Wednesday, December 7, 2016

MultiChoice in 2017 starting a massive 'seasonality' push around watching TV series; M-Net starting new 'The 101' show to help with content discovery.

From 2017 MultiChoice will start a huge push to educate the South African market and viewers about TV seasons and to get DStv subscribers in the habit of  "seasonality" - watching TV series as a season when new episodes roll out - while M-Net will start a new show, The 101 at the end of January to help viewers on a weekly basis with how shows, episodes and movies across the various M-Net channels are changing.

MultiChoice says the pan-African pay-TV operator is aware that repeats are a problem for its pay-TV subscribers and is working on making changes to its channels offering to bring viewers more fresh content and fewer repeats.

One of the things MultiChoice is going to do from 2017, is to provide more help to subscribers to navigate through the often overwhelming TV content clutter where subscribers often get lost - not knowing when what is on, and where and what new content there is.

In the TV biz the issue of "content discovery" is becoming a growing and worldwide problem for pay-TV operators and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services as TV shows and channels proliferate across platforms.

MultiChoice and M-Net say they want to make it easier for subscribers to know what's on, what's new and where to watch it, through helping educate viewers about TV "seasonality" and informing them weekly about where they can find what content.

While the American TV biz works according to a "fall" and a "summer" season - the two periods during which the bulk of new shows start and new seasons of existing shows roll out with months of repeats in-between and even the fall season taking a mid-season break - South African viewers for decades haven't watched TV like that.

With more and more DStv channels however showing episodes extremely close to the American broadcasting date - like FOX and M-Net with its "Express from the US"- South African and African viewers don't understand why episodes of an existing series suddenly "dry up" for a few weeks.

The 101 on what's coming
Jan du Plessis, director: M-Net channels, told TVwithThinus that the pay-TV broadcaster will start The 101 (working title) on Sunday 29 January 2017 at 16:30 to help viewers navigate through what is being shown on the various M-Net channels on DStv.

The new locally-produced half-hour show on M-Net on DStv channel 101, will help to guide viewers through their upcoming TV watching week.

The 101 will tell viewers what new shows and movies there are and what they're about, what Express from the US series titles will have episode pre-emptions, last-minute schedule changes, the times and dates where shows and episodes are moving to, and help with general TV content discovery education.

"There is a much bigger process going on behind-the-scenes to help with content discovery," said Jan du Plessis and DStv subscribers will start to see this from early in 2017.

Speaking about pre-emptions and shows going on hiatus, Jan du Plessis said "it's one of the difficult areas. On the one hand people are asking for more 'Express from the US' and live from the US. And maybe at some point there's too many."

"You hit a stage where you have so many pre-emptions now over December and January where shows are sometimes breaking for up to 9 or 10 weeks at a time, that you actually don't have anything to put in there."

"We would absolutely love to claim that the fact that there are absolutely no repeats in prime time, but the question is what do you fill with for 10 shows, 10 weeks, when they all break. There isn't this bank or shop down the road where you can buy fillers or specials; they just don't make that many anymore."

"One American network TV shows it's a massive, massive problem. On the one hand you want to show people the fresh, new Grey's Anatomy as it happens."

"But then 5 weeks later there's a pre-emption or an American election and all hell breaks loose because people just don't understand why they don't have the fresh new episodes at night".

"What we are working on - I hate to use the word education, but just information. We are planning a show that will launch on 29 January at 16:30 on M-Net 101 that is essentially going to look at the next 7 days on what I call the 'blue' M-Net channels."

"Essentially what the show will do in 24 minutes, is to show you what pre-emptions, what new things, what exciting things, will happen on the M-Net channels in the next 7 days. We're going to wrap it in, hopefully, a comedy, entertaining jacket."

"We're hoping to make the show also available on YouTube, on everywhere - so that you can subscribe to it, you can get it and watch it anywhere if you want to see and plan and get into that habit of setting your decoder and planning your viewing for the next 7 days," said Jan du Plessis.

