Sunday, February 1, 2015

BREAKING. Jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste in Egypt released and deported after 400 days behind bars.

The jailed Al Jazeera (DStv 406 / StarSat 257) journalist Peter Greste has been released and deported to Australia after spending 400 days behind bars in Egypt.

Peter Greste, a former BBC correspondent who also worked for CNN International, was arrested in December 2013, alongside Al Jazeera's Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed after which they were all convicted for 10 years in jail for aiding terrorism and helping the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation.

According to Reuters Mohamed Fahmy who holds Canadian citizenship will be released within days as well.

There's been no statement from Al Jazeera on Sunday evening, but Al Jazeera's acting director-general Mostefa Souag told BBC news that "We're pleased for Peter and his family that they are to be reunited. It has been an incredible and unjustifiable ordeal for them, and they have coped with incredible dignity."

Mostefa Souag said that Al Jazeera "will not rest until Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy also regain their freedom. The Egyptian authorities have it in their power to finish this properly today, and that is exactly what they must do."

On Sunday evening Al Jazeera America reported that the managing director of Al Jazeera English, Al Anstey said he was "relieved Peter Greste was freed and on his way home to be reunited with his family, but we've got to focus that Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy are still behind bars, and seven of their colleagues that were sentenced to ten years in absentia are still sentenced today."

UPDATE 22:51 - In a press statement received at 22:51 Al Jazeera says "that the campaign to free its journalists in Egypt will not end till all three have been released".

"Peter Greste is on his way out of the country after 400 days in detention, but Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy remain behind bars. All three have to be exonerated and the convictions against its Al Jazeera's other journalists tried in absentia also have to be lifted."

"Peter's integrity is not just intact, but has been further enhanced by the fortitude and sacrifice he has shown for his profession of informing the public," says Mostefa Souag, acting director-general of Al Jazeera Media Network in the statement.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

TACKY TRASH: Disgusting J&B Met tells people to 'enjoy' the event after the passing of Top Billing presenter Simba Mhere; forced to apologise.

It doesn't get more tacky trash and disgusting than this: the J&B Met 2015 tweeting that people should "enjoy" the annual horse racing social booze-up after the death this morning of the Top Billing presenter Simba Mhere.

Simba Mhere died this morning - and not like the deplorable J&B Met 2015 tweeted "last night" - in a horrific car crash.

After an avalanche of criticism on social media for its shameless and extremely insensitive self-promotion the J&B Met 2015 finally apologised on Twitter, saying "We the J&B would like to apologise on the insensitivity of our previous tweet. We are rectifying the situation from our side and once again we sincerely apologise for the remark".

The damage however was done.

"Pity you had to be tweeted, told there is a screengrab, and told to apologise. Hope you shun the callous person responsible," said commentator Eusebius McKaiser.

Several celebrities left the J&B Met today early and several were complete no-shows as news about Simba Mhere's death spread who was on his way to the Oliver Tambo International Airport early this morning to fly to the event in Cape Town.

Simba Mhere's death dampened the entire mood of the J&B Met 2015's well-heeled who didn't want to be seen partying it up and celebrating amidst the loss of one of their own.

The Top Billing crew and presenter Jonathan Boynton-Lee also left the J&B Met, with Simba Mhere's death which became the number one topic of conversation under the remaining socialites.

BREAKING. SABC3's Top Billing presenter Simba Mhere (26) dead in shocking car accident, 'devastating loss' to SA TV industry.

Simba Mhere, Top Billing presenter on SABC3 is dead as the shocking news about his death this morning in a horrifying car crash on the N3 is sending shockwaves through South Africa's TV biz.

Simbarashe Mhere known as simply "Simba" was only 26.

Eight people died in the car crash in which Simba Mhere, the son of missionary parents, was killed on Saturday morning on the N3 near the Marlboro offramp. His father and a friend was with him in the car at the time of the accident during which another car crashed into his vehicle.

The driver who caused the crash will be charged with reckless driving according to the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

Simba Mhere was on his way to the Oliver Tambo International Airport to fly to Cape Town's J&B Met this afternoon. In 2013 Simba Mhere was voted most stylist man in South Africa, and in 2014 favourite TV presenter.

Several celebrities left, and several were no-shows at the 2015 J&B Met on Saturday afternoon as news quickly spread about Simba Mhere's death.

The Top Billing crew and presenter Jonathan Boynton-Lee left the J&B Met after news about Simba Mhere's passing became known, where the atmosphere turned sombre and depressing.

