Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hearing coming at broadcasting regulator on 25 October over e.tv's desire to stop giving South African TV viewers a news bulletin during primetime.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator has set 25 October as the date for a public hearing into e.tv's controversial application to get its broadcasting licence conditions changed because e.tv no longer wants to do a TV news bulletin during prime time.

If e.tv is successful in getting its longstanding broadcasting licence conditions changed and stops broadcasting a daily half hour TV news bulletin during prime time, it will leave the SABC as the sole terrestral television broadcaster in South Africa to do national news bulletins in the country.

e.tv wants to get rid of its responsibility to do a daily half hour TV news bulletin during prime time, saying its not lucrative enough and that e.tv as a free-to-air broadcaster is a commercial channel with entertainment programming that would benefit its financial bottom-line more than giving viewers a half hour news bulletin.

e.tv's move to dump its half hour news bulletin would marginalise the diversity of voices and TV news offering that tens of millions of South African TV households rely on who do not have access to pay-TV services and those services' 24-hour TV news channels.

"In short, e.tv would like to move their prime time news bulletins outside the prime time period," says the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

Icasa has received one submission about e.tv's application to dump its half hour TV news, has scheduled a public meeting for 25 October that anyone can attend, at its Sandon offices in Pinmill Farm from 10:00 in the morning.

e.tv says in its submission that if it's forced to do a half hour TV news bulletin during prime time, "English news bulletins in prime time have seen a rapid decline in ratings across all free-to-air channels over the last few years".

"As a commercial broadcaster generating most of its revenue in prime time, this presents serious revenue challenges – which ultimately lead to commercial viability challenges".

e.tv has already dumped a half hour Zulu prime time TV news bulletin it introduced in 2015.

e.tv's eNews Prime Time, renamed eNews Direct, was the most watched TV news bulletin on South African television for several years.

Debilitating tinkering as well as bad and perplexing time slot and style changes has seen its viewership fall as e.tv gave its soaps Scandal! and Rhythm City more attention and better timeslots, leading to the very viewership drop e.tv is complaining.

e.tv moved its news bulletin from its prime TV real estate at 19:00 to a dead zone 20:30, and then to 18:30 where eNews Direct is a ratings failure.

e.tv at the time said the move to 18:30 is because market research showed that viewers want to see the main English news bulletin earlier.

e.tv's claim that South African viewers don't watch TV news and that TV news ratings are falling appears to be untrue.

SABC1's Xhosa news bulletin at 19:30 drew roughly 4.2 million viewers (12.6 AR) in September and the Zulu TV news on SABC1 4.17 million viewers (12.2 AR) - both making the top 20 most watched shows on the channel during the month.

On SABC2 the Afrikaans TV news bulletin pulled 1.45 million viewers (4.3 AR) during September, while the SABC's flagship English news bulletin on SABC3 grabbed 666 162 viewers (2 AR).

While e.tv's eNews Direct has plunged and doesn't even rate high enough to make its monthly 20 most watched programming, its one minute eNews Direct headlines at 18:00 is very strong and lured 3.2 million viewers (9.6 AR) in September, indicating that viewers will watch news on e.tv when it's done at a time that works for them.

SABC2 soap 7de Laan forced to warn cast and crew that they might not get paid since,like Muvhango, the SABC has so far failed to sign a new contract.

SABC2's 7de Laan production has been forced to warn its entire cast and crew to try and manage their finances since they might not be paid at the end of this month because the SABC continues to drag its feet in signing a new contract just like with Muvhango.

UPDATE Thursday 20 October 2016 14:00 - I'm told by production sources who confirm to me that the show will definitely not be giving the SABC any 7de Laan episodes unless there isn't a signed contract and that it means that if there is no signed contract, there won't be a 7de Laan episode on Monday on SABC2.

Like the SABC's other local soap on SABC2, Muvhango, that ran out of its current contract months ago and doesn't have a signed new one leading to financial hardship for the actors and crew who struggled to get paid, the SABC has so far also failed to sign a new contract with 7de Laan producers. 

According to multiple insiders at Danie Odendaal Productions, the soap is in crisis with production that might shut down this coming Wednesday.

Frances Maposa, 7de Laan line producer wrote a memo to all 7de Laan staff - the cast, crew and writers - saying "it is with great concern" that 7de Laan is forced "for the first time that this type of memo has to be sent out".

YOU magazine reports that Frances Maposa told the cast and crew that the production company will withhold all episodes for the upcoming 18th season, set to start on Monday 24 October until the SABC has signed a new contract.

It means that if the SABC fails to sign an actual new contract, that there won't be new episodes on SABC2 from Monday.

According to insiders the SABC has been dragging its feet since August, and more than two months later 7de Laan is yet to see a signed contract.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago says in response to a media enquiry asking why new contracts haven't been signed with Muvhango and 7de Laan, why there's been a delay, and how the SABC that says it supports local content and artists that the SABC doesn't pay staff of any production company and can't comment.

"The SABC does not discuss or negotiate contractual issues in the public domain or through the media," says Kaizer Kganyago.

The other SABC2 local soap, Muvhango, also doesn't have a new contract after month's of waiting. There the production company is paying actors and staff out of its own pocket, waiting for the SABC to sign a new contract as well.

Production on 7de Laan might shut down on Wednesday, according to sources, if cast and crew are not paid since several people use public transport to get to work.

In the memo Francis Maposa warns people about "the ripple effect of this sees no end" and that "each and every one of us make alternative arrangements to ensure our debits go off as well as other commitments are met".

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MultiChoice adding Nigeria's ROK channel from ROK Studios to DStv from 1 November across Africa, excluding South Africa.

The Nigerian ROK channel from ROK Studios will launching on MultiChoice's DStv on 1 November across sub-Saharan Africa with original Nollywood series and films.

ROK will be available on DStv channel 168 in 52 countries and in Southern Africa, but excluding South Africa.

