Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Primedia launches Primedia+ as its new streaming hub.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's Primedia has launched a Primedia+ app as its new hub for live-streaming and as a catch-up destination for the content from its radio stations as well as its growing video content output like news bulletins and other planned TV show ventures under its Primedia Studios banner.

Primedia+ that went live as an app and a new website at primediaplus.com on 16 January is described as a "one-stop destination" for Primedia content, enabling live-streaming and catch-up content from its radio stations like Kfm 94.5, 702, 947 and CapeTalk, as well as EWN TV news bulletins.

Primedia+ is available on the Huawei AppGallery, Google's Play Store for Android and the Apple App Store and follows the track of apps like SABC News and SABC+ that offers live-streaming of the public broadcaster's audio and video services.

Primedia didn't issue any press release but in an interview on 702 Kobus du Toit, Primedia group digital product manager said "all the amazing content that Primedia produces comes into the platform".

Content can also be saved for offline listening and viewing later. 

Barbara Friedman, Primedia digital content editor, in an interview on CapeTalk said "the new version is crystal-clear, it works".

She explained that EWN TV produces nightly TV news bulletins done in isiZulu and English versions which are also available through the app and website.

WWE wrestling to remain on MultiChoice's DStv despite Netflix's slamdunk global deal.

by Thinus Ferreira

WWE isn't taking a slamdunk to Netflix in Africa anytime soon and will remain on DStv with MultiChoice's licensing deal for this wrestling content that hasn't lapsed yet.

Last week Netflix and the owners of WWE in America announced a new R94 billion deal whereby its wrestling - including all WWE shows and specials, including Smackdown and NXT including Wrestlemania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble - will move from Comcast to Netflix from January 2025 in the United States and globally.

Comcast has a stake of 30% through its NBCUniversal in MultiChoice's relaunched Showmax streaming service.

Bela Bajaria, Netflix's chief content officer, in a prepared statement of the announcement said "By combining our reach, recommendations and fandom with WWE, we'll be able to deliver more joy and value for their audiences and our members".

Importantly, Netflix and TKO Group Holdings - the owner of the WWE - announced that Netflix would become the "exclusive home" outside of North America for all WWE shows but left out was that it excludes Africa and countries like South Africa for the time being.

MultiChoice in response to a media query, told TVwithThinus that the Randburg-based pay-TV operator can confirm that "WWE events, including RAW, Smackdown, NXT, Wrestlemania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble will continue being available on SuperSport".

MultiChoice and SuperSport has held the WWE broadcast rights for sub-Saharan Africa since 2017 after stealing it away with a better financial offer from eMedia Holdings' e.tv. MultiChoice then expanded its WWE partnership agreement in 2019.

In November 2022, MultiChoice and the WWE announced a major broadcast partnership and said in a statement that it "will see Showmax - the leadering streaming service available in the region - become the new home of WWE Network in Africa".

As to Netflix stealing WWE away in the US and globally in a growing number of markets, MultiChoice says "As Africa's premium sports broadcaster, we're pleased to continue entertaining our viewers with the best in international wrestling".

"We are also pleased to bring wrestling fans WWE Premier Live Events as well as a dedicated 24-hour WWE channel on DStv and GOtv, which has archive content, documentaries and bespoke WWE shows such as Jambo WWE."

Friday, January 26, 2024

BREAKING. MultiChoice and M-Net remove LottoStar-clad contestant Bravo B from Red Pepper Productions and Mzansi Magic's liquor-soaked reality show on DStv after talk to rape drunk women.

by Thinus Ferreira

After MultiChoice and Red Pepper Productions plied Big Brother Mzansi housemates with liquor on Thursday night, MultiChoice, M-Net's Mzansi Magic channel and Red Pepper Productions on Friday afternoon evicted a LottoStar-clad housemate who talked with another male contestant about which of the drunk women they should "fuck first".

It now appears that MultiChoice and M-Net's liquor-soaked and gambling-filled reality show on DStv is once again skirting their own responsibility in helping to cause derogatory and dangerous social situations on television, and then distancing themselves afterwards by saying it is solely the fault of contestants.

The latest scandal in the scandal-prone production which is done by Red Pepper Productions according to the Banijay-owned format, started after the LottoStar-clad housemates Lindokuhle Nsele known as Bravo B and Tshepo Tau known as Makhekhe talked about which women they plan to have sex with first, between Liema and Zee, since the women were apparently intoxicated.

"Liema - let's fuck her first, she's drunk," Bravo B said to Makhekhe as they discussed which of the women they were basically planning to rape.

At 18:45 on Friday evening, MultiChoice confirmed that the pay-TV operator and M-Net have decided to evict Bravo B who had been disqualified from the season. Makhekhe is getting reprimanded and forced to undergo a "social lesson on behaviour etiquette".

Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director of local entertainment channels, who was quoted in previous press releases about the upcoming Big Brother Mzansi season, was suddenly nowhere to be found in MultiChoice and M-Net's press statement.

MultiChoice said that it investigated the serious incident and "do not condone any acts that threaten the safety of the housemates on the show and we take gender-based violence (GBV) seriously".

MultiChoice says "Mzansi Magic will ensure that Makhekhe is coached to call out anyone who speaks or behaves in a derogatory manner".

On Friday the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) told TVwithThinus that it had not received any complaints about the broadcast running on MultiChoice's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel on DStv as well as a 24-hour Big Brother Mzansi pop-up channel.

For the 10th season overall of the South African Big Brother version and the 4th season carrying the Big Brother Mzansi moniker, Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director of local entertainment channels, promised before the start of the season that Big Brother S'ya Mosha would be "a disruption of the norm" and would be "the most memorable season for disrupting and breaking away from what is expected".

"Viewers are familiar with what Big Brother is all about and they know what to expect every season, or so they think. With this season, we are messing with those perceptions and blowing their expectations out of the water," she said.

Big Brother Mzansi sponsor LottoStar didn't respond to media queries made on Friday on what the gambling company makes of people on DStv wearing clothes embossed with its logo, saying on television "let's fuck her first, she's drunk".

MultiChoice and M-Net's Big Brother Mzansi, as well as the Nigerian version, Big Brother Naija, have been a cesspit of incidents of physical violence including gender-based violence GBV), threats of violence and drunken brawls over the years.

In 2015 a drunk housemate in Big Brother Mzansi was allegedly raped although no police charge was filed with the man who was evicted from the house and with the woman also removed.

The latest disgusting Big Brother Mzansi incident is just the latest in a string of deplorable behaviour coming from a TV situation within an artificial environment that MultiChoice, M-Net and Red Pepper Productions create for DStv subscribers.

Entries open for season 5 of MasterChef SA on SABC3.

by Thinus Ferreira 

Entries have opened for the 5th season of MasterChef South Africa looking for people who love to live in front of the stove as the cooking competition show switches from M-Net to SABC3. 

South Africans older than 18 have until 15 March to enter on the www.masterchefsa.tv website for a chance to compete in the customised kitchen hall in Cape Town for the upcoming season which is once again produced by Homebrew Films but this time for a free-to-air audience through Primedia Studios."

The winner will bag R1 million in the new season which will be on SABC3 later this year but professional home cooks who want to become contestants must never have earned a living as a professional chef.

After 15 March the producers will whittle down the contestants to the 20 best entries who will have to bake, fry, frost and roast again each other using what's in the MasterChef SA pantry, to dish up amazing culinary creations for the judges who are yet to be announced.

'Let's f*ck her first, she's drunk': MultiChoice investigating LottoStar-clad Big Brother Mzansi contestants on DStv after saying they're planning to rape women.

by Thinus Ferreira

Scandal has once again engulfed a scandal-prone DStv show with MultiChoices saying it is investigating "the incident" after two contestants in the latest season of M-Net's Big Brother Mzansi on DStv on Thursday night discussed plans to rape female contestants while they were drunk.

By Friday midday the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) told TVwithThinus that it had not received any complaints about the broadcast running on MultiChoice's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel on DStv as well as a 24-hour Big Brother Mzansi pop-up channel.

Seasons of Big Brother Mzansi produced by Red Pepper Productions, as well as the Nigerian version, Big Brother Naija, continue to be prone to incidents of physical violence including gender-based violence, threats of violence and drunken brawls as producers ply contestants with liquor in the confined, camera-filled space over a number of weeks.  

In 2015 a drunk housemate in Big Brother Mzansi was allegedly raped although no police charge was filed with the man who was evicted from the house and with the woman also removed.

TVwithThinus understands discussions are underway as to whether both men in the current season of Big Brother Mzansi that started 4 days ago will be evicted and immediately removed before the end of today, whether both will face sanction and strict punishment but remain in the show, or whether one contestant will be removed.

Both women will be told what happened and what was said, followed by the rest of the housemates.

MultiChoice in response to a media query on Friday morning said "We are aware of the incident that transpired in the early hours of this morning in the Big Brother Mzansi house. We are currently investigating this matter and will provide an update in due course."

For the 10th season overall of the South African Big Brother version and the 4th season carrying the Big Brother Mzansi moniker, Shirley Adonisi, M-Net director of local entertainment channels, promised Big Brother S'ya Mosha would be "a disruption of the norm" and would be "the most memorable season for disrupting and breaking away from what is expected".

"Viewers are familiar with what Big Brother is all about and they know what to expect every season, or so they think. With this season, we are messing with those perceptions and blowing their expectations out of the water," she said.

