be providing an "advisory" role to MultiChoice South Africa CEO and acting Showmax CEO Marc Jury until the end of February 2024, Barry Dubovsky will also play an "advisory role" for Showmax until the end of February 2024.

Joe Heshu is now the plug-and-play Showmax COO. 

In November 2021 Joe Heshu was quietly moved from his corporate affairs role in Johannesburg to Lusaka in Zambia to replace Kobus Bezuidenhout as Southern Africa regional director at MultiChoice and who only lasted a few month before also exiting.

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos promises greater ratings transparency.

by Thinus Ferreira

After releasing its third-quarter results on Wednesday night, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos promised that the video streaming service is working on greater ratings transparency.

Netflix has refused to make specific viewership data available for its content – an approach which was then adopted by other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and MultiChoice's Showmax that touts "record-breaking viewership" in press releases for the debut of shows without supplying the industry or media with any actual numbers or verified metrics.

In Netflix's usual pre-recorded earnings call and analysts' interview which once again followed the publication of its Q3 results, Ted Sarandos claimed that producers and talent feel "pretty trapped" by ratings information.

However, much greater insight and release of ratings and viewership data is one of the big sticking and negotiation points in the protracted actors' strike in America, with the actors' union SAG-AFTRA demanding greater viewership and ratings clarity from streamers since the information influences residual payments to artists.

"It was part of our promise with creators at the time we started creating original programming – our creators felt like they were pretty trapped in this kind of overnight ratings world and weekend box office world defining their success and failures," he explained on Wednesday night.

"And as we all know, a show might have enormous success down the road and it wasn't captured in that opening box office. So part of this was the relationship with talent – not just the business aspects of it. And I do think that, over time, people are much more interested in this."

"We're on the continuum today of, how much data do we publish? I think we've been leading the charge, starting everyone down the path of a Top 10, publishing our Top 10 list and our annual wrap-up list and everything to give a lot of transparency to the viewing and I just expect will be more and more transparent."

Ted Sarandos said "At the beginning, we thought there was a hard kind of apples-and-oranges comparison between ratings and streaming. I think we've gotten to a place where it's mostly based on engagement and it does measure the value of watching".

"Things will become much more transparent the way that TV has always had ratings and music has always had Billboard and theatrical has always had box office. So, it'll be much more common."

Amazon Studios commissions Nigerian travelogue reality series Ebuka Turns Up Africa with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu produced by Rapid Blue.

by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon Studios has commissioned another original African series, Ebuka Turns Up Africa, from Nigeria, as a travelogue reality show which will debut on the video streaming service in 2024.

In Ebuka Turns Up Africa, an Amazon Prime Video Original, the Nigerian Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, together with Timini Egbuson, Zubby Michael, Jimmie Akinsola, Onoja Adole, and Alistair Englebert Preston travel through Africa "uncovering hidden treasures and testing loyalties and friendships".

Ebuka Turns Up Africa is part of Amazon Studios growing slate of content put in production and acquired from the African continent and is produced by South Africa's Rapid Blue Productions Nigeria, an offshoot of Rapid Blue in South Africa, with Ziyanda Ngcaba and Erika Klopper as the co-executive producers.

The new Nigerian series follows after the disappointing and little-publicised Gangs of Lagos which finally made its debut earlier this year with very little fanfare or media traction as the first Amazon Original film from Africa.

Amazon Studios is also doing a format version of LOL: Last One Laughing Naija, along with a South African version of LOL with Trevor Noah as host.

In a press release, Amazon Studios says "Ebuka Turns Up Africa is a captivating showcase of camaraderie and adventure, as Ebuka undertakes the journey of a lifetime with his guys", describing the upcoming show as "a compelling series that not only transcends borders but reveals the men behind their celebrity personas".

"As our all-star cast ignites their spirit of exploration, personalities clash and tempers flare in a journey across the continent that isn't always smooth sailing."

"The adventure will take the team of intrepid travellers through a variety of experiences, from exploring Africa's most desirable destinations to delving into daring, high-adrenaline activities. Friendships will be tested, as the guys discover the magic of unity."

The press release about Ebuka Turns Up Africa was shared with Africa's media after it was specifically asked for, and only after the show's existence was announced at a panel at 2023's MIPCOM in Cannes yesterday by Ned Mitchell, the head of originals for Amazon Prime Video for the Africa and Middle East region.

Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, head of Nigerian originals at Amazon Studios, was part of the MIPCOM panel with Ned Mitchell where the Ebuka Turns Up Africa announcement was made.

"This is Ebuka and Africa like you've never seen before!"exclaims Ned Mitchell in the press release.

"It's an invitation for audiences to immerse themselves in the heart and soul of Africa. Ebuka Turns Up Africa is a unique celebration of Africa, brought to life by Ebuka and his top squad."