"It is with awful shock and terrible pain that we reflect on the passing of our beloved Simba Mhere," says Top Billing, produced by Tswelopele Productions.

"Simba Mhere will forever be an irreplaceable member of the Top Billing family. May your soul rest in peace dear Simba. We all loved you and we are truly heartbroken".

"It is with great sadness that SABC3 received the news about the passing of Simba Mhere, presenter on SABC3's Top Billing and Presenter Search on 3," says the SABC in a statement.

"Our beloved colleague and friend passed away in a tragic car accident earlier today. Simba Mhere brought great character and charisma in everything he did and for that he will be sorely missed."

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, Simba Mhere's friends and associates, his fans, viewers of SABC3 and the rest of South Africa."

"We wish to plead with the public to give the family some privacy during this sad time. SABC3 will communicate all the relevant details in due course."

The longtime Top Billing presenter Janez Vermeiren who've worked with Simba Mhere tells TV with Thinus his death is "a devastating loss".

"For us to lose a human being of that caliber is devastating. I was standing in the shower after hearing the news and going through all of the conversations we've had over the years - his dreams and aspirations. He had so many big dreams and plans that's shattered now that he's in heaven".

"It's devastating to lose someone so nice. In this industry you get a lot of people who are nice to you in front of you but then not so nice when you're back is turned. Simba Mhere was nice 100% of the time. A devastating loss," says Janez Vermeiren.

The charismatic presenter was a TV natural and became a Top Billing presenter after winning the Top Billing Presenter Search in 2010 after he was chosen as the winner out of 5 000 contestants who entered.

Simba Mhere's untimely and shocking death comes ironically just two days after a Top Billing special episode was broadcast on Thursday night, and which will be repeated on Sunday on SABC3 at 12:30, in which both Simba Mhere and co-presenter Jonathan Boynton-Lee (who won in 2012) both looked back and reflected on how the show has changed their lives.

Editor's note: I've met Simba Mhere just after he won and became a Top Billing presenter in 2010, and saw and ran into him several times since then. What I will never forget is a private off-the-record dinner I had with him at the Crystal Towers hotel in Cape Town in 2013.

With the notebook packed away, the wine and conversation flowed. We could all be just us. Not presenter. Not journalist covering television. He laughed with abandon.

He told things I will never share, about his experiences about the TV world and the TV business as someone who entered it and was amazed, shocked, horrified and dazzled by it every day and how he didn't take anything of it for granted. He loved Top Billing and he loved being a TV presenter and the doors it opened. May Simba Mhere rest in peace.

BREAKING. Somizi added as 4th Idols judge; M-Net back in business with Somizi after dumping his previous Vuzu reality show over violence.

M-Net is back in business with Somizi Mhlongo after having dumped him and his unfinished reality show for Vuzu, Raising the Bar, following a violent attack and outburst while filming a year ago.

Somizi Mhlongo is being added as the new and 4th Idols judge for the 11th season of the reality singing competition.

The flamboyant choreographer is being added to Idols returning the judges' panel to a four person team, the first time since Dave Thompson decided to leave South Africa and abruptly emigrate at the end of the 5th season of the show in 2009.

Somizi Mhlongo acted as one of the mentors during an episode in the 10th season of Idols in 2014.

"Somizi is pure showbiz - he understands what it takes for a performer to really engage an audience, over and above just the music," says Gavin Wratten, executive producer and director of Idols produced by [SIC] Entertainment. "We think his perspective will be an invaluable perspective in the judging process".

Besides his failed VUZU reality show which was cancelled and production halted before it was broadcast, Somizi Mhlongo was a talent show judge for two seasons of the reality show Dance Your Butt Off on SABC1.

Somizi Mhlongo , son of the late comedian Ndaba Mhlongo and veteran actress Mary Twala, has also choreographed several South African music videos and live productions, for instance the Miss South Africa beauty pageant on Mzansi Magic and the Channel O Africa Music Video Awards on Channel O.

"I will be judging the 'razzmatazz," says Somizi Mhlongo in a statement. "Contestants are warned: from now on a good voice alone isn't enough anymore - I'm going to want contestants who have showmanship!"

"Gareth Cliff, Randall Abrahams and Unathi Msengana are a fantastic judging team but we thought it would be valuable to add some extra 'zing' this year with South Africa's 'king of bling'," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.