ROK will launch with ROK Studios' exclusively-produced content, including Festac Town, Banks Chronicles and Bloodline

ROK Studios was launched in 2013 and has a production house based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Nigerian cinema, known colloquially as Nollywood, is the second largest film industry in the world, in terms of production output and in its short history ROK Studios has become a prolific prducer of original content, creating a Nollywood catalogue of 12 TV series and over 150 movies.

ROK is programmed, produced and developed in-house by ROK's Lagos-based team and is headed up by Mary Njoku, an award-winning Nollywood actress and film producer.

"Joining the DStv family is the next step in ROK's evolution as Nollywood's leading film production house and brand," says Mary Njoku.

"What lies beneath every ROK production, the ROK brand, be it movies or TV series, is our fanatical love of African storytelling; we want to relate amazing African stories that our fans can recognise, be swept away by and be entertained with."

"We work with Nigeria's most exceptional talent, in front of and behind the camera, and we continue to push the boundaries in terms of production values. This has given us the edge, in our short history, and has helped us build a fanbase around the world."

"ROK on DStv allows us to bring ROK to every corner of the continent and connect viewers with content they love".

John Ugbe, MultiChoice Nigeria managing director, says in a statement "one of the cornerstones of our customer promise is to deliver content that our customers love and enjoy, and that is why we're excited to introduce ROK which will boost DStv's local content offering and showcase even more African stories made in Africa, for us Africans".

MultiChoice Africa is adding the Eva+ channel on DStv and GOtv as a sister telenovela channel to Eva from AMC Networks International UK.

MultiChoice Africa is adding the sister channel to the telenovela channel Eva, Eva+, from AMC Networks International, to DStv in several South African countries from 1 November.

Eva+ will not be available on DStv in South Africa, but will be added to the DStv and GOtv platforms in several African countries.

Eva+ will be the first channel from AMC Networks International UK (AMCNI UK) to be made available on MultiChoice's GOtv service in Africa.

The addition of Eva+ follows after Eva was added in late-March 2015 to DStv in South Africa and across Africa.

Just like Eva, Eva+ will have Latin American telenovelas dubbed in English and Portuguese.

"We are delighted to be expanding on our telenovela offering and introducing Eva+ to the African market, in partnership with MultiChoice," says Louise Cottrell, the vice president for affiliate sales for AMCNI UK.

"'Telenovelas are increasingly popular in the region, so it's exciting that with Eva+ offered on GOtv in addition to DStv, we will now be able to reach brand new viewers with our top quality content."

Tim Jacobs, MultiChoice Africa CEO, says "with our focus now on putting our customer first, we are delighted to be adding Eva+ on to our platforms".

"Telenovelas have always been a sensation with our customers and we hope this addition further demonstrates our commitment to bringing programming that will make viewers eager to tune in to DStv".

Eva+ will broadcast double bills of four telenovela titles every weekday and marathons over the weekend, including Buscando a Maria (Searching Maria) on air from Tuesday 1 November at 11:20 every weekday, then on Saturday at 06:00 and on Sunday at 16:00.

Cuando me Enamoro (Timeless Love) willbe broadcast on Eva+ from Thursday 1 December at 11:20 on weekdays at 17:00, then on Saturday at 06:00 and on Sunday at 16:00.

MultiChoice adding a Harry Potter pop-up channel from M-Net to DStv from 4 November; lowering DStv subscription prices in several African countries.

MultiChoice announced that it will be lowering monthly DStv subscription fees from 1 November in several African countries where the DStv prices were out of line with the average and will add a temporary Harry Potter pop-up channel from M-Net.

DStv will also add several TV channels to lower-tiered bouquets in several countries and make more soccer viewing available on SuperSport channels given to its lower-tiered offerings, to boost the content offering for cheaper DStv packages and to add content value.

Several countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Botswana - but notably excluding South Africa and Nigeria, it's two biggest markets - will see a significant reduction in monthly DStv subscription fees from 1 November.

The DStv price reduction comes as tough economic conditions facing consumers and greater competition in the pay-TV market from rivals like StarTimes, EcoNet, Zuku and others, have seen the pan-African pay-TV operator decide to lower prices to try and stem the tide of MultiChoice Africa customers cancelling subscriptions.

In Nigeria DStv prices are not lowered but some new local channels like ROK are being added and several channels previously only accessible to DStv Premium subscribers are being made available to lower packages to add bigger content value to cheaper subscription options.

New channels added
Elsewhere in Africa new TV channels like Eva+, a sister channel to the telenovela channel Eva, will be added to DStv, along with the Nigerian entertainment channel ROK from ROK Studios, with several channels that will be upgraded to high definition (HD) quality similar to South Africa.

While DStv Premium subscribers across the continent and including South Africa can watch the pop-up M-Net channel M-Net Movies BlockParty on DStv channel 109, MultiChoice in a statement says DStv subscribers can "look forward to more exciting pop-up channels in the coming months like the M-Net Movies Harry Potter pop-up channel which will run from 4 to 14 November".

The Harry Potter pop-up channel will show all of the Harry Potter movies before the debut of the first movie in the new spin-off film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that is scheduled for a worldwide release on 18 November.

It's similar to what M-Net did with its Star Wars pop-up channel late last year before the release of the new Star Wars film.

Significant price drop
The DStv price reduction starting 1 November, comes in a year in which MultiChoice Africa decided not to increase subscription fees in several countries outside of South Africa, and following a first-ever double price increase in 2015 to try and keep up with local African currencies' ongoing depreciation against the American dollar in which most premium TV content are acquired.

The stiff DStv price hikes put subscribers under pressure and led to the loss of 288 000 subscribers in one year as people could no longer afford the service or no longer saw it as valuable enough, at the same time as competing services like the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service like Naspers' ShowMax and America's Netflix launched their services across Africa.

About the move to adjust prices in several African countries, MultiChoice Africa says that "when reviewing our packages and prices in each country, we take into account local dynamics such as inflation, content costs, foreign exchange rates, local taxes and overheads required for each business".

"The price of DStv in South Africa as well as some of the other markets including Nigeria compare favourably with the pricing in the countries where subscription prices are currently being reviewed downwards".

In East African countries like Kenya, DStv subscribers will pay between 5% to 13% less from 1 November for the various packages.