"As a curation communication show, it will help everyone with the content discovery process - it's trying to highlight interesting new things and changes. We also have an insert in it where we actually are going to show people how certain functions on their PVRs or DStv Explora decoders work."

"We've actually shot a small pilot with one insert where a celebrity goes to the call centre and then answers questions. What we want to do is then have a celebrity and the presenter to actually go to a subscriber's house who's had an issue with a PVR or an issue generally, and solve it."

Friday and Saturday programming boosted
M-Net is also putting new impetus behind scheduling premium programming for doldrum days - Fridays and Saturdays - that's already yielding dividends in terms of improved M-Net ratings.

"Recently we've launched The X Factor UK on Friday and Saturday nights on M-Net and this weekend we catch up and we will be live with the finals. The ratings have shot up. It's incredible what's happened with this show on a Friday and a Saturday night," said Jan du Plessis.

"Traditionally there's this impression that a Friday and Saturday night there's just fewer TV audiences available, but actually if you put the right show there, the audience is there. The plan will continue to boost Friday and Saturday".

"On Friday we confirmed that The Voice US season 11 with Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys will be stripped into that slot following The X Factor UK and it will finish the Friday and Saturday on the Sunday before The Voice SA season 2 starts".

Creating 'seasonality'
"Early 2017 we will also talk about how we're going to help consumers to catch up on seasons before we start a new season of a show. We're really looking at starting to get 'seasonality' going for our consumers," said Aletta Alberts, the general manager: content for MultiChoice.

"Seasonality here has not really ever been a habit. It's not like in the US where viewers understand seasonality completely."

"We're going to try our hardest to make sure that we create seasonality, but doing that to help with content discover so that the viewer knows 'Now the new seasons are coming and I must watch out for them'."

ALSO READ: MultiChoice and M-Net executives reveal some of the pop-up channels, new content and scheduling changes coming to DStv in 2017.
ALSO READ: MultiChoice content boss Aletta Alberts on how DStv is working on reducing repeats: "We are improving our product dramatically".

BBC Worldwide Africa's boss says that after a year, the BBC's new global channels in South Africa on DStv 'has gone from strength to strength'.

A year after the relaunch of its channels portfolio and introduction of new channels in South Africa and in some African countries on MultiChoice's DStv, BBC Worldwide Africa's boss says the BBC's set of new global channels has gone from strength to strength.

BBC Worldwide introduced BBC First, BBC Earth and BBC Brit in mid-October and September 2015, in addition to the existing BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies and BBC World News.

South African DStv subscribers have access to the whole set, while selected African countries get some of the BBC Worldwide channels.

BBC Worldwide opened its African office in Johannesburg in January 2015 and in August 2015 appointed Shireez Latief as its first in-country senior marketing manager.

BBC Worldwide says in the past year - since the launch of BBC First, BBC Brit and BBC Earth that replaced BBC Entertainment and BBC Knowledge - BBC Worldwide has strengthened its presence in the South African market as the brand reached out to local audiences and introduced new viewers to the BBC's portfolio of content.

"It marks a year since the new global brands were launched to the South African market. Since then, the full channel portfolio on DStv featuring news, entertainment and lifestyle programming, has gone from strength to strength," says Joel Churcher, BBC Worldwide Africa's vice-president and general manager.

"BBC Worldwide continues to significantly invest in world-class, premium programming."

BBC Worldwide Africa recently won Loerie awards in the local advertising industry for ads for BBC Lifestyle's Great South African Bake Off and BBC Brit's Top Gear.

"This recognition across the continent reflects BBC Worldwide's commitment to the African market and understanding the importance of what matters most to our local African audiences."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

MultiChoice content boss Aletta Alberts on the ways DStv is reducing TV repeats: 'We are improving our product dramatically'.

MultiChoice says that is has heard DStv subscribers' complaints about too many repeats and that the pay-TV provider is "improving our product dramatically" in terms of reducing repeats and adding new content.