The scandal that has now engulfed the show started late on Thursday when LottoStar-clad housemates Lindokuhle Nsele known as Bravo B and Tshepo Tau known as Makhekhe talked about which women they plan to have sex with first between Liema and Zee since the women were apparently intoxicated.

"Liema - let's fuck her first, she's drunk," Bravo B said to Makhekhe as they discussed which of the women they should have sex with first and why.

'Dirty secrets bubbling to the surface': Skeem Saam on SABC1 reveals cast additions.

by Thinus Ferreira

SABC1's youth drama series Skeem Saam has unveiled new cast additions including Nyaniso Dzedze, Pholoso Mohlala, Brendan Pamhake and Themba Manganyi who have been added to the Peu Communications produced show.

The first of the actors will start to show up on-screen in Skeem Saam from today, 26 January, and over the course of the next few weeks.

"This year brings dirty secrets bubbling to the surface, budding new relationships, a fallen star, and a high-speed car chase," Peu Communications says in a press release.

From 4 March the SABC is moving Skeem Saam from its 18:30 timeslot on SABC1 to 19:30 where it will now be up against e.tv's Scandal!.

Pholoso Mohlala makes his appearance for the first time today as the character of Tsietsi. Pholoso Mohlala previously appeared in SABC3's Isidingo, SABC2's 7de Laan, in The Queen on Mzansi Magic as well as a guest appearance in About Him: A South African Love Letter.

Themba Manganyi (above) will make his appearance on 31 January as the character of Pule, while Brendan Maphake (below) will make his appearance as the character of Amukelani, called Amu, from 2 February.

According to the show Amu as a new Turfloop learner "causes a stir when he leaves the girls smitten and all the boys feeling intimidated".

Actor Nyaniso Dzedze who has appeared on-screen in Ashes to Ashes, Unmarried and e.tv's Durban Gen, will make his appearance on 12 February as the character of Nkosi.

According to the character's logline he is a "man who owns a well-established security company and is the perfect definition of 'a friend in need is a friend indeed' when he quickly comes to Lehasa's rescue".

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Netflix South Africa starts 2024 with screening for Colombian-American crime drama miniseries Griselda with Sofia Vergara.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix South Africa started off its content promotion for 2024 with a screening of a new drug boss miniseries Griselda, with Sofia Vergara in the main role, on Wednesday evening in Johannesburg.

Eclipse Communications which does the PR for Netflix in South Africa didn't bother to communicate anything about it.

Dressed in 70s-inspired attire, South African actors and producers who have worked with Netflix on its South African productions, as well as others, attended the Griselda screening like Connie Ferguson and her daughter Lesedi Ferguson, Kgomotso Christopher, Zola, Nombona, Zikhona Sodlaka, Tony Kgoroge, Sonia Mbele and Rami Chuene.

Griselda, with Sofia Vergara as executive producer and in the lead role, is based on the life of the notorious Griselda Blanco who created a drug cartel during the 70s and 80s in Miami where she became known as "the Godmother of Cocaine".

The Colombian-American crime drama, created by the Narcos and Narcos: Mexico showrunner Eric Newman, has 6 episodes and was filmed in 2022 in Los Angeles.

People's Weather adds Cape Town urban jungle exploration series City Beasts with presenter Josh Crickmay.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Cape Town game ranger, adventurer and wildlife filmmaker Josh Crickmay is showing viewers how humans and animals co-exist within Cape Town, in the series City Beasts: Cape of Chaos starting on 29 January on People's Weather (DStv 180 / Openview 115).

In City Beasts: Cape of Chaos, Josh Crickmay goes on a mission to seek proof that humans and animals can coexist in harmony, sharing his experiences as he discovers these animals in a fun and educational way.

Through tracking, trap cameras, stakeouts, and by following the tales from the locals, he encounters fascinating "beasts" in and around Cape Town, uncovering their resilience as they adapt and cohabit with humans, who have increasingly claimed their spaces.

Josh Crickmay encounters animals ranging from penguins, sharks, porcupines and baboons to genets and even otters as he sets out to prove his theory that not only do people coexist with wildlife in Cape Town but also the remarkable impact it has on the locals.

Josh Crickmay's passion for wildlife was ignited as a 15-year-old when as a lost and suicidal teen, he spent a year chasing down bird species in Southern Africa, the Andes, and the Amazon. 

After that he produced a coffee table book Josh’s Big Year, which is a photographic record of his experience. He a qualified FGASA nature guide and became interested in creating content and started filming his experiences, uncovering his eccentric and often humourous slant on nature.

Josh Crickmay says that "Creating City Beasts was the culmination of everything I love in life: Incredible wildlife, fascinating people, conservation, challenging filmmaking, pirate boats and unbridled havoc".