In Uganda, a MultiChoice spokesperson said it "realized that it increasing subscriptions all the time is not sustainable. In the long run, people will not afford our services if we continued this way".

In Uganda DStv subscriptions are dropping from November by up to 15%.

In Zimbabwe DStv subscriptions are dropping between 11% and 21% from November with subscribers to cheaper packages in this country, as elsewhere, getting more soccer content with the addition of more UEFA Champions League matches as well as coverage of the best European football leagues and the Europa league on SuperSport.

"The significant price drop, coupled with the major boost in entertainment value across all DStv bouquets, demonstrates our commitment to ensuring DStv customers receive the best possible access to great entertainment and outstanding value," says MultiChoice Africa in a statement that was slightly adjusted for each African country where DStv price reductions are being introduced.

"These changes are not only a defining moment in our MultiChoice story, but also a defining moment in the African entertainment landscape and we are proud to be pushing as hard as we can to delight every television entertainment fan in Africa".

No price reduction in South Africa
MultiChoice in South Africa says South African DStv subscribers won't see a price reduction and that the price of DStv Premium in South Africa compares favourably with the pricing in other African countries.

"We review the DStv prices once a year when we do our business planning - our prices for next year will be announced before 1 April 2017".

MultiChoice South Africa says "when reviewing our packages and pricing in each country, we take into account local dynamics such as inflation, content costs, foreign exchange rates, local taxes and overheads required for each business".

"We've done a lot of research into what pay-TV costs in other parts of the world, and we believe that DStv offers good value for money in the countries in which it operates."

"In South Africa we've implemented a number of cost-saving options for our customers - those who pay annually receive one month free, and our Price Lock packages enable customers to freeze their package price for two years".

MultiChoice currently has close to 10 million subscribers in 49 sub-Saharan African countries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The SABC's TV channels all in a troubling viewership slide in September, while Sofia the First on DStv's Disney Channel proves the power of a princess.

The SABC's three main TV channels each continue a very troubling downward trend in the ratings as SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 continued to shed viewers in September, while Sofia the First on The Disney Channel on DStv delightfully proved the viewership power of a princess.

Troubling for industry watchers is that the overall TV viewership of people watching the SABC was again lower in September than in the preceding month, due to lower ratings for each of the public broadcaster's three main channels, according to the viewership figures compiled by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA).

SABC1's overall viewership during September fell from a month before, with the bulk of its top 20 most watched shows all grabbing less viewers than during August.

SABC1 lost thousands of viewers in total from Generations, Uzalo, Skeem Saam, Vodacom Millionaires, Thandeka's Diary, Selimathunzi, Shuga, Live Amp and Rise that were all down from the previous month, while the Xhosa news, Mutual Friends and Zaziwa managed to edge up.

On SABC1, soaps Generations and Uzalo remain dead even as the most watched shows on South African television - both with a 23.9 AR, with Generations grabbing slightly more viewers for its top-rated episode in September with 8.16 million viewers, compared to Uzalo's 8.15 million.

Worryingly, SABC2's viewership is also edging lower, with the second SABC channel's average top viewership for its top 20 most watched shows in September, also falling lower than a month before.

SABC2's viewership problems
SABC2's top shows - like its Venda soap Muvhango, the live Lotto draw and others are all down, but that's not where the problems end.

The plummeting viewership of 7de Laan remains a growing problem for the SABC, with the ratings of the once strong Afrikaans weekday soap on SABC2 once again falling further from August to September from a 5.5 AR (1.86 million viewers) to a 5.3 AR (1.81 million viewers) for its top rated episodes.

Whilst still a top show for SABC2, the channel seems unable to stop the viewership erosion, with the bad recent timeslot change that's been having an ongoing detrimental impact on the show's ratings.

Viewers are also fleeing SABC2's Afrikaans news bulletin, down from 4.4 ARs (1.49 million viewers) to 4.3 AR in September (1.45 million viewers) that also apparently changed its timeslot for the worse.

Also down in September from August: The viewership of SABC2 shows ranging from Musiek Roulette to Keletso.

SABC2's consumer magazine show Speak Out showed an uptick from a 6.8AR to a 7.4 AR (2.5 million viewers) in September.

SABC3's painful ratings slide
SABC3 remains a big and growing problem for the SABC.

As the SABC's only commercial TV channel that is supposed to pull in an affluent metropolitan audience highly sought after by advertisers, the opposite has been happening.

With the evisceration of its schedule by controversial boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng who banished foreign TV shows for an avalanche of rushed-to-air local shows, none of which are pulling audiences, viewers have made their displeasure known with the SABC for removing hugely popular fare like Days of Our Lives and American drama series from advantageous timeslots.

Although it costs the SABC millions of rands to produce new local content shows, the raft of new, mostly talking heads talk show type and reality magazine shows have failed to lift SABC3's anemic viewership for a third month in a row.

This is putting pressure on the SABC to do something as SABC3's overall programme ratings and viewership keeps dropping.

The SABC will have to either return popular foreign shows like The Amazing Race and other foreign drama and sitcom series it yanked mid-season back to the SABC3 schedule and bring back Days to its late afternoon timeslot, or produce better and more compelling local shows than the Divas of Jozi and Top Chef SA that viewers rejected.

Foreign films left on the SABC3 schedule is what fills the bulk of SABC3's most watched programming list during September, while its local weekday soap Isidingo showed a small uptick from 3.1 AR (1.03 million viewers) to 3.3 AR (1.11 million viewers) for its highest rated episodes.

Besides Isidingo, the only local TV series besides foreign movies to rate at all on SABC3's top 20 most watched list for September are telenovela High Rollers (1.8 AR), late afternoon talk show Afternoon Express (1.6 AR) and the stalwart glam magazine show Top Billing (1.4 AR) in the 20th position.

It's hugely troubling to advertisers and the TV biz that despite spending big bucks to fund new local shows to fill primetime, that viewers have turned their back on the entire new local content offering that SABC3 presented on its schedule when it comes to ratings.

e.tv's soap surge
The SABC's viewership loss is largely free-to-air channel e.tv's gain.