Auditions for the 11th season of Idols kicked off today in Pretoria, followed by Cape Town auditions on 7 February at GrandWest Casino, Durban on 21 February at The Playhouse and the final auditions at Carnival City on 1 March.

Contestants have to be between 16 and 30 and need to take their ID to auditions.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Downton Abbey's 4th season on BBC Entertainment on DStv only starting on 12 April.

What's a weekend? Well, another thing the Dowager Countess of Grantham might ask is why do they constantly get it so wrong?

Forget everything you've read anywhere else in any tatty tattler trashies about when the 4th season of Downton Abbey is starting on BBC Entertainment (DStv 120) - they all got it wrong.

The 4th season of Downton Abbey will only start in April, on 12 April to be exact on DStv in South Africa.

Now go ring the bell for some high noon tea. It's Friday afternoon people.

BREAKING. Big shake-up for judges panel of 11th season of Idols on M-Net and Mzansi Magic, as a 4th judge - a local musician - will be added.

I can reveal that a big shake-up is looming for the judges' panel of the 11th season of Idols on M-Net and Mzansi Magic - the addition of a 4th judge behind the table who will be a local South African musician.

That's not where the Idols' shake-up ends: a major upgrade is looming for the feared Theatre Round known as "hell week" - with producers upping the stakes even further, piling on even further twists and some changes to create a dauntingly difficult selection round which will leave contestants and viewers gobsmacked and shocked this season.

While tabloids went into overdrive this week with rife speculation about a change in the trio behind Idols' judges table and who is getting axed, whether someone is getting replaced or added, and gushing that an international judge is joining, none gave facts or were able to give give accurate information.

M-Net meanwhile is staying silent, only admitting to a change at Idols' judging table.

TV with Thinus can reveal the facts and the facts are these:

The 11th season of Idols will see Unathi Msengana, Randall Abrahams and Gareth Cliff all remain behind the judges' table.

None have been fired, none walked away, all are safe and will be back when the nationwide audition process kicks off this coming weekend.

According to high-level sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the shake-up entails the addition of a new 4th judge behind the Idols' table.

According to sources its not an international artist, and nobody on the existing Idols' panel is getting replaced.

Reliable sources tell me a local South African musician is joining as the brand-new 4th Idols judge.

"People who go to the auditions in Pretoria will be shocked since they will see the new 4th Idols' judge first," I'm told.

Meanwhile the reality singing show produced by [SIC] Entertainment - once again with Gavin Wratten as the executive producer and director - is also making dramatic changes to "hell week".

According to sources, those contestants who manage to make it past the first audition rounds will be shocked when they see what awaits at the Theatre round this year.

M-Net is refusing to talk about changes to Idols' judges table, only saying there will be a change. "We believe that the new season is going to be a show-stopper with surprises line-up from the word 'go'," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.

"It's exciting to think that the country's new singing sensation will be somewhere in a long queue at the nationwide auditions".

Auditions for the 11th season of Idols kick off tomorrow at the State Theatre in Pretoria, followed by Cape Town auditions on 7 February at GrandWest Casino, Durban on 21 February at The Playhouse and the final auditions at Carnival City on 1 March.

Contestants have to be between 16 and 30 and need to take their ID to auditions.

BREAKING. Bonang Matheba, Jeannie D, Phat Joe the judges of new Presenter Search on 3 on SABC3 as entries officially open.

Bonang Matheba, Jeannie D and Phat Joe will be the judges of the brand-new Presenter Search on 3 looking for three new TV presenters for Top Billing, Expresso and an as yet unannounced new magazine show on SABC3.

TV with Thinus broke the news about the new show and upcoming competition earlier this month, and now entries have officially opened looking to find new stars to follow in the footsteps of previous - and since very successful - winners Simba Mhere and Jonathan Boynton-Lee.

I can reveal that Presenter Search on 3 will start as its own, stand-alone new series on SABC3 and will debut on 6 March on the channel as 13 one hour episodes on Friday nights at 19:30, exactly halfway through the nationwide audition process which will then have been filmed by that time.

It will be the third season of the highly successful reality competition which previously saw thousands of people queue for a chance to on, and become a part of the lifestyle TV production machine.

The Presenter Search on 3, produced by Tswelopele Productions, will be looking for a glamorous presenter to jetset the world, interview celebrities and bedazzle while walking and talking through magnificent mansions on SABC3's flagship show Top Billing.

Then there's also space for an upbeat presenter who can cope with the stress of live morning television and still smile and exude confidence on Expresso, as well as a lifestyle TV presenter for a weekly recorded new magazine show which will start later this year on SABC3.