"It was as every bit chaotic behind the scenes as it is on the screen, and I couldn't have asked for better."

Stephan le Roux, People's Weather owner and CEO, says "What attracted us to the City Beast series is Josh's unique, genre-bending approach to wildlife film-making".

"It's off-beat, unusual, highly accessible and engaging. He has created a fresh approach to an often serious genre that is desperately in need of some humour and young voices to broaden its appeal. Think Tik Tok by the waterhole!"

City Beasts: Cape of Chaos starts with a visit to Cape Town's dassies after which he follows baboons as they navigate the urban landscape and tracks down the four species of cormorants inhabiting the city, unveiling a stunning diversity of avian life. 

He then takes a into the depths of the kelp forests, learning to free dive to bring viewers face-to-face with the shark life beneath the waves. His encounters with the iconic seals of Cape Town provide a rare glimpse into their daily struggles and triumphs in their natural habitat. 

After that it's the turn of Cape Town's goofy and lovable nature of African penguins. 

In a breathtaking exploration of shipwrecks off the Cape of Storms, Josh reveals how nature has ingeniously turned man's trash into treasure. He meets a Cape Clawless Otter under the docks of Simon’s Town harbour, searches the dangerous gorges of Table Mountain for the extremely elusive and aptly named ghost frog, and has a memorable experience with a pair of porcupines. 

Josh also shares his personal story of struggle and success with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as he explores sundews and seabirds and searches for an elusive otter.

Josh says he tries to show the beauty of the natural world "through conservation, spreading knowledge and excitement about our world through film - told with humour, adventure, and as always, mayhem".

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

EbonyLife's Mo Abudu slams Amazon for axing African originals: 'shows a lack of respect for our continent'.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Nigerian producer and CEO of EbonyLife Group, Mo Abudu, is slamming Amazon Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios saying it shows "a lack of respect for our continent" after Amazon's shock decision to cull its Nigerian and South African content teams  and to abruptly cancel further African original content creation.

Amazon Prime Video has retrenched multiple content executives and staff it lured to join its video streaming service in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa as for Nigeria, based in London, after it rapidly ramped up plans over the past two years to create, produce and roll-out localised African Prime Video Originals.

Gone is Gideon Khobane who officially joined Amazon Prime Video Africa 7 months ago in July 2023 as director of Prime Video Africa. The fate of other executives who all jumped from MultiChoice to join Amazon Prime Video in Africa is still unclear.

Amazon is not willing to confirm whether Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu (head of Nigerian originals), Kaye Ann Williams (head of scripted series and movies for South African originals), and Candice Fangueiro (head of planning and programming for Africa) have also been let go, although insiders said that is the case.

Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK, in response to a media query, said Amazon can't provide "names of team members who have left the company".

Meanwhile shocked and angry producers in Nigeria and South Africa who have been developing and producing content are furious with Amazon Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios, saying "promises were made and not kept".

A longtime South African producer said Amazon "damaged producers' trust and trust in the streamer".

"Nobody will trust them when they come and present plans again in future about wanting local content. People sat through presentations in South Africa and Nigeria where Amazon laid out their plans and promised to be different; to do things better and differently. Turns out – not."  

While Amazon Prime Video is drastically reigning in content spend in Africa and on African original content, insiders said that Netflix as part of a global realignment has also quietly started to reign in its content budget for Africa. In contrast, MultiChoice has however massively ramped up content spending for its new Showmax done in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal's Peacock, which is rolling out from today in app stores as a new video streaming service.

For the relaunch of the new Showmax, MultiChoice has 21 Showmax Originals that will debut over the course of February to lure potential subscribers to the revamped streamer.

Meanwhile, Mo Abudu who has produced African content for Sony and Netflix over the past few years is slamming Amazon Prime Video for deserting Africa and reneging on promises to ramp up spending on African originals.

"In recent times, we have witnessed the unfortunate departure of several international organisations from Nigeria and Africa, some marked by press statements that have, regrettably, shown a lack of respect for our continent," Mo Abudu says.

"In the face of these challenges, it is imperative that we, as Nigerians and Africans, rise above and build our own infrastructure, creating and serving our markets with pride and resilience. I firmly believe in the potential within us, and in the face of challenges, see opportunities for growth and self-reliance."

She's also praising video streamers and global players who have decided to stay in Africa and continue to invest in Africa's film and TV industry.

"To the international organisations that recognise our worth, we extend our heartfelt appreciation. Your decision to stay, partner, and collaborate with us is a testament to the shared commitment to not only growing the continent today but also for the generations that will follow."

"Let us embrace the challenges, celebrate the opportunities, and collectively contribute to the thriving and resilient future of our beloved continent. With hope and determination, we move!"