The pay-TV provider that runs the DStv pay-TV service in South Africa and across Africa said that it is in the process of cutting down on the number of rebroadcasts across TV channels, scheduling new content where it works best for viewers and finding ways of helping DStv subscribers to find new content.

ALSO READ: MultiChoice and M-Net executives reveal some of the pop-up channels, new content and scheduling changes coming to DStv in 2017.
ALSO READ: The 101 in 2017: DStv and M-Net boosting efforts around content discovery and 'seasonality' in TV viewing behaviour.

Speaking during a conference call, Aletta Alberts, the general manager: content for MultiChoice, said that "we want to say to customers we've heard you and we are making changes".

Aletta Alberts told TVwithThinus that "it's not like repeats will go away but in general we are improving our product dramatically".

MultiChoice, together with its third-party channel suppliers as well as M-Net, is working to bring DStv subscribers less repeats and more new content across the various series channels over weekends, to lessen the overall number of repeats seen across TV channels during the week, and to bring down the repeat rate of movies whilst adding more series and limiting series overlap across channels.

Giving background as to what MultiChoice has been doing given the flurry of complaints from DStv subscribers regarding repeats, Aletta Alberts said that "one of the key issues over the years is that repeats have been at the forefront of our challenges".

"When we talk to suppliers and we talk about repeats and we tell them there's very little tolerance in our territory for repeats, they all say 'Oh yes but that's everywhere', but then we say 'We're just warning you that in this territory our consumers are incredibly vocal about this".

"Then shortly after the channels launch they will basically say 'Yes, you are actually right, we haven't seen a market that's this engaged in the detail, and really as vocal anywhere in the world'. The pay-TV business is basically built on repeats because there's not enough content to just have first-run content on any channel."

"We also know that over the years we've had so many more channels on, and because we have so many more bouquets, that there was an overlap of content on channels, and the repeat rate [of content] went higher."

Aletta Alberts said MultiChoice has done very extensive subscriber research into insights especially around the repeats and rebroadcast of content.

"Over the last 6 months we have been slowly but surely started changing stuff and we're now in full momentum."

"Customers have told us there's lots of repeats; we've done channel reviews, we've done audits on the content and we're in the process of addressing all these issues. We want to say to customers we've heard you and we are making changes".

"There's a lot of exciting stuff happening. It's not like repeats will go away but in general we are improving our product dramatically, and there's a lot of new and exciting stuff that we're very excited about."

"We've already terminated the AMC channel, True Movies and two movie channels because we felt the movies are too old, there's too much duplication.We really looked very, very carefully at everything and made sure that on every tier there's enough value," said Aletta Alberts.

"Also the movie curation and selection on the M-Net Movies channels is better and the films are more recent, and we're now seeing ratings spikes."

"In 2017 there's more exciting things coming in the first four months after our budget's been approved."

More new content over weekends
"In terms of TV series and channels doing series, is that for a very long time M-Net basically bought everything and we still buy everything."

"The output of series from 2010 to 2016 has more than doubled. That means that the international channels we acquire, they still buy second-window series [a programme already seen previously on another channel], but 'we're working very hard in conjunction with them to bring and add new titles rather than four channels buying the same NCIS or The Mentalist".

"We're seeing a huge infusion of new content on channels like The Universal Channel (DStv 117) and FOX (Dstv 125)," said Aletta Alberts.

"The Universal Channel still has NCIS exclusively, then they have Rosewood, Law & Order: SVU, The Librarians, and then all their made-for-TV movies and whatever more they're buying".

"FOX has Pitch, Atlanta, the new upcoming Star, The Walking Dead, Empire's new episodes, The Strain, 24: Legacy, Tyrant, Scream Queens, Legion and Outcast to mention just a few of the things that's new."

"We're working very hard with the channels to try and reduce the overlap of titles," said Aletta Alberts.

"In addition to that the M-Net team has done a fantastic job at repositioning M-Net City (DStv 115) and then the launch of M-Net Family (DStv 162)."

"M-Net City specifically is doing a fantastic job at curating a second-window of the content to lower tiers. Even in the DStv Premium market the channel has improved in the ratings dramatically."