Contestants will face physical challenges, tests of improvisation and intelligence,all while having to keep an eye on the sun, their mic's battery levels, and oozing high levels of charisma while juggling multiple voices and remembering links exactly the way the director wants them.

Anyone over 18 can enter and over February and March the thousands of hopefuls will be whittled down to a top 12, then a top 10 as they live together and face the various easy looking, yet difficult TV world challenges.

Auditions kick off in Cape Town on 13 and 14 February, Port Elizabeth on 22 February, Durban on 28 February and 1 March and Johannesburg on 6, 7, and 8 March.

Contestants have to take a photo, complete the entry form and dress up to impress and prepare a short speech or link - something to say or introduce themselves or a story, as they would if they're a TV presenter. The judges are looking for creative and original presentations.

Audition dates
Cape Town 13, 14 Feb
Cape Town stadium - main entrance 9:00
callbacks: 16 Feb

Port Elizabeth 22 Feb
Nelson Mandela Bay stadium 9:00
callbacks: 23 Feb

Durban 28 Feb, 1 March
Venue to be announced 9:00
callbacks: 2 March

Johannesburg 6, 7, 8 March
Venue to be announced 9:00
callbacks: 11 March

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Times Media Group's VIDI adds some local South African content to its VOD service in signed deals with the SABC.

Times Media Group's VIDI service which launched in the latter part of 2014 has signed deals with the SABC and local producers to add some TV series and local South African movies to the video-on-demand (VOD) service.

From February VIDI will add South African TV shows which has been shown on the SABC like High Rollers and My Perfect Family, as well as children's programming like URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika and African Sky Stories.

VIDI is also adding immediately some locally produced films, like Between Friends, How to steal Two Million and Paradise Stop, as well as Afrikaans films like Liefling, Jimmy in Pienk and Semi-Soet.

"VIDI is delighted that it will now offer such quality and popular local television shows and movies," says Taryn Uhlmann, VIDI's marketing manager. "These homegrown titles now on the platform all deliver high production values, outstanding casts and compelling storylines".

A VIDI subscription costs R149 per month and users have to pay for their own data use of the streaming video service as well.Movies cost R27 per title or R15 for library movies.

VIDI says more local content will be added in the coming weeks and months.

BREAKING. e.tv's new local telenovela to be named as Ashes to Ashes officially, will star SABC's former Generations cast and "regenerate 8pm" on e.tv.

You're reading it here first.

I can reveal that e.tv's new local telenovela starting on Monday 2 March at 20:00 will officially be named as Ashes to Ashes.

The telenovela of 104 episodes and set in the world of funeral parlours (hence the title) will star cast members of the former Generations on SABC1 - who will now be seen in the same timeslot as before but on e.tv - part of what e.tv cheekily calls "the regeneration of 8pm".

e.tv has not said anything about Ashes to Ashes or confirmed the name - which should not be confused with a former BBC drama series.

With Ashes to Ashes at 20:00 e.tv plans to inflict as much damage as possible on the SABC's now vulnerable and reset Generations - The Legacy which got a tepid reception from viewers after the principal cast was dumped by MMSV Productions and the SABC in October 2014 and which has plunged in viewership.

e.tv will use its soap Scandal! at 19:30 to help boost the viewership for Ashes to Ashes, serving as the lead-in programming for the telenovela, and is also moving its main news bulletin to 20:30 as the lead-out programme on weeknights.

Ashes to Ashes will be broadcast Mondays to Thursdays on e.tv with an official name, cast and story announcement expected soon.

UPDATED 11:14 - There it is. In a press release issued just issued e.tv says its "brand-new telenovela Ashes to Ashes, a first for e.tv takes over the 20:00 slot on Mondays to Thursdays for a whopping 104 episodes."

Ashes to Ashes on e.tv will premiere on Monday 2 March. Veteran actor Patrick Shai has been announced as one of the lead actors. Also get ready to welcome back familiar talent on a mysterious journey back to the smalls screen".

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TOLDJA! e.tv changes schedule from 2 March, moves soap Rhythm City to 19:00, new telenovela at 20:00 and main news later to 20:30.

e.tv on Wednesday night announced major expected scheduling changes to its line-up which will start from March and which will see the introduction of its local new telenovela, the move of its local soap Rhythm City to a new timeslot, and its main TV news bulletin moving to the later timeslot at 20:30 to make space for a brand-new weekday half hour Zulu TV news bulletin at 18:30 called eNews Izindaba.

e.tv says that in 2015 the channel will be introducing new shows during primetime throughout the year.