On e.tv in September its weekday soaps Scandal surged from August (13.2 AR to 13.8 AR and 4.7 million viewers) while sister soap Rhythm City also grew from 9.6 AR to 10.6 AR and 3.63million viewers.

The latest season of the Rapid Blue produced SA's Got Talent is a viewership hit as the 5th most watched show on e.tv in September with a 9.9 AR and luring 3.38 million viewers for its most watched episode so far.

The power of a Disney princess
Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) continues to grab the lion's share of viewers on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform, with Our Perfect Wedding, Isibaya, Rockville and Idols remaining the four most watched shows on in September on DStv, as they were in August.

The Queen, Greed & Desire - and even the repeat broadcasts of both shows - both series on Mzansi Magic as well, also took four spots out of the most watched programming list on DStv for September.

Don't ever under-estimate the resolve of children and the steel-strong consumer power of young viewers to influence viewing behaviour and patterns.

MultiChoice and The Walt Disney Company opening up The Disney Channel (DStv 303) in September to subscribers on lower-tiered packages was a huge ratings bonanza for Disney.

The toddler animation show Sofia the First on The Disney Channel for instance managed to lure more adult viewers in September aged 15 years and older to DStv than some Absa Premiership and Premier League soccer matches.

What it means is that such is the power of a Disney princess, that Sofia got her young underlings to not only watch the show themselves, but got them to force their parents - moms and dads - to watch with them, unable to tune away to "big people" shows.

More than 341 202 adult viewers (and that's excluding kids younger than 15) tunde in for the most watched Sofia the First episode on The Disney Channel on DStv during September.

The third party movie channel Studio Universal (DStv 112) from NBCUniversal International Networks popped up a ratings hit in September.

Studio Universal rated in September when the film First Blood drew 377 072 viewers on 3 September, making it the most watched movie on DStv during the month and giving it an overall 15th place on the most watched list.

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Telemundo International Studios launched by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, headed up by Marcos Santasa, president of Telemundo International.

The new Telemundo International Studios has been launched by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.

The new Telemundo International Studios will help to produce series for international markets with programming that will very likely show up in future on channels like Telemundo Africa (DStv 118) on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

MultiChoice carries the channel from NBCUniversal International Networks with its Spanish telenovelas in dubbed English and Portuguese in South Africa and across the African continent.

Marcos Santana, president of Telemundo International, will head up Telemundo International Studios that will be based in Miami in the United States.

Telemundo International Studios will "generate content that can travel to all platforms, from broadcast to pay-TV and digital media".

"Telemundo International Studios will tap into an international growth opportunity at a time when Telemundo has established itself as the number 1 Spanish-language broadcast network in prime time in the United States," says Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.

"With this new production, we will continue innovating and increasing the level of content production in Spanish in the United States internationally.

"The launch of Telemundo International Studios represents the great growth of our unit, increasing our offer's expansion and our distribution catalog, generating new opportunities for markets and platforms," says Marcos Santana.

The Walking Dead on FOX renewed for 8th season; DStv subscribers will have to switch to StarSat to catch Fear the Walking Dead and aftershow Talking Dead from November.

AMC has renewed The Walking Dead shown on FOX for an 8th season as well as the aftershow Talking Dead on AMC just before the start of the zombie drama's upcoming 7th season.

South African viewers will be able to watch the 8th season of The Walking Dead on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131) in late-2017 that will have 16 episodes. The 8th season premiere will mark the series' 100th episode.

With MultiChoice killing off the AMC channel on DStv, only StarSat subscribers will be able to watch the companion aftershow series, Talking Dead, that airs on the AMC channel from after mid-November.

AMC still airs on DStv channel 140 until 11 November, but the channel that shows the spin-off zombie drama series Fear the Walking Dead, already renewed for a third season, and the talk show Talking Dead will only remain accessible to StarSat subscribers on channel 115 from after that.

Meanwhile the 7th season of The Walking Dead will premiere on FOX this coming Monday morning, 24 October, for South African and African viewers at 03:30 in the morning as a simulcast with the American airdate.

The Walking Dead's 7th season will then roll out its first episode again later on Monday night at 21:00 in its regular weekly timeslot.

DStv and StarSat subscribers can watch the second season of Talking Dead: Fear Edition from today on AMC on Mondays at 20:45 with presenter Chris Hardwick.

The premiere episode of The Walking Dead's 7th season is set to reveal which main character villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has chosen to kill off in the 6th season finale cliffhanger, although its a certainty that it won't be the lead character of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who is definitely safe.

"Eeny, meeny, miny, more," says AMC boss Charlie Collier in a statement announcing the 8th season renewal of The Walking Dead.

"What a joy to partner with Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple and some of the hardest-working people in television to bring The Walking Dead to the fans. And, most important, thanks to those fans for breathing life into this remarkable series right along with us."

The FOX Networks Group (FNG) will once again show episodes of The Walking Dead internationally in over 125 territories, including South Africa and across Africa, 24 hours after the season launch on AMC in America.

As in previous seasons, the 7th season of The Walking Dead will be shown in two parts with the first 8 episodes from this coming Monday, and the second batch of 8 episodes from February 2017.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

South African journalists - and female journalists - are the big winners at the 21st CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2016.

South African journalists and female journalists across the African continent were the big winners as they took home the lion's share of trophies on Saturday night at the 21st CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2016 where Asha Ahmed Mwilu and Rashid Idi from Kenya's KTN won the overall award.

South African journalism and journalists saw a resurgence at the annual, pan-continental CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2016 that this year was once again held in South Africa and celebrated the best in African journalism with a record number of 1 637 entries across 38 countries.

The ceremony, with hosts Zain Asher from CNN International and South African presenter Robert Marawa, once again capped a 4-day programme of workshops, media forums and networking as part of Africa's most prestigious awards dedicated to honouring excellence in journalism.

Saturday night saw 9 South Africans won across 6 categories at the gala awards ceremony held at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg.

Female journalists this year also noticeably ran rings around their male counterparts for hard-hitting and impactful stories in a news industry where women are often incorrectly stereotyped as supposedly only doing "soft news" reporting.