"Then we've terminated the CBS Drama and CBS Action channels to eliminate repeats."

"In general we work with all the channels because we know that binge-watching and super-stacking [the broadcast of multiple episodes of a season] is a big thing, but we also find that if everyone is do that, there's very little new content over the weekend."

"Especially in the economic climate, there's a great need for consumers to actually see new content on some of the channels over weekends, so we are doing a big job to make sure that there's enough new content over weekends on the series channels for our consumers".

Growing in-season stacking rights
MultiChoice is also aggressively growing its catalogue of what is known as "in-season stacking rights" where every episode of a current season that's been broadcast becomes available, and remains available, to a subscriber to watch at any time to help them get into and to catch up with a particular show.

"View-on-demand is becoming as important as linear broadcast for us. On DStv Catch Up Plus we are now stacking in-season box sets where we have rights, and where we don't have that we are really acquiring those aggressively if they haven't been bought by other over-the-top (OTT) players," said Aletta Alberts.

MultiChoice already has deals in place with HBO, Disney BBC Worldwide and ITV Studios Global Entertainment for in-season stacking rights for DStv.

Less repeat stacking on doc and lifestyle channels
Aletta Alberts said documentary and lifestyle channels have been ahead of the curve in terms of the "binge-viewing" phenomena, where these channels offer up multiple repeat episodes of a season or seasons on certain days - mostly over weekends.

 "We have done full reviews on all the channels that do stacking over weekends. There's been these very, very large stacks. So it might be one show in the morning, one show in the afternoon and one show at night."

"It basically means that if you don't like Pawn Stars or you don't like Gold Diggers, then basically you can't watch that channel. So we're working with those channels and since December you'll see improvements on the stacking."

"Where it works the channels will retain it but maybe in smaller blocks and other channels might stack but it might not be the same episodes or titles, it might be a slot to give more variety."

Less Ancient Aliens and old Top Gear
Aletta Alberts said MultiChoice is also aware that some channels have scheduled some TV shows too excessively and that the pay-TV platform is working with channels to ensure a better balance of titles.

"We know that some titles on some channels have been scheduled excessively, like Top Gear [on BBC Brit], which obviously still delivers for BBC Worldwide huge ratings but customers do get very disgruntled because they see these titles that just don't go away."

"It's really to trying to find a balance and introducing new content or repeating it in such a way for customers that it's not in 20 places on the schedule."

"Consumers are very vocal about the History (DStv 186) channel and the fact that it's playing less and less what we call 'real history' and titles that don't work."

"Their strategy in the United States - we've seen push-back - so they haven't recommissioned things like Duck Dynasty and those kinds of things because Duck Dynasty simply doesn't not make sense on a History channel."

"So you're going to see the introduction of a block of history at 19:20 on the History schedule and then over weekend they're going to start doing event history which we're very excited about".

"National Geographic (DStv 181) is currently doing MARS, in 2017 BBC Earth (DStv 184) is doing Planet Earth II, and then the return of Strictly Come Dancing UK and local content like The Great South African Bake Off [on BBC Lifestyle, DStv 174] scheduled over weekends."

Marked 'NEW'
"We're working on indicators on the DStv electronic programme guide (EPG) where we're going to say 'new' when an episode or a show is new to the territory," said Aletta Alberts which is another thing MultiChoice is doing to help subscribers to discover new content.

"So it's won't be things like when NCIS: Los Angeles [that is first-run on M-Net] is the first time on The Universal Channel, we won't brand it as 'new', but when it is on M-Net we will will brand it as new."

"But when The Universal Channel has Rosewood then that will be branded as new. So new to the territory."

"Channels like The Universal Channel and FOX and TLC Entertainment and the documentary channels they now do on-screen an indicator saying 'new episode' or 'brand new' all to help our customers," said Aletta Alberts.