South Africa streamers roll-out: What the new Showmax means for Max, Paramount+ and Peacock.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice's revamped Showmax streamer will start its roll-out today, 23 January, in app stores as a new app that will carry the content from Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) - but that doesn't mean that the Paramount+ video streaming services won't launch in South Africa as a stand-alone, although it's now extremely unlikely that NBCUniversal's Peacock and WBD's Max will.

MultiChoice has retooled its Showmax streamer in partnership with Sky in the United Kingdom and Comcast's NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service which will make its official debut in app stores on 23 January.

Using NBCUniversal's Peacock subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) architecture to build a new Showmax after nine years to more effectively take on primarily global streamers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ on the African continent, the likelihood is now drastically dimming that NBCUniversal will launch Peacock as a stand-alone streamer in South Africa or across sub-Saharan Africa.

The same goes for Max (formerly HBO Max) from Warner Bros. Discovery.

Here is why:

1. Peacock
With Comcast's NBCUniversal and Sky content already baked into the new Showmax, it's becoming ever-unlikely that Peacock as a late-market entrant will unfurl its streaming plumage in South Africa since its content is now funnelled through Showmax.

In a sense, the new Showmax literally is Peacock, just with a different name and colours.

2. Max
 The likelihood that Max will launch as its own video streamer in South Africa is now also extremely dim. WBD hasn't made Max available in the United Kingdom - a very comparable market to South Africa - precisely because of Sky. 

And remember that MultiChoice operates a lot like Sky. Because of existing agreements with Sky's traditional pay-TV business, WBD is giving its content like Discovery channels shows and HBO content to Sky for its pay-TV channels like Sky Atlantic and for on-demand viewing and streaming.

Since WBD has similar deals with MultiChoice and M-Net in South Africa, that Discovery and HBO content from America will continue to be seen on linear TV like M-Net (DStv 101), on-demand on DStv Catch Up, and on streaming through the new Showmax.

There is a decreasing need now for WBD to launch Max - and take onboard the cost involved - in South Africa when it can reside as an "HBO" tile within the new Showmax carousel.  

3. But what about Paramount's Paramount+ which is also a late-market entrant?

Paramount is launching Paramount+ around the world as a so-called "hard bundle" as a streaming service it is making available in partnership with traditional pay-TV operators as it adds Paramount+ to conventional pay-TV packages. Indeed Paramount+ is available in the United Kingdom already, although Paramount also license content and pay-TV channels to Sky.

In South Africa - and indeed across sub-Saharan Africa - Paramount and Paramount Africa have been running traditional pay-TV channels on MultiChoice's DStv for years. 

Paramount has also made sought-after Paramount+ content like Halo available on Showmax, and indeed will continue to, like the second season of Halo, launching on 8 February, which will be available on the new Showmax.

At MultiChoice's media briefing for the new Showmax at its MultiChoice City headquarters in Randburg last Monday, Katherine Liu, executive vice president and COO of Paramount international markets, said "MultiChoice and Paramount have had a long and successful partnership for over 15 years and we have a long track record of working together to bring African audiences the best of our award-winning and globally beloved content".

"As a result, Paramount content is already available on Showmax but we are super excited to partner with you in this new launch and to participate in the streaming-for-Africa revolution."

"Africa is one of the most exciting and diverse places on Earth. You have some of the youngest and most engaging entertainment audiences anywhere and in Showmax we are confident that we have a partner that understands Africa and that can speak to the heart of local audiences in East, West, Southern and Central Africa."

"We can't wait to bring the best of Hollywood content and content from all around the world to Showmax customers, wherever you happen to be - whether it's at home or on the go."

Natalie Mdladla, Paramount Africa spokesperson, in a media query was asked for an update on Paramount+ launching in South Africa, and if Paramount+ would still launch as a stand-alone streamer if Showmax already carries Paramount content, but she didn't respond.

MultiChoice: Not the end of adding stand-alone streamers 
Besides its own Showmax and nowits new Showmax, MultiChoice already carries streamers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ on its decoders which will also be included on products like DStv Glass (a bespoke TV set with a decoder built-in) which is likely to launch towards the end of the year.

During the new Showmax media briefing, I asked MultiChoice whether the launch of the new Showmax - with WBD and its HBO content, and Paramount with its Paramount+ content - means that MultiChoice won't be adding further streamers as apps like Max and Paramount+ separately, and will now just funnel all their content through Showmax.

"No, that's not necessarily the case," Marc Jury, MultiChoice SA CEO and interim Showmax CEO said.

"This goes to the beauty of what we've got between DStv and Showmax and having them all under one family."

"There's a big plan internally of how we hunt as a pack where DStv is more on the aggregation side and I think you'll see a lot of that play out over the course of the next 12 months - I don't want to give away too much in terms of the announcements that will come there."