South African winners included Fiona Macleod (jointly with John Grobler from Namibia) for the environment award; Diana Neille, Richard Poplak, Shaun Swingler and Sumeya Gasa from Daily Maverick for the economics and business award; Mia Malan from The Mail & Guardian winning the features category; Jay Caboz from Forbes Africa winning the energy and infrastructure award; photographer James Oatway from The Sunday Times winning the photography category for his images of the killing of Emmanuel Sithole; and Ancillar Mangena of Forbes Africa receiving the Maggie Eales Young journalist award.

Some of the South African journalists’ prize winning stories ranged from the exploitation by Coca-Cola Africa of workers through outsourcing, to the sad reality of the country's rampant rape culture and James Oatway's harrowing images of the killing of Emmanuel Sithole in xenophobic violence that shook the country to its core.

'We will stop until we tell the truth'
Overall winner Asha Ahmed Mwilu - in an impassioned speech for her investigative TV story together with Rashid Idi, "Terror Crossing" about security at the Kenya-Somali border that was broadcast on Kenya Television Network (KTN) - said journalists across Africa won't stop exposing the truth.

"Journalists across the continent - we are being prosecuted, we are being killed, we are being jailed for the stories that we are telling because we are truth-seekers. But we are unrelenting. We will never stop until we tell the truth."

"We will continue to be the voices of our people - whether positive or negative - we will tell their stories," said Asha Ahmed Mwilu.

All the finalists receive both a cash prize and tablet, with the overall two winners receiving a further cash prize and the chance to visit CNN Headquarters in Atlanta and participating in the CNN Journalism Fellowship.

Ferial Haffajee, former City Press editor and chairperson of the judging panel, asked what she makes of the this year's strong showing of South African journalists winning for exceptional South African journalism, says "for several years as a South African judge I've been noticing that it was definitely the turn of Kenya and Nigeria to take the top spots".

"This year has seen a resurgence of South Africa in the competition. And if you look at what won, it's actually long form, narrative journalism, where good journalists have been given an opportunity to go out and to really report on stories that we don't talk about."

About the large number of women who won awards this year, Ferial Haffajee said "generally, the investment in training woman journalists is beginning to show itself".

"So women are increasingly getting to do things, a lot of television also benefiting from that investment and their time and their skills, and they're just going out there and using every opportunity."

Yolisa Phahle, M-Net CEO who presented Asha Ahmed Mwilu and Rashid Idi with their top journalism prize thanked them and the continent's journalists "for telling the stories of Africa and its people to the world".

"We're proud to play a role in amplifying your voices and the voices of other journalists across the African continent".

Greg Beitchman, the vice president for content sales and partnerships at CNN International (DStv 401) thanked journalists for their powerful reporting.

Here's the full list of winners at the 21st CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2016 :

John Grobler, Namibia, & Fiona Macleod, South Africa
Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism
Caught in the crossfire: how cattle and Chinese mining interests are killing off Namibia’s black rhinos’

Ati Metwaly
Al Ahram Weekly, Egypt
Against all odds: Stories of the visually impaired women from Egypt's Al Nour Wal Amal Orchestra’

Chika Oduah, Nigeria, Freelance for African Media Initiative, Kenya
The App That Saved 1,000 Children’

Diana Neille, Richard Poplak, Shaun Swingler & Sumeya Gasa, Daily Maverick, South Africa
Casualties of Cola: Outsourcing, Exploitation & the New Realities of Work’

Mia Malan, Mail & Guardian, South Africa
Title: Diepsloot: Where men think it's their right to rape’

Bidossèssi Appolinaire Agoïnon, Office de Radiodiffusion et Télévision du Bénin, Benin
Dogesi mi’

Faten Hayed, El Watan, Algeria
L’Algérie, ma terre de djihad’

Jay Caboz, Forbes Africa, South Africa
‘40 Years of Mozambique - The Dead Port that Rose Again’

James Oatway, The Sunday Times, South Africa
‘The Killing of Emmanuel Sithole’

Veronica Narkwor Kwabla, TV3 Network, Ghana
Freetown Ebola Orphans’

Asha Ahmed Mwilu & Rashid Idi, Kenya Television Network, Kenya
‘Terror Crossing’

Bento Venâncio, Jornal Domingo, Mozambique
‘Albinos em perigo’

Fidelto Emidio Bata, STV, Mozambique
‘Bibliotecas esquecidas’

Bob Rugurika, Burundi

Yemisi Akinbobola, Ogechi Ekeanyanwu & Paul Bradshaw, IQ4News for Premium Times, Nigeria
‘Follow the Money: Who extracts the value of Nigerian footballers?’

Ancillar Mangena, Forbes Africa, South Africa
‘Prophets of profit in the business of belief’

Thursday, October 13, 2016

After Hlaudi Motsoeneng bans Days of Our Lives, SABC3 ratings has now plunged 48% in just 2 months as a whopping 520 081 viewers have abandoned the timeslot.

SABC viewership of its struggling SABC3 channel has nosedived in the two months after Hlaudi Motsoeneng's banished the bulk of international content from the channel with SABC3's viewership that has plummented in the post Days of Our Lives timeslot by a massive 48.2% since July.

Not only has SABC3 lost nearly half of its total audience in what used to be the popular Days 17:00 timeslot, but even more importantly and shockingly is that the overall SABC3 primetime viewership has also plummented.

Meanwhile not a single one of the crop of rushed-to-air local shows on SABC3's primetime programming line-up has managed to crack the list of Top 20 most watched shows on the channel, while it costs the SABC a lot more to produce the increased burden of local shows, although viewers and advertisers flee.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to a media enquiry seeking comment about SABC3's ongoing ratings plunge and whether the public broadcaster is considering changes to Hlaudi Motsoeneng's 80% local content strategy for the channel that he enforced since mid-July for the broadcaster's only commercial TV channel.

With the hugely popular American weekday soap Days of Our Lives that lured a massive 1 078 101 viewers at its peak in July, SABC3 saw 40.51% of its total viewers abandoning the channel during the timeslot in August (falling to 641 388 viewers).