Monday, December 5, 2016

DStv subscribers tired of Brit-peats, wonder why there's so many rebroadcasts on ITV Choice and BBC First. Here's how the best of British channels respond:

Are there just too many repeats of British series on BBC First (DStv 119) and ITV Choice (DStv 123) on MultiChoice's DStv service? Some DStv subscribers paying for the top-tier DStv packages feel so.

TVwithThinus hears from a lot of readers daily. Whilst every email is read, it's impossible to respond to each one individually (I do try with as many as I can) since there's simply not enough time in a day.

One complaint and a question that keeps popping up however, is DStv subscribers wanting to know why the repeats on BBC First and ITV Choice - premium channels for only the high-end tiers have such a high perceived repeat broadcast ratio.

BBC First is only for DStv Premium; ITV Choice is available to DStv Premium and DStv Extra subscribers.

TVwithThinus decided to ask both BBC First and ITV Choice about its repeats after Mike Westaway last week wrote me and again asked what so many other typical DStv subscribers have been asking the past few months.

Here is Mike Westaway's email:

"What is going on with BBC First and ITV Choice? So many repeats so soon after initial broadcasts. I understand the need for repeats but so many, so soon? I was thrilled to see Brit TV initially but have become very disappointed by what's happening now. They must have vaults overflowing with programmes never seen here because of sanctions, etc. Or is something else blowing in the wind?"

I reached out to both BBC First and ITV Choice to possibly hear from these channels what they want to say to Mike Westaway and other DStv subscribers watching these channels but feeling there's too many repeats.

BBC First on MultiChoice's DStv is a channel from BBC Worldwide and localised for a BBC Worldwide Africa channel feed. ITV Choice is run by ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE).

BBC First responded:
"BBC Worldwide showcase world class programmes across all five of the BBC channels in South Africa."

"We know our audiences like the shows we host and that there's a real appetite for them. We supply 1 600 hours of fresh content every year and we're in the business of mixing new content with old favourites."

ITV Choice responded:
"ITV Choice tries really hard to limit our repeats and this is something that DStv, as our platform monitor really carefully.  In fact, we rarely get complaints about repeats from subscribers or DStv."

"We do have very long running shows i.e. Judge Rinder, Catchphrase, Tipping point etc. These shows are produced with not only a great number of series, but they also include at least 8 episodes per series, so they do run for an extended time.  

"We have, however tried to break up the schedule by having a break in between, by showing Series 1 – 3 /4 and then after a break starting Series 5 to 8.

"We certainly do repeat titles i.e. Poldark where it is scheduled in a prime-time slot and then repeated again in daytime."

"On some of our top performing shows, we may repeat a series on request from DStv.  There could also be other reasons for repeats, when we buy international rights to a show, we may have an obligation on the number of hours we broadcast for."

BREAKING. Several exciting M-Net pop-up channels, film festivals, foreign language films and premium foreign language TV series coming to MultiChoice's DStv in 2017.

In 2017 MultiChoice and M-Net will be bringing several exciting M-Net Movies pop-up channels, carefully curated film festivals, as well as premium foreign language TV series and weekly foreign language art-house films, in high definition, to DStv subscribers.

Again upping the bar in the TV content made available to DStv subscribers in South African and across Africa, MultiChoice and M-Net top executives - on Monday during a conference call with media - revealed more of their plans for 2017.

ALSO READ: MultiChoice content boss Aletta Alberts on how DStv is working on reducing repeats: "We are improving our product dramatically".
ALSO READ: The 101 in 2017: DStv and M-Net boosting efforts around content discovery and 'seasonality' in TV viewing behaviour.

M-Net through its M-Net Movies division will be packaging several new M-Net Movies pop-up channels for DStv next year, and is busy working on putting together jam-packed film festivals.

In addition, the schedules for the M-Net Edge and M-Net Movies Premiere channels on DStv have been adapted to bring viewers a smorgasbord of carefully sourced and selected foreign language art-house films, as well as acclaimed foreign language TV series from across Europe, starting on 16 December.