In a prepared quote, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu states "This journey was not only an exciting exploration of Africa, it was an opportunity for audiences to see a different side of me and the guys. Whilst we had a huge amount of fun and plenty of laughs, there were also some pretty intense conflicts - it was one wild adventure!"

About Lessons in Chemistry on Apple TV+ but also Apple TV+'s lack of South African media chemistry.

by Thinus Ferreira

A new American drama series, Lessons in Chemistry, has just made its debut on Apple TV+ with Brie Larson.

Produced by Apple Studios, there's not been anything in terms of publicity from Apple besides the basic press releases, the bulk of which was never actually shared with South African media. 

When it comes to global streaming services available in South Africa, Apple TV+, in terms of publicity and interaction with the local press, sadly ranks right at the bottom of the pile when it's compared to what Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and others do in this territory to promote upcoming content and involving the media. 

I wish it was better since Apple TV+ has some worthwhile programming like The Morning Show and Foundation but South Africa's media and journalists covering television remain firmly locked out when it comes to relevant communication, media opportunities, interviews and roundtables to engage and interact with shows, their producers, directors and casts. 

It looks like Apple TV+'s overseas-based publicity division has either no interest in really promoting its content properly in South Africa, or doesn't understand and know the media and journalists, their needs, what they actually do and why it matters to involve them - or both. 

For the second season of Foundation, earlier this year I really tried to do some original reporting and interviews about this show, for instance with showrunner David S. Goyer.

I asked long before Apple TV+ then had a press event in London and a red carpet, but sadly Apple TV+ publicity couldn't bother with South Africa or to include media from South Africa in any of it. 

After asking several times whether it would be possible to interview David S. Goyer, Susana Voets, Apple TV+ publicist told me that "unfortunately neither David nor the cast is available".

That was a blanket "unavailable" without any dates or times even ever being discussed.

Yet funny enough, David kept doing interviews with other media besides South Africa, and had literally hours available to do interviews with for instance YouTubers and other journalists - after unfortunately being unavailable for South Africa.

With the actors' strike in America still ongoing it is of course not possible to do any interviews with actors, but services like Amazon Prime Video and broadcasters like the BBC have for instance pivoted to making producers and stunt crew and production designers available to South Africa's media who are allowed to talk about projects. 

Apple TV+ has never bothered and still doesn't bother to do anything like that.

With all of that said, and because of that, there's not a lot about Lessons in Chemistry that can really be done in terms of original reporting about this Apple TV+ show either by me or any other South African media and who wants to just republish press releases?

Lessons in Chemistry is set in the early 1950 and follows Elizabeth Zott (portrayed by Brie Larson) whose dream of being a scientist is put on hold due to her being a woman in an era where women don't have as much of a voice or agency.

According to Apple TV+, "When she finds herself fired from her lab, she accepts a job as a host on a TV cooking show and sets out to teach a nation of overlooked housewives - and the men who are suddenly listening - a lot more than recipes".

The show is based on the book by Bonnie Garmus and also stars Lewis Pullman, Aja Naomi King and Stephanie Koenig, Kevin Sussman and Thomas Mann. 

New episodes of Lessons in Chemistry debut weekly on Apple TV+ until 24 November.

Netflix's Élite cancelled after 8 seasons but get ready for a Spain-SA prep school cross-over with Blood & Water.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix has announced that its Spanish private school set drama series Élite has been cancelled after eight seasons but get ready for a cross-over of characters when Élite's Las Encitas in Madrid and Blood & Water's Parkhurst College in Cape Town do a student-exchange programme.

According to Netflix, Fikile in Blood & Water, portrayed by Khosi Ngema, will arrive and show up in the 7th season of Élite produced by Zeta Studios which is released on Netflix on Friday 20 October. 

In turn, Ivan, portrayed by Andre Lamoglia, will arrive and show up in the 4th season of Blood & Water produced by Gambit Films which will be released on Netflix in 2024.

Netflix previously newed Élite for a 7th and 8th seasons but has now announced that the Spanish private school set series will end after its 8th season which is currently in production. 

Netflix previously said that Mina el Hammani, who played Nadia during Élite's first three seasons, will return for the final season. Omar Ayuso who portrayed her troubled brother Omar during the first five seasons, will be back for a new story arc in the 7th season.

Carlos Montero, Élite creator, who spoke at a press conference in Madrid ahead of Élite's 7th season debut, said that he, along with co-showrunner Jaime Vaca and Netflix, had decided to end the series but that it has been "several incredible years in which I've met wonderful actors, we've worked with all the directors we wanted to work with".

"We are shooting the eighth season which will be the last season of Élite," Montero said, noting that "Élite changed everyone's life".

"There are actors who started with us and it has been their springboard to be now world stars, it is happening to this cast and it is a pride to have contributed to that and to know that they have seen us all over the world and liked it."

eMedia drops Openview TV sport rights case against MultiChoice and SuperSport, will now pay wasted court costs.

by Thinus Ferreira

eMedia has suddenly dropped its Openview TV sport rights case it brought against MultiChoice and SuperSport and will now pay MultiChoice's court costs.