That loss accelerated and grew in a second consecutive month to 48.2% of viewers gone in September compared to July in the 17:00 timeslot with just 558 020 viewers at most in the timeslot. SABC3's 17:00 timeslot has now lost a staggering 520 081 viewers in just two months.

Overall SABC3 ratings depressed
The ongoing viewership plunge should be sending shockwaves through the SABC where advertising rates and what the public broadcaster can charge for 30 second ad spots are closely tied to the number of viewers the SABC can deliver in a timeslot.

Making it worse is that the loss of half of the viewership that Days of Our Lives pulled in the 17:00 timeslot is a daily loss that was stripped over weekdays. The loss in viewers translates into a daily revenue loss in terms of ad income for the SABC and SABC3.  

It's not just the replacement of Days of Our Lives with the local Afternoon Express talk show that's a ratings problem for SABC3.

While SABC3 lured an already low average AR (audience rating) of 2.13 during primetime for its top 20 most watched programmes during August, the channel saw its audience further ebb away to an average primetime AR of just 2.01 for its top 20 most watched shows during September.

Since this audience rating is for the most watched shows, it means that the viewership for the rest of SABC3 programming is even lower, and also that SABC viewers have completely rejected the raft of new local programming on SABC3 suddenly foisted on them.

Meanwhile metropolitan viewers do keep tuning to SABC3 specifically for its American films. 

Besides the American soap The Bold and the Beautiful remaining the most watched overall show on SABC3 in September with 1.17 million viewers, films like Abducted: The Carlina White Story, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Maiden Heist, Seven Pounds, As You Like It, Kick-Ass 2, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Life Support, Brighton Rock grabbed a whopping 9 of the top 20 most watched places in SABC3's September ratings.

It means that while Hlaudi Motsoeneng abruptly banished foreign content off of SABC3, viewers are rejecting the replacement local content for whatever reason and seeking out and watching the remaining American content like the films that still exist.

The local telenovela High Rollers saw an uptick from August to September from a still low 482 504 to 616 960 viewers and a 1.8 AR for its highest rated episode in each month, while Isidingo also saw a slight improvement from a 3.1 AR (1.03 million) to a 3.3 AR (1.11 million viewers) in September.

The stalwart local lifestyle magazine show Top Billing remains more popular than any of the SABC3's other new local programming in primetime. The most watched episode in September pulled 484 703 viewers.

SABC audience share falls again, down to 48.8%
While the SABC's TV channels SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 attract audiences of 28.8 million, 26.9 million and 21 million viewers per week, the reality is that the SABC's average audience share fell yet again to 48.8% according to its just published annual financial report for 2015/2016.

That's down from 57% in 2011/2012 and 53% in 2012/2013.

The SABC admits that it missed its target of 52% and blames "increased competition and changing audience content consumption patterns" for its falling viewership share.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SABC moves Generations tonight from SABC1 to ... SABC3 ... dumping local show High Rollers ... to make space for soccer. And will do it again.

In another mind-boggling and perplexing scheduling move, the SABC is suddenly moving its highest-rated show Generations tonight from SABC1 to its channel with the smallest reach and serving a completely different audience - SABC3 - due to soccer.

SABC1 also shocked with other erratic and last-minute programming schedule changes it's not explaining to viewers that relates to Zaziwa, Street Cred and the new season of Tempy Pushas that was supposed to start last week and didn't without any explanation.

Generations, usually shown on weekdays at 20:00 on SABC1, will suddenly be shown at 19:30 on SABC3 tonight in the place of the dumped local telenovela High Rollers, so that the SABC can broadcast the international friendly soccer match between South Africa and Ghana from 19:00 live on SABC1 from the Moses Mabhida stadium.

The erratic and highly unusual move will apparently happen again on 15 November when SABC3's High Rollers will once again be dumped for Generations in its timeslot.

It's the first time the SABC has replaced one locally produced SABC TV soap with another of its locally produced TV soaps.

The SABC's highly disruptive shock-move is bad for a litany of reasons:

Previously when the SABC had to move Generations due to soccer broadcasts it was to another timeslot on SABC1, or like for instance during the African Nations Championships to SABC2 where the channel's target audience has a bigger overlap with SABC1.

SABC3 can only be received by 77% of South African viewers and the channel's target audience is the furthest from SABC1. It makes no sense for the SABC to move its most watched show with an audience of 8.1 million viewers to a channel where millions of viewers won't be able to see it, won't know its on there, and in another timeslot.

As debilitating as it is for Generations and that soap's audience, it's even more devastating for High Rollers and that show's audience of just over 600 000 on SABC3. Not only does the SABC with the unusual move signals that High Rollers "matters" less as local SABC content than Generations as local content, it also will impact negatively on the specific demos and audience ratings both channels and both shows tries to reach.

AThe SABC is literally damaging itself and its brands with self-inflicted wounds. Generations ratings for this week has no other place than go down; High Rollers ratings will also definitely be down. And keep in mind viewer sentiment.
Viewers, especially serialised soap watchers, find it confusing and get angry when they come back after they missed, or were forced to miss an episode and struggle to try and fill in what they've missed and then resent TV channel brands for "messing" with their stories.

The SABC will once again very likely lose advertising income on two streams - for advertisers who bought airtime during what would have been Generations' 20:00 timeslot on SABC1, as well as SABC3's 19:30 High Rollers timeslot. The SABC will have to do what the biz calls "make-goods", give paid and booked advertisers more timeslots in future to reach the right audience they lost out on in the first place, which means less available ad inventory available for the SABC can sell.

The SABC will also lose money from the sport broadcast during which it can't sell the highly lucrative ad spots commercial advertisers want during Generations.

SABC1's other stranger things
SABC1 has been silent about what's going on with the channel's other erratic moves.

The new third season of sitcom Tempy Pushas was scheduled to start this past Friday on SABC1 but was suddenly a no-show with no word from the channel as to why it didn't start and why Shuga continued. The new Tempy Pushas was this week suddenly rescheduled to start on Friday 28 October but there's been no reason given for the delay. And then it got rescheduled for a third time within days to now start on 14 October.