With the introduction of e.tv's new local telenovela at 20:00, soap Rhythm City is moving to 19:00 on weekdays from Monday 2 March while the main news on e.tv will move from 19:00 to 20:30 as the lead-out of the new telenovela.

e.tv's new telenovela of 104 episodes will be broadcast from Mondays to Thursdays at 20:00. The new polygamy drama series Umlilo will also start on Monday 2 March in the 21:00 timeslot.

Club 808 is once again moving but at least remaining on Fridays, now moving to 18:00. The 20:00 timeslot is taken by a repeat of the first season of Traffic! with Bonnie Henna and Bongo Mbutuma and a new second season set to start this year on e.tv as well.

e.tv says it is moving Rhythm City to 19:00 - where it will be competing against SABC3's Isidingo which has until now been the only local soap in the 19:00 timeslot - "to complete the one and a half hour local drama timeslot".

As TV with Thinus reported at the beginning of the year, a new weekday half hour Zulu TV eNews bulletin is being added in the 18:30 timeslot. It will be called eNews Izindaba.

The 6th season of eKasi: Our Stories moves to Tuesdays at 21:00, half an hour later than its current time.

On 7 April e.tv will also start a new rural drama, Matatiele, which takes over the 21:00 timeslot. Matatiele is based and shot on location in the Matatiele village in the Eastern Cape.

e.tv says its changing its primetime line-up to remain competitive as a linear terrestrial TV channel in South Africa. Monde Twala, managing director for e.tv channels division says "the new primetime schedule has been in planning for a few years".

"e.tv aims to be at the forefront of this growth [in local TV content] by not only introducing a high number of new and local genres, [but] we have also improved story-telling, production and directing. This ensures that our content is competitive," says Monde Twala.

"We are on strategy mode, we need ideas and partners to realise these goals. The aim of these programmes is to invest in the development of local content," says Monde Twala, saying that "the list is very long for 2015" of what e.tv wants to try and do.

"Every year we make sure that we go big, fresher and better. We are happy about the natural growth of our channels, we want more, and we want to grow bigger. Our vision still remains; to be the destination of choice," says Monde Twala.

SABC's Hlaudi Motsoeneng: People 'should carry on paying TV licence'; 'you are not paying the salary of personnel at this organisation'.

The SABC's famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng who the high court ordered to be suspended at the SABC end of 2014 but who hasn't been, today asked South African TV viewers to pay their SABC TV licences "because you're not paying the salary of personnel at this organisation".

In what the SABC billed as the "first" in a new series of "quarterly media briefings"by the South African public broadcaster, the controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng said the SABC will be going on a national campaign to tell South Africans that they have to pay their SABC TV licences.

The SABC says that it wants to increase its local content and that it needs the revenue from SABC TV licences to create and channel more local TV content.

"People should understand you are not paying the salary of personnel at this organisation," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng. "We don't even touch that money."

"You are paying for content, you are paying for universal access," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"We also applaud those people who are paying TV licence. And they should carry on paying TV licence."

"By paying TV licence you are contributing to the public service mandate of the organisation. If you look our own programmes. We have different kinds of programmes. Some of those programmes are educational. Some are entertaining. Some are informing. So we must pay TV licence," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"It is also important that SABC contribute to the growth of production houses. SABC contribute to the employment of the people in this country. But we don't want people in Gauteng only to benefit," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

As in 2009 the SABC is once again investigating the possibility of alternatives to the SABC TV licence fees, like collecting revenue from pay-TV providers like for instance MultiChoice, M-Net and On Digital Media (ODM), something they previously vehemently opposed.

In October last year the SABC failed to tell parliament what exactly it did with R3.39 billion over the past three years which are billed as "irregular expenditure".and which the Auditor General's (AG) office says wasn't spent properly - R900 million of which was improperly spent in 2013/2014 alone.

 In 2014 the SABC received its 4th consecutive annual qualified audit from the AG.

In 2014 the SABC told parliament that it wants to raise SABC TV licence fees in line with inflation. SABC TV licences currently brings in around R1 billion for the public broadcaster per year.