"So to answer your question, no."

Friday, January 19, 2024

Anchor Francis Herd switches from SABC News back to eNCA.

by Thinus Ferreira   

TV news anchor Francis Herd is back at eNCA (DStv 403) after she left SABC News (DStv 404) and is now anchoring South Africa Tonight.

eMedia and eNCA didn't issue any press release to the media about Francis Herd's appointment as the replacement to anchor South Africa Tonight and about rejoining eNCA.

Francis Herd replaces Sally Burdett in the 18:00-timeslot whose exit at the beginning of December 2023 was also unannounced and unexplained by eNCA.

Francis Herd started anchoring South Africa Tonight at the beginning of this month. She was at eNCA as a morning anchor and later as business news anchor on News Night after which she left to join SABC News.

'Promises were made and not kept' and 'a very sad day for the industry': South African producers devastated and dismayed in Amazon Prime Video Africa over canning original content creation.

Thinus Ferreira

South African producers are dismayed with Amazon Prime Video, Amazon MGM Studios and Amazon Prime Video Africa after local creators got project development shelved, following Amazon's decision to reneg on promises to expand localised Prime Video Africa content.

Producers are telling TVwithThinus they're depressed, devastated and extremely disappointed with Amazon Prime Video Africa.

Like Netflix that is suddenly cutting back on content creation in South Africa and Africa - while MultiChoice is ramping up content spending and content creation for its new Showmax it's launching on 23 January in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal's Peacock - Amazon is suddenly pulling the plug on its promised expanded investment in African original content.

Amazon has suddenly decided that it's no longer doing further African originals for its Amazon Prime Video streaming service and retrenching staff who were appointed to expand Amazon's slate of Amazon Prime Video Africa originals.

One of thepeople let go is Gideon Khobane who joined Prime Video in South Africa as Prime Video Africa director just seven months ago.

Amazon Prime Video Africa's PR agency Ten x Collective said a media query should be made directly to Amazon PR in the United Kingdom. Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK provided no answers to the questions in the media query.

A South African producer on Thursday night told me that "The local production industry is extremely disappointed that Amazon is not giving us a chance to create the kind of programming we were hoping to collaboratively bring to the world, especially as it is a lot cheaper here to make productions".

"Promises were made and not kept. Why? Quality issues or worldwide cost cutting? Africa is just about the last continent that hasn't been saturated yet, both in viewers and in content. Why are they ignoring a potentially lucrative market?" the producer asked.

"The quality of projects made for the streamers has not been as good as it should have been. Amazon Prime has kept a beady eye on what Netflix has commissioned for Africa and South Africa, and has not been impressed."

"While the quality was okay for South Africa and the African market, it really is lacking compared to what is being produced elsewhere in the world. Streamers have a global market, and once the novelty of seeing African programming has worn off, the lack of quality severely restricts viewership."

The producer noted that "Both Ned Mitchell and Ayanna Ionian are still there, and they were the ones responsible for commissioning - and still are - even though they have new regional names."

"Amazon hasn't commissioned all that much in the past year, so it probably won't make that much of a difference. Colleagues have called it very depressing news and that it definitely will make things much harder for content providers, as it takes away competition and constricts the marketplace."

Another local producer described Amazon Prime Video Africa's shocking decision as "a very sad day for the industry, especially the creatives who were developing projects for Amazon and the local staff who were instrumental in getting them off the ground".

"Between the global effects of Covid, the double lockdowns, loadshedding, the US writers/actors strike, the ongoing struggles with the department of trade and industry (DTIC) and national instability, our creative industry is limping with many forced to leave the industry to find stability," the producer said.

"This move does, unfortunately, reinforce the idea that Africa and its creators are seen by international streamers as low cost labour, pretty locations and performative 'giving back' politics as opposed to a legitimate audience and marketplace," according to the award-winning producer.

"It should also serve as a reminder to local creatives that we should treat entities like these with caution, to view their involvement on the continent as an extension of cultural colonialism and not to be blinded by shiny logos that tell the world they're elevating African narratives."

"This does call for greater protections for the industry from governing bodies when it comes to how companies like Netflix, Disney, Amazon and Apple do business in our territories, be it a license on their service that can be channelled into local productions or a commitment to investment that is developed in conjunction with film bodies as opposed to decisions that are imposed from a head office in Los Angeles or Amsterdam." 

"For South African audiences, I put forward the fact that brands like Showmax, MultiChoice, e.tv and the SABC are the true home of African stories and that, if it comes to choosing a platform to subscribe to, they opt for a local one so that these companies can thrive in a market that seeks to gentrify our unique and vibrant narratives."