"We're doing a James Bond pop-up channel in February 2017, then The Fast and the Furious in March. Then there's an African film library showcasing the best in African film in May to co-incide with Africa Day," Jan du Plessis, director: M-Net channels, told TVwithThinus.

"We're also working on creating a month-long martial arts film festival with all the classics and all the new stars. Every day when I look at the list of the films we're busy acquiring, I just think it's going to be incredibly popular".

"Then in December 2017 we want to do a festival of 'The 100 movies you need to see before you die'. So we're working very hard on it already - 100 movies you really need to see before you die."

"Then the big other thing is that we continue to do on M-Net (DStv 101) on Sunday nights the big premiere movie of the week - the curation of the 52 best Sunday night movies - but we're adding another one."

"On M-Net Movies Premiere (DStv 104) we will now be showing a second great movie. I won't call it the second best - it's the addition of an great alternative."

"Then the big news is that we're starting on 18 December on M-Net Edge (DStv 102) on a Sunday at 21:00 'The Best of World Cinema' - as a foreign language, arty, niche, discerning cinema-goer choice."

"So essentially on a Sunday at 20:00 you can see the movie on M-Net (DStv 101), at 20:30 on M-Net Movies Premiere (DStv 104) you can see an alternative selection, and at 21:00 on M-Net Edge (DStv 102) you can see the best of world cinema."

"We've really got amazing stuff," says Jan du Plessis. "We're kicking off with The Idol that's a Palestinian drama, and we've got Yves Saint Laurent [French biographical drama] the next week. Then we have a number of French films."

"And I'm also busy putting together a whole Pedro Almodóvar [Spanish director, screenwriter, producer] film festival that will end with Julieta".

Edgy TV: The Best of World Series
DStv subscribers can also get ready for what's been called "the best TV drama in the world" and "one of the great foreign language TV shows you should be watching".

"Starting on Saturday 17 December will be 'The Best of World Series' on M-Net Edge (DStv 102) at 21:00 and that will be a foreign language TV series," says Jan du Plessis.

"The first one we're kicking off will be Deutschland 83 [acclaimed 8-episode German TV series]."

"Then we're working on a French TV series - the deal isn't quite signed yet but it should be completed this week. And we're also looking at - there's some absolutely incredible Scandinavian TV series we're looking at."

"So basically on a weekend - on Saturday at 21:00 and Sunday at 21:00 - you can watch either 'The Best of World Series' or 'The Best of World Cinema'," says Jan du Plessis.

Pop-up channels: 'We've collected it for you'
Asked about the popularity of the M-Net pop-up channels - from Star Wars and M-Net Movies Blackout, to M-Net Movies BlockParty, Harry Potter and others - and what it is in the consumer psychology that makes these limited time TV channels such must-see, watch-bait, MultiChoice says it's about giving pay-TV subscribers what they want to see in one place, when they have more time to watch.

"It's basically a trend that we started with the The Oscar Pistorius Trial: A Carte Blanche Channel that worked really, really well," says Aletta Alberts, the general manager: content for MultiChoice.

"The success is in the curation of the content, and we focused on periods where we know consumers are on holiday or that they've got more time to view. So I think it's a combination of those things."

"We also basically say, if you're a Harry Potter lover, we've actually specially curated this for you, you don't have to go and search for it because peoples lives are becoming more and more busy."

"Pop-up channels deliver additional content and additional value over a period like the Christmas holidays like now - for instance fliekNET (DStv 198). On 16 December we're launching M-Net Inspire (DStv 109), and we've just come out of Harry Potter."

"There are key time periods - last year we did the kids' pop-up channel with Turner, so you'll see a lot of that happening. It adds extra value and is about curating the content in a way so that it doesn't sit across many channels but giving the customer one really strong channel."

"And from a marketing perspective, it's also easier to steer people to those channels," says Aletta Alberts.

Jan du Plessis says "Harry Potter did incredibly, incredibly well for us. The channel was actually within the top 10 most watched channels on DStv. In fact during it's first weekend it was one of the top 2."