The new street dance reality show Street Cred has been rescheduled to start this Thursday at 18:00.

The SABC also did a U-turn and decided to keep its ratings successful talk show Zaziwa on Thursdays at 19:30.

SABC1 recently decided to drop Zaziwa from its highly successful primetime timeslot of 19:30 and to move it to the bizarre timeslot of 21:00 from this week where it would not just no longer be a hit but struggle to find any audience up against SABC2's Venda soap juggernaut Muvhango and pay-TV ratings hit The Queen on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161).

Zaziwa will now suddenly be staying in its 19:30 timeslot on SABC1.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The best media green room in the biz? MultiChoice once again makes the media go 'mmm' with delectable delicatessen before the DStv Delicious Food Festival presser.

Who runs the best media green room in the biz? Most definitely MultiChoice with its "Lufthansa business class lounge" type boudoir.

At most press events or press conferences, there's usually the feeding frenzy of the press, preceded or followed by another type of a feeding frenzy: hungry journalists foraging for food.

I didn't attend the DStv Delicious International Food & Music Festival this past weekend but I was invited to, and decided to attend, Friday morning's press conference about it at MultiChoice City in Randburg.

Before the press conference in one of auditoriums at MultiChoice's new headquarters started, media were ushered, as usual, first to a holding pen the media green room where I took this photo, and where a coffee barista and juice bar served the press, along with white-tabled breakfast d'oeuvres.

I didn't actually eat any of the food - I just had two black coffees and a lemon juice - but the food and the presentation looked absolutely terrific.

I instantly thought that I had to remark on it, because I appreciated the thought to do it, the huge effort that went into it, and the intention, impression and expectation that it created.

It's also not the first time the media green room (the walls are literally green) at DStv for press visiting MultiChoice City looks this great - it's actually every time I've been there as a TV critic, just this year, for various press conferences or background meet-and-greet's like what M-Net Movies did a few months ago with the press.

Compared with the throwaway snacks the SABC dish up to the media at Auckland Park and the unappetising spreads several other TV channels find themselves worthy to take out the tin box from time to time for ravenous reporters, the MultiChoice amuse-bouche towers head and shoulders above anyone else.

A few observations:

Firstly, media are not royalty and shouldn't be treated as such (although a lot of them think they are, with over-inflated superego's who want to be endulged).

Food offered and looking like it's straight out of a Downton Abbey garden tea party, should never become a standard expectation for the media.

I and others can go without food or snacks at a media event or press conference - I have no expectation that there must be food, I don't go to things because of food, but I do love it when there's the availability of food.

However, when there are food and drinks offered, the way it looks (even more than how it taste) is part of what actually helps to set the atmosphere.

It signals to journalists (or at least to me) the perceived level of importance of an event and the seriousness (even for something fun) that the news, announcements or press conference is regarded by the news maker.

MultiChoice constantly gets this right.

Having a proper media green room with not just good food on display but a very professional display, shows to media that they didn't take waste their day to go to some namby-pamby time-waster.

This year I was at the MultiChoice City building for things like a MultiChoice programming media showcase, a FOX DStv Empire presser and a M-Net Movies educational media session for instance.

Every single time there was a media green room area, and every single time without fail the food was top notch and presented without fault.

Secondly, there's the service. On Friday after my first black coffee, I returned to the green room barista to get another.

Keep in mind the place is filled with a lot of journalists and nobody's special.

I went: "Please may I have ... " and the barista jumped in, saying "for you, another black coffee? Can I fill this one up for you and in a large cup?"

I was speechless for a moment and said yes. He actually remembered how I took my first one half an hour earlier. Needless to say, I was very, very impressed because I doubt that I'd be able to be like that to people.

And it's not just me it happened to. A diminutive mediarette walked over and joined my side and just as she started her order of "Can I please get ..." the barista handed her a cuppaccino.

It's what she wanted, but she was instantly both amazed and suspicious.

Of course the media is a haughty, cynical bunch and she asked: "Is this now someone else's old one?"

The barista smiled: "No I made it just now."

"And if I didn't ask for a cuppaccino?"

"Then I would have made for you just whatever else you ask for."

Finding the answer acceptable - and what was actually super service - agreeable; mademoiselle took a sip and glided away back to the tables with white roses and white tulips and snacks on silver trays.

MultiChoice's media green room on Friday for the DStv Delicious Food Festival was great. I didn't actually eat anything but the moment I stepped inside I saw and appreciated the effort.

It's something TV channels and productions doing press conferences shouldn't under-estimate, but also something that the media types who go to pressers shouldn't ever take for granted.

Ben's 10 again: Turner Africa's Cartoon Network on DStv debuts the brand-new Ben 10 series in South Africa and across Africa 6 months before America.

There's only two animated, forever 10-year olds and while yellow Bart Simpson will arguably always be the funnier one, Ben Tennyson who is getting a reset in a whole new series of Ben 10 starting on Cartoon Network (DStv 301) from today at 17:05, will always be the one having the bigger adventures.

As a worldwide animation hit with kids and their parents, the rebooted Ben 10 will kick off today - on 10 10 2016 - exactly 10 years after the Emmy Award winning series started on Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network.

The show that went on to spawn not just various alien creatures from Ben Tennyson's Omnitrix, but 4 follow-up series as well as animation and live action series, grew a cult following with the term "Ben 10" in South Africa even coming to denote a romantic entanglement between a woman with a much younger man.

The moniker is indicative of how Ben 10 not just became an entrenched viewer phenomenon outside of America but of how deeply it infused itself over the past decade into the pop culture zeitgeist - especially in South Africa.

That viewer fevour is part of the reason that Cartoon Network decided to roll out the reset Ben 10 in specifically South Africa and other countries months before the new animated series will start in the United States in April 2017.

In the new Ben 10 produced by Cartoon Network Studios, Ben Tennyson - slightly updated but all the original fun intact - is back to the 10 year old boy who can transform into various alien creatures aided by his Omnitrix to not only save Earth but the universe.