Thursday, January 18, 2024

BREAKING. Amazon slashing content funding for Prime Video Africa, retrenching staff including Prime Video Africa director Gideon Khobane with no new South African series or films to be commissioned.

by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon is suddenly slashing funding for Amazon Prime Video Africa and will stop making further African original productions as part of a restructuring, which will also lead to retrenchments for Prime Video Africa staff, including executives like Gideon Khobane who has been let go and joined Prime Video in South Africa as Prime Video Africa director just 7 months ago.

While series like the upcoming Laugh Out Loud South Africa with host Trevor Noah produced by South Africa's Rapid Blue and the Nigerian travelogue Ebuka Turns Up Africa series will still roll out, apparently no further new series or movies will be commissioned from South Africa, or from across Africa for that matter, for Amazon Prime Video with producers who got "shut down" orders.

With no new content commissioned out of South Africa, it raises serious questions about whether Prime Video will continue to have any further use for roles, or keep any of the jobs of, any of its existing content executives it appointed over the past two years to scale up Amazon Prime's African Originals based in teams in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa, and for Nigeria based in London.

Amazon Prime Video Africa was asked questions in a media query, with its South African PR company Ten x Collective that on Thursday afternoon told me the media query needs to be directed to Amazon PR in the United Kingdom directly.

Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK, had no comment on the specific questions that were asked and said the information currently available is what is in an American trade publication article.

This shocking Amazon upheaval now continues with the slashing of content creation and staff costs across Africa with South African producers telling me they're dismayed, depressed and devastated that "promises made were not kept".

Barry Furlong, Prime Video vice president and general manager for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region in an email told staff today about the start of a restructuring to "rebalance" Amazon Prime Video staff and content investment in the Europe and Africa regions.

Amazon will decrease content investment in sub-Saharan Africa "to prior levels" with Barry Furlong informing staffers that the restructuring is aimed at prioritising "resources on what matters most" that will "rebalance and pivot resources to focus on the areas that drive the highest impact and long-term success".

One of the roles getting eliminated is reportedly that of Gideon Khobane who officially joined Amazon Prime Video Africa 7 months ago in July 2023 as director of Prime Video Africa. Gideon Khobane left MultiChoice to join Amazon Prime Video Africa.

It's still unclear how many other Prime Video Africa staff and executives are affected and how many jobs will be eliminated primarily across South Africa and Nigeria. 

After Amazon Prime Video's restructuring in Southeast Asia last week, and at the same time as the realignment for Africa, Amazon is also restructuring Europe which is being split into two regions comprising emerging European markets and established European markets.

In his email to staffers, Barry Furlong says "We've been carefully looking at our business to ensure we continue to prioritize our resources on what matters most to customers".

"I have carefully evaluated our structure in the region and decided to make some adjustments to our operating model to rebalance and pivot our resources to focus on the areas that drive the highest impact and long-term success."

"I have listened and considered the feedback received across the teams over the past 12 months; I believe these changes will improve the operational running of our multi-territory business and allow us to be more agile and focused."

Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios boasted about the multi-year partnership contracts and output deals it had signed over the past few years with production companies ranging from Anthillas well as Inkblot Productions, to Greoh Studios in Nigeria that will now suddenly make nothing for Amazon as the streamer drastically scales back on its ambitions and promises of making more African content.

Splitsville for The Bachelorette SA's Qiniso Van Damme and Gareth Ehret who announce 2023 breakup after taking time 'to heal and grow'.

by Thinus Ferreira

It's three for three and splitsville after three years for The Bachelorette SA's Qiniso Van Damme and Gareth "Gaz" Ehret who have broken off their romantic relationship.

The breakup of Qiniso Van Damme and Gareth Ehret follows the breakup of Lee Thompson and Gina Myers after the end of the first season of The Bachelor SA on M-Net, and after the breakup of Marc Buckner and Marisia van Wyk after the conclusion of the second season of The Bachelor SA.

March Buckner is currently in a relationship with the Namibian model Jo-Marie Harteveld.

Qiniso Van Damme on Tuesday revealed that she and Ehret had already broken up months ago sometime last year and over the last few months had time to "heal and grow".

In a social media post she announced that "Our love was real and special and will always remain so. We have chosen to share this love with each other as friends."

"I'm glad to have had the last few months to heal and grow. I am sorry to those who hear church bells, to those who believed with their hearts that this was on life. We both hoped so too."

She writes "I am beyond honoured and privileged to have had South Africa share in our love and cheer us on. They thought that millions cared enough to invest in and tuned in every Thursday on M-Net channel 101 still overwhelms me with gratitude."

Bloomberg TV adjusts schedule from 22 January with debut of new Surveillance studio in New York.

by Thinus Ferreira

Bloomberg TV (DStv 411) is changing its programming line-up from Monday 22 January and will also debut a new studio for its Surveillance show which will broadcast live from Bloomberg headquarters in New York.