In 2014 the Public Protector's final report into Hlaudi Motsoeneng found that he "should never have been appointed at the SABC", found that he lied and admitted to lying in a recorded interview about having a matric certificate, and implicated him in various instances of maladministration.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng's salary skyrocketed the past four years at the SABC  - he is now paid R2.5 million more per year than what he was in 2010 - an eight fold increase in four years.

At the SABC's press briefing today Veronah Duwarkah, the SABC's group executive for television said that "a big portion of our budgets are actually allocated to local content".

"More than 70% of our schedules are local. That includes news and sport in terms of the number of minutes that we broadcast".

"From a pricing point of view more than R1 billion is spent only on local content. And I'm not talking about news and sports, there are more billions spent on that. The international content is a very small contingent. A couple of years ago, yes, we had a lot of content from overseas but we cannot waste money anymore," said Veronah Duwarkah.

At the SABC's press briefing the broadcaster admitted that the new Generations - The Legacy on SABC1 has much lower ratings than before it fired the entire principal cast and took the soap off the air for 2 months in 2014.

The SABC's Hlaudi Motsoeneng also said that president Jacob Zuma is deserves the excessive coverage on the SABC because he is the president of South Africa.

SABC News mixed up Peter Ndoro and Vabakshnee Chetty-Miller on Wednesday evening's TV new bulletin.

On Wednesday evening the SABC News (DStv 404) didn't know who was Peter Ndoro and who was Vabakshnee Chetty-Miller, switching the names of the two around (Peter Ndoro is the one on the left and is always the one seated on the left) in the so-called "bottom third" identifyer graphic.

The SABC had no English TV news bulletin for viewers on SABC3 on terrestrial television in South Africa on Wednesday evening, electing to go with coverage of cricket.

The English TV news bulletin - the SABC's supposed flagship TV news bulletin of the day - only went out on the SABC News channel  on channel 404, only accessible on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform for pay-TV viewers - co-incidentally/ironically on the same day that the SABC's matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng touted the SABC's "universal access" services at a media briefing in Johannesburg.

BREAKING. SABC admits new Generations The Legacy on SABC1 is a ratings dud; says president Jacob Zuma covered excessively because he's president.

In what the SABC billed as the "first" in a new series of "quarterly media briefings"by the South African public broadcaster's famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng and other SABC executives, the SABC admitted that the "new" and reset, yet struggling, Generations - The Legacy on SABC1 is a ratings dud and defended its excessive positive of president Jacob Zuma, saying it's "because he is the president".

The SABC also decided to ask South Africans to pay their SABC TV licences, despite being unable to tell the South African government and parliament in October 2014 what it did with R3.39 billion which the SABC classified as "irregular spending" over the past three years.

Although planned longer in advance than just a day, the SABC only alerted the South African press yesterday at 15:30 about "the corporation's first quarterly media briefing" scheduled for 11:00 today at the SABC's Aucklandpark headquarters.

Newsrooms with full news diaries and limited capacity journalists scrambled to suddenly designate journalists to cover the SABC briefing on Wednesday morning.

The SABC admitted for the first time that its reset soap Generations - The Legacy is suffering in the ratings and is far off from its previous incantation, as first reported by TV with Thinus a month and a half ago in December 2014, as the soap sagged and shed millions of viewers.

Generations - The Legacy returned on 1 December 2014  to SABC1 after abruptly ending production in October when MMSV Productions and the SABC fired the entire principal cast and reset the soap with new actors. Viewers and critics blasted the show who've since tuned out in droves.

Veronah Duwarkah, the SABC's group executive in charge of television, and Hlaudi Motsoeneng admitted at the SABC's quarterly briefing that Generations - The Legacy is down from its erstwhile ratings glory and suffered a significant viewer decline.

"It's not doing as great as it was previously," said Veronah Duwarkah.

"Generations may not do well but we believe it will improve. We are able to generate revenue here, but I cannot tell you how," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The SABC blamed the AFCON soccer tournament being broadcast on SABC1 with Generations - The Legacy shunted to SABC2 for the ratings drop (although the ratings fell immediately in December 2014 long before AFCON started), as well as load shedding with Eskom being unable to provide electricity to TV households.

Yet the SABC knew long in advance that it had secured the rights for AFCON, but still went ahead to start Generations - The Legacy during December - traditionally the lowest viewing period per year.

The SABC also decided far in advance to move the troubled Mfundi Vundla production to SABC2 in January 2015 just a month after it started again on SABC1 in December 2014, although SABC executives could have known from past experience with its so-called "transversal strategy" that a programming change within a month would negatively impact on a soap like Generations' viewership figures.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng defended the SABC's large and excessive coverage of president Jacob Zuma who is basically daily the lead story on the SABC News' TV news bulletins.