Last week eMedia lost in court when the Gauteng High Court scrapped its urgent application from the roll after eMedia took MultiChoice and SuperSport to court demanding that its Openview satellite service get access to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

eMedia told MultiChoice it's withdrawing its court case and will pay "the wasted costs of the respondents", in this case MultiChoice.

eMedia didn't approach the Rugby World Cup organisers in Dublin, Ireland directly in 2018 when the rights became available for sale like SuperSport which bought the rights five years ago, and didn't approach SuperSport for a sublicensing agreement like the SABC which did sublicense the right last month from SuperSport to show 16 matches.

eMedia argued that since it carries SABC2 which shows the 2023 Rugby World Cup Matches it should get the content for free since there shouldn't be one version of SABC2 as a digital terrestrial television (DTT) TV channel and on DStv and StarSat showing matches, and a SABC2 version for Openview showing filler content.

MultiChoice South Africa CEO Marc Jury slammed eMedia's case as a "classic example of free-riding" and accused the Hyde Park-based broadcaster of trying to profit from content it didn't pay for.

After abandoning its high court case and now having to pay costs, eMedia has now again lodged a case with the Competition Commission where another case of e.tv against MultiChoice is winding its way through the system after MultiChoice over a year ago decided it no longer wanted to carry the set of e.tv-packaged TV channels on DStv.

eMedia's second case at the Competition Commission now centres around MultiChoice's sport rights acquisition process and allegations that it locks out other broadcasters like e.tv through imposed restrictions. The SABC has lodged a similar long-winding complaint with the Competition Commission which is still being heard.

"Almost immediately after filing an application before the Competition Tribunal, eMedia has now formally abandoned its high court litigation and will have to pay MultiChoice's legal costs," MultiChoice told TVwithThinus in a statement after eMedia withdrew its court case.

"This confirms our view that eMedia litigation was entirely without merit," the Randburg-based pay-TV operator said.

MultiChoice said "This is the third attempt by eMedia to launch urgent proceedings in the last two weeks with the first two attempts being rightly rejected by the High Court. eMedia decided not to acquire the broadcasting rights in any form. It cannot now use the judicial system to free-ride on the investments made by MultiChoice. MultiChoice considers the latest application to be entirely without merit and will oppose it vigorously."

In response to a media query, Philippa Rafferty, eMedia group executive for legal and business affairs said "Due to the court striking the matter from the roll for urgency, we have decided to withdraw the high court matter for now while we proceed with our complaint to the Competition Commission and application to the Competition Tribunal for interim relief".

"We will reconsider the high court matter in due time. We are still confident of the merits of the case."

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

National Geographic goes Top Gun with reality doc series following student pilots in fighter jet training programme.

by Thinus Ferreira

Following the success of Tom Cruise's Top Gun: Maverick last year, National Geographic has commissioned a new reality documentary series, Top Gun: The Next Generation, which will follow a group of student pilots to see who make it through the American navy's gruelling fighter jet training programme.

With the working title Top Gun: The Next Generation, National Geographic (DStv 181 / StarSat 220) will venture inside the United States Navy's challenging training and selection programme for fighter jet pilots, following the rigorous tests and students trying to pass the Advanced Flight Training Programme.

 According to National Geographic, the group of student pilots will "embark on some of the most challenging flight tests, including landing on an aircraft carrier at sea. The elite nature of the course means that only a minority – the very best – will make it to the top to fly the world's most advanced jet – the F-35C Lightning II".

"This first-time access will allow the series to follow the prospective naval aviators every step of the way – in the air, in the classroom, off-base and at home – as we discover who's got what it takes to make it to the F-35C."

Top Gun: The Next Generation will feature aerial sequences as well as intimate moments with the pilots that reveal their emotions about the experience and the immense pressure they face, with showrunner Karen Edwards, directed by Lana Salah and executive produced by Zinc Television managing director Tanya Shaw.

"The intimate access we have gained to the characters and the emotional character-led story arcs that run through the series will paint a vivid, compelling narrative around the young men and women embarking on this highly stressful process," Tanya Shaw says in the announcement statement.

"That narrative will elevate the series beyond the noise and spectacle of fighter jets to tell the tense, nuanced and poignant human stories behind the public-facing bravado. This is a unique project and we are thrilled to be bringing it to viewers."

Tom McDonald, National Geographic's executive vice president of global factual and unscripted content, says "With so many millions of fans of the film Top Gun around the world, I was immediately drawn to this series – these elite jet pilots are not only extremely accomplished and impressive, but all have very different stories to tell".

"With Nat Geo's exclusive unprecedented inside access, this series promises to be an exhilarating, visually jaw-dropping and fascinating journey into the intensely competitive world of elite flying."