Bloomberg - which over the past year has been notoriously bad in communicating anything about its programming, on-air and physical expansion plans in South Africa and across Africa to the media - has announced that it will be making changes to its schedule from Monday 22 January, affecting its schedules for America, Europe and Africa, as well as Asia.

Jonathan Ferro, Annmarie Hordern and Lisa Abramowicz will continue to present Bloomberg Surveillance, Bloomberg's flagship morning show in North America seen from 13:00 in South Africa.

Kailey Leinz and Joe Mathieu will now be the co-presenters on Balance of Power.

Bloomberg Technology with co-presenters Caroline Hyde and Ed Ludlow is now moving to 18:00. 

Bloomberg Markets will move to 18:30 daily. Bloomberg ETF IQ on Mondays, Bloomberg Crypto on Tuesdays and Bloomberg Real Yield on Fridays will now all be at 19:00. 

Bloomberg Markets: The Close will be on-air from 22:00 to midnight with Romaine Bostick as presenter. He will be joined by Alix Steel at 22:00 and Scarlet Fu at 23:00.

Bloomberg TV will broadcast the radio edition of Balance of Power at 20:00 and will also show Bloomberg Businessweek from Bloomberg Radio at 21:00 with Carol Massar and Tim Stenovec as co-presenters.

"These programming changes better position Bloomberg TV to capture breaking news in real-time, around the globe," says Julie Alnwick Mchale, Bloomberg Television's global head, in a statement.

"Adding Bloomberg Radio's Businessweek and Balance of Power to our already strong TV lineup will also allow us to better serve our video and audio audiences, and capitalize on Bloomberg's unparalleled reach through our multiple platforms."

This is the adjusted Africa schedule:

- The day starts with Daybreak Middle East and Africa from 6:00 co-presented from Bloomberg's studios in Dubai and Johannesburg.
Tom Mackenzie is the new presenter of Daybreak Europe at 8:00.
Anna Edwards, Guy Johnson and Kriti Gupta become the new co-presenters of Bloomberg Markets Today from 9:00 to 11:00.
Francine Lacqua will continues to anchor the daily weekday program The Pulse with Francine Lacqua and her long-format interviews show Leaders with Lacqua featuring interviews with high-profile guests from the worlds of global business, economics, finance and politics.

New Showmax brand look: How MultiChoice's revamped video streamer will keep the name after testing 100 others but now go red-to-red with Netflix.

by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice's video streamer Showmax is undergoing the third brand change in its 9-year existence – keeping the "Showmax" name after consumer-testing 100 new names but changing colours as it switches to a new ombré-infrared infused livery as it gets ready to now go red-to-red with biggest rival Netflix..

For the relaunch of its video streaming service using the platform of Comcast NBCUniversal's Peacock streamer, MultiChoice was willing to change everything - even the name - and tested a hundred other brand names to possibly replace Showmax.

In the end, the decision was made to keep the Showmax name as a brand. 

"We had to make sure that the brand delivering streaming for Africa was fit for purpose - just like we did the platform and content," explains Yatish Narsi, Showmax chief marketing officer (CMO) of the new Showmax which will officially switch to its new look on 23 January.

Gone from next month will be the little pink and turquoise "double lane" stripes, somewhat reminiscent of BMW's three streaks, replaced by a red-worded logo and a diced "x" at the end which is also utilised as a profile avatar within the app.

The new-look red pink-orange Showmax will now go head-to-head and red-to-red with the global streamer Netflix which, together with Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, is gobbling up subscribers across sub-Saharan Africa and jointly represents a big existential threat to MultiChoice's traditional pay-TV service.

The new Showmax logo brand colour palette incorporates the colours of red pink (FF0055) and an orange shade (FF8242), as well as black (FF031124), with the Showmax-word using the red pink and orange as a "red pink-orange" gradient.

The new Showmax font uses an extra-bold, small-caps version of the Nunito font, a font described as a "well-balanced sans serif typeface".

"What we had to do was test this. We tested it across every market. What was really rewarding for us as a team ... what we needed it to do was work with a really wide array of content - from international general entertainment to local stuff and then the English Premier League (EPL) in your pocket. So you need a brand system that could respond to all of these," Narsi explains.

"In testing, 80% of customers tested preferred the rebrand and said this is the route that we should take. We tested everything from the existing brand exactly as it was, to a hundred new names that could scale across the continent. Multiple combination names. This is the one that was actually chosen by our customers."

"Again, it's just testament to the philosophy of the team going forward - everything from the product, to the content, to the brand. These are not decisions we take lightly, they are not decisions we make for ourselves. All of these are made with our customers front and centre," Narsi says.

"I really hope that when you interact with the product, you can feel how that brand sits in the palm of your hand, or in your TV, capturing the products you love."