"We have an unrivaled joy and passionate love for animation," says Colman Murray who was just appointed as Turner's business development director for Turner Africa - the first African-based appointment for Turner Africa where Turner Broadcasting runs channels like Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Boing among others.

"Ben 10 along with our other superstars, The Powerpuff Girls, are all superstars in their own right. And they're squeaky clean and they love Cartoon Network."

"Ben 10 is a global phenomenon," says Colman Murray. Since its launch in 2006, Ben 10 has been a top-grossing franchise for the Cartoon Network as viewers bought toys, DVDs and video games.

"Ben 10 is also the most downloaded Cartoon Network app, generating 283 million plays in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region alone and 400 million page views."

Ben 10 has been seen in 170 countries in 30 languages, reaching over 312 million homes worldwide.

"Such is Cartoon Network's commitment to South Africa, that we're launching Ben 10 on DStv six months ahead of the United States," says Colman Murray.

"The 10-year old Ben Tennyson discovers an amazing alien watch called the Omnitrix. He's on holiday with his grandfather Max when he gets this awesome device that gives Ben the ability to transform into any of 10 spectacular and powerful aliens."

"With this watch he can control time, he can control water, he can change his size, he can become extendable like chewing gum. This watch fundamentally changes Ben's life from being a normal 10-year old dealing with bad guys to a lot of opportunities," says Colman Murray.

"In the new Ben 10 starting on Monday on Cartoon Network at 17:05, the re-imagined Ben returns to the 10-year old where the story started, travelling the country with his grandpa Max and cousin Gwen."

"Ben finds the Omnitrix and a world of extra-terrestrial superpowers open up to him. And this mysterious watch transforms him into 10 different aliens."

"We are seriously excited at Cartoon Network about this new series," says Colman Murray.

"Kids will meet a more modern, relatable Ben 10. Ben 10 is relateable because everyone wants to be and can be a hero in their own right - but only if they believe in themselves".

"Ben's character is timeless, so we felt the time was right to bring him back. Our South African audience can now look forward to brand-new episodes with a brand-new look and feel. With this new series there's action and comedy content aimed at the core audience of 6 to 7-year olds."

"One young South African fan had the following comment about Ben 10: Other superheroes are born with powers. But Ben 10 is like us, he's like me. I really want to be his friend," says Colman Murray.

M-Net launches 'A Kind of Magic' theme song competition; R30 000 prize money and screen time to 30 best renditions of Queen's rock song that was one of its first theme songs.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, pay-TV broadcaster M-Net will pay the 30 best viewer renditions of one of its first theme songs - Queen's "A Kind of Magic" - R30 000 each.

When the Randburg-based M-Net started 30 years ago in October 1986, it decided to use the iconic Queen song from the same titled album as one of its very-first theme songs, along with the Brit-band's earlier song "Don't Stop Me Now".

Now M-Net wants DStv subscribers in South Africa and across Africa to belt out their very own version of "A Kind of Magic" for its 30th birthday that can be anything - from a rock-star rendition like Freddie Mercury, a rap version, or acting crazy or against a jaw-dropping backdrop in an exotic location.

The best "A Kind of Magic" performances will be broadcast across the various M-Net's channels on DStv during November, along with some of iconic on-screen M-Net talent that viewers saw over the past three decades.

The closing date is midnight on Sunday night 23 October and people have to upload their theme song version at www.mnet.tv/30 which is open to people in any African country where there's access to any of the 40 M-Net channels.

"The competition is a special thank you to all our loyal viewers," says Yolisa Phahle, M-Net CEO.

"M-Net has grown immensely over the past 30 years – from being one pay-television channel to producing more than 40 channels for different audiences across the continent on different platforms."

"But we wouldn't have been here without the continued support of every single person who finds our kaleidoscope of story-telling entertaining, informative or inspiring."

"We would love to celebrate this milestone birthday with our viewers and trust that everyone who enters the competition – and those watching the performances on screen – will have loads of fun."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

BREAKING. MultiChoice hit by 'nightmare' DStv channels blackout on Friday night as fibre optics cable is cut; channels restored Saturday morning after technicians work through the night.

MultiChoice got hit by a major overnight channels outage on its DStv satellite pay-TV platform on Friday night that DStv subscribers described as a "nightmare" and that saw several channels cut out for hours after a fibre optics cable was accidentally cut.

All off DStv channels were restored after 08:00 on Saturday morning.

MultiChoice tells TVwithThinus that "construction work close to our Randburg offices damages one of our fibre optic cables carrying data for some M-Net, Mzansi Magic and SuperSport channels. Our technicians worked through the night to restore our customers' viewing".

MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry says all channels have now been restored and that it thanks customers for their understanding.

While MultiChoice's "nightmare" as DStv subscribers labelled the blackout was primarily focused around M-Net's channels, the channel blackout affected other non-M-Net channels as well.

The high definition (HD) M-Net supplied channels like VUZU AMP (DStv 103), M-Net Movies Premiere (DStv 104) and Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) were restored by 01:00 on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile other M-Net channels on DStv like VUZU (DStv 116), M-Net Movies Action (DStv 110) and M-Net Movies All Stars (DStv 111) continued to be off air.

MultiChoice's problem wasn't contained to just just M-Net channels, as various others channels ranging from general entertainment channels like e.tv (DStv 194) froze and went blank to news channels like CNN International (DStv 401) pixelating, distorting and cutting out.

By 07:00 on Saturday morning MultiChoice told DStv subscribers on the company's Facebook page that "a handful of channels have not been restored - our techies are hoping to get these up soon".

An hour later, just after 08:00 on Saturday morning, MultiChoice told DStv subscribers on Facebook that "we're pleased to confirm that all channels have been restored and the gremlins banished. Many thanks for your patience."

While some DStv subscribers wondered whether they would be re-imbursed for the lost service from the cut channels they were watching, others DStv subscribers shared stories of how MultiChoice scared them when for instance a M-Net Movies channel went black during a paranormal horror film and gave them the fright of their lives.

MultiChoice is in the process of switching to new satellite capacity on the Intelsat 36 satellite that was successfully launched at the end of August.