"When we deal with content within the organisation, there is no way where we ignore the president of the country," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"He's getting more time because he is the president of the country," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng. "We always do that, because he is running the country. When the president talks, everything he does affects all of us. If you want to be president tomorrow, we will do the same thing for you".

The SABC and SABC News didn't cover or report on any of these two issues out of its own quarterly briefing today on SABC television or TV news, deliberately choosing to only focus on and report that Hlaudi Motsoeneng is asking viewers to pay their SABC TV licences.

The SABC said nothing about when the SABC's general entertainment TV channel is set to start on MultiChoice's DStv, which was supposed to start in December 2013, and which has now been delayed for over a year.

The SABC said nothing about why the SABC has not complied with the High Court order that Hlaudi Motsoeneng should be suspended "immediately" and which was handed down at the end of last year.

The SABC didn't want to talk about Siyaya, the new pay-TV consortium set to launch soon and which scooped up the rights to Bafana Bafana matches which used to be broadcast on the SABC.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng said "I do not want to talk about Siyaya. We have a relationship with Safa South African Football Association) and we have a team talking to them".

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BREAKING. M-Net's next new reality show is Power Couple South Africa, looking for 8 couples to compete in relationship challenges.

M-Net's next local new prime time reality show on South African television will be Power Couple South Africa.

It will be the first time that the reality show - which has been done in Israel, Portugal and currently in Brazil - is being done as an English language show anywhere in the world.

The show - a bit of a cross between elements of Fear Factor, Love in the Wild and Temptation Island will revolve around 8 couples competing in various challenges in and around a camera-filled villa in Cape Town, to win an ultimate cash prize - worth more than R1 million - premised on how well they know each other.

Auditions for Power Couple SA kick off on 14 February - Valentines Day - in Cape Town at The Bay Hotel, with auditions also taking place on 18 February at the Moses Mabida Stadium in Durban and on 28 February at the Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg.

People who want to enter need to be older than 21, irrespective of how long or short they've been a romantic couple.

Power Couple SA, produced by production company Afrokaans, is set to debut in August on M-Net for a total of 14 weekly episodes and will be filmed over the course of 5 weeks from the middle of March to mid-April.

Viewers will decide the eventual winner through public voting who will be announced during a live finale broadcast on M-Net in December.

M-Net executives, the show's executive producers and some South African power couples like Nico Panagio and his wife Christi announced the show to the media on Tuesday afternoon at the Table Bay Hotel in Camps Bay at a press conference, calling Power Couple SA "a revolutionary concept" which "combines all the elements needed for compelling television".

"No show we've ever tested that was brand-new to M-Net has ever tested this highly," Anne Davis, M-Net's senior commissioning editor told TV with Thinus.

The 8 couples will compete in some small yet difficult and intimate, and some spectacular high-adrenaline action adventure challenges, through which they will accumulate thousands of rands depending on what they've bet and how successful they think their partner is going to be in completing specific tasks.

If they win in Power Couple South Africa a couple adds money to their savings pot; if they fail the money they've bet is lost.

Power Couple SA producer Handrie Basson when asked, told TV with Thinus that the new show is specifically not looking for famous or established power couples - although the idea was discussed - but is looking for ordinary South Africans couples to enter.

"We are not looking for famous couples. We want ordinary South African couples. Any couple can enter and maybe be one of the 8 couples chosen to live in the villa. They can be straight or gay, but must be romantically involved. It's about sharing a bedroom," said Handrie Basson.

"The house where the 8 couples will live is a luxurious villa in Cape Town where they will stay for the duration of the production in the lap of luxury," said Handrie Basson.

Although divorced people and those who are not a romantic couple can't enter, he says "maybe there's a relationship we could save on this show. It's about how well people know each other - or how well people who realise they don't know each other, work and communicate to get to know each other".

Based on the outcome of the challenges, two couples will be up for elimination each week as the others will decide whom they would like to keep in the game.

"At the heart of Power Couple SA is that it is a feel-good show," said Handrie Basson. "Power Couple SA will be done in English but when a couple speak not in English but in their love language - like Afrikaans or other - you can speak it, there will be subtitles".

"The interesting thing for couples entering Power Couple SA and for viewers watching, will be whether they know each other well or learn to get to know each other very well when starting the game - or learn to communicate very well," said Handrie Basson.

"You're going to see very intimate and revealing challenges which will make you laugh out loud and which will be full of entertainment value - however we're not laughing at them, viewers will be laughing with them," said Handrie Basson.

"The challenges the 8 couples will face over the course of their stay in the house will be big in scale and also fun," said TV director and producer LeRoux Botha.

TV with Thinus asked Victor Eckard, M-Net director, whether the production and broadcast of Power Couple SA means no further seasons of some other as yet unannounced renewed or cancelled reality shows like MasterChef SA this year.

"Making Power Couple SA doesn't mean we're not doing any of the other big reality shows or that we will continue doing them. The idea with Power Couple SA is to bring something new to South African viewers that people haven't seen before and we're very excited about this show".

"We consistently evaluate all the M-Net reality shows and we're looking for brands to take us to even bigger ratings and to take M-Net on channel 101 on DStv to the next level - something which we're definitely evaluating every single day at M-Net and M-Net Edge," said Victor Eckard.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Netflix plans to be global by 2016, including South Africa, says the growing video internet streaming service.

Netflix, the growing video internet streaming service which is accelerating its worldwide accessibility, will definitely be available in South Africa before the end of 2016 a Netflix spokesperson told TV with Thinus on Thursday night.

It follows the aggressive roll-out of Netflix - currently accessible in about 50 countries - to more countries across Europe at the end of 2014. Netflix will roll out from March in Australia and New Zealand - places with highly comparable TV markets to South Africa.

"We intend to make Netflix globally available by the end of 2016 including South Africa," a Netflix spokesperson told me last night.

Netflix wants to aggressively expand its on demand streaming service to an additional 150 countries within the next two years, to 200 countries and territories, in order to create "material global profits" from the beginning of 2017.

Netflix's arrival in South Africa - a TV and video market still hampered by slow and expensive internet and broadband costs - will mean an avalanche of new content as the company has started to ramp up production of original new series, and plans to roll out about 20 new TV shows per year besides its library series and movie catalogue.

Will end "geoblocking"
Netflix also plans to end "geoblocking"as soon as possible, giving people worldwide the same access, as far as possible, to the same content at the same time.

At the moment Netflix is blocked in South Africa and in several other countries outside of the United States where Netflix doesn't yet run a regionalised service, with users who have to make use of a "VPN" to circumvent the regional restrictions at an additional monthly cost.

Netflix' arrival in South Africa within a year or two carries implications most notably for MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service and the pay-TV broadcaster M-Net who for the past two decades worked hard to secure exclusive broadcasting rights to top American TV shows in elaborate and multi-year deals with Hollywood studios and international distributors.

Although Netflix doesn't have sport, it did already sign rights for hugely popular and buzz-worthy Netflix produced shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black which are currently being shown on M-Net.

With critically acclaimed shows like these which will run several more seasons - definitely longer than the next two years and will thus overlap with Netflix's South African launch - these Netflix shows will either start to disappear from M-Net and DStv prior to Netflix's launch as it prepares to enter the market within the next two years to make it available on its own service, or Netflix will "take it back" whenever it can after its launch.

Already with Netflix's launch in Australia, neither House of Cards nor Orange is the New Black will be available on Netflix there - the dramas are shown on Foxtel due to similar pre-existing broadcast licensing deals signed with Foxtel prior to Netflix's entry into those countries next month.

Besides DStv and M-Net, the arrival of Netflix will also mean direct competition for new South African video-on-demand (VOD) players like VIDI, Altech's Node and MTN's FrontRow which all launched services in the latter part of last year.  

Global roll-out, global content
Netflix surprised this week with the announcement of its aggressive worldwide strategy during the announcement of its latest quarterly results, and says that its plan is to sign content deals on a global basis.

What is means is that Netflix wants to release and show the same show, like Orange is the New Black or Marco Polo at the same time in all the countries it can, for viewers to binge-watch at their own time, releasing a brand-new TV series every three weeks.

"We had the vision to start to figure out how to get global rights for some of the content by moving up the food chain," Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, said this week on the company's conference call.

"We have been pushing on that dimension, where we can get the global rights and we don't have to go country by country across 200 countries, but can instead provide the producer upfront money, guaranteed money and get great access".

Netflix chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said that "instead of having to go country by country to pile up those deals, and line up those windows, this enables us to make the service, the selection, far more global for viewers around the world who increasingly know exactly when these shows began, and are hungry to see them as soon as they can".