Jan du Plessis says he was amazed with the results from the M-Movies Blackout pop-up channel - an urban movie channel that ran during June this year that showcased the collected array of work from black American actors.

"The individual ratings of the movies [on M-Net Movies Blackout] were incredible - it was much higher than the regular movie channel ratings. Blackout also ended up as a top 10 channel on DStv for the two weeks it was on."

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Daft interdict by SABC's lone hold-out chairperson to prevent parliament's inquiry into SABC crisis dismissed as Mbulaheni Maguvhe is ordered to personally pay the court costs.

The South African court on Friday evening slammed the sudden, last-ditch effort by the SABC's last remaining board member, prof Mbulaheni Obert Maguvhe to thwart transparency and accountability as he tried to stop a parliamentary inquiry into the ongoing SABC crisis, with the Western Cape High Court that dismissed his urgent interdict application and ordered him to pay the legal costs personally.

The parliamentary inquiry will now go ahead.

Prof Mbulaheni Obert Maguvhe as the last one left on the gutted SABC board unsuccessfully argued that the parliamentary inquiry into the SABC's ongoing chaotic shenanigans would be biased and unfair.

Meanwhile the SABC lawyers unsuccessfully tried to argue that the public broadcaster had a right to protect commercial information as its reason for refusing to hand over documents requested by parliament of things like the SABC's highly controversial contract with MultiChoice for channels like SABC News and SABC Encore that makes use of the SABC's archives.

Judge Siraj Desai in courtroom 9 at the Western Cape High Court on Friday told the SABC lawyers - who appeared smug and arrogant as well as unprepared, stuttering and faltering when he asked questions - that "I'm trying to think as much as I can in your favour, but my mind leads to different conclusions".

Advocate Ismail Jamie SC appearing on behalf of the SABC (and who couldn't pronounce Mbulaheni Maguvhe's name correctly) didn't come across in the court case - broadcast live on SABC News (DStv 404) as very forthcoming when Judge Siraj Desai multiple times asked who is paying him and who appointed the legal council.

"I'm entitled to be here. My client is the SABC," said Ismail Jamie, with the court told that acting SABC CEO James Aguma authorised the SABC's legal eagles.

On why the SABC refused to hand over the documents requested from Mbulaheni Maguvhe for parliament's SABC inquiry, Ismail Jamie told Judge Siraj Desai that Maguvhe is only "entitled to see the documents, but he's not entitled to hand over the documents because he's not the owner of the documents.

He said the SABC as a public broadcaster is "entitled to protect our own commercial interests".

"No, you are not. The SABC is an asset of all South Africans," said Judge Siraj Desai.

"This is not the baby in the bath water. This is the elephant in the bath water. The entire board is [gone]," said Judge Siraj Desai, noting that "virulence has swept the SABC board".

Judge Siraj Desai told Mbulaheni Maguvhe's lawyer Thabani Masuku several times things like: "I do not follow you. Why is it not correct?", "I can't understand your problem in this regard".

Thabani Masuku said: "All I'm saying is, lets not make too much of an issue that the SABC board is not functioning".

Judge Siraj Desai said "One doesn't see a vacancy, but one sees the crumbling, disintegration of the SABC board itself" and that "the objective fact here is the SABC board has crumbled. Crumbled to the fact that it is inquorate."

Thabani Masuku told the judge that the SABC board and Mbulaheni Maguvhe read bad things about them in the media, that they don't like it and don't have the "courage" to read the newspapers, saying: "Some people do not take kindly to the kind of language used to describe the SABC board and its fails".

The packed court room burst out in laughter several times.

"When one is in a public position, then criticism, when you fail, is inevitable," said Judge Siraj Desai. "When you're the chairperson of the SABC, then you can't be unduly sensitive".

When Thabani Masuku tried to argue that Mbulaheni Maguvhe dignity is at stake, Judge Siraj Desai said "To be the last man standing [at the gutted and failed SABC board] is hardly a very dignified position".

Thursday, December 1, 2016

While MultiChoice adds 600 000 subscribers by the end of September and DStv Explora uptake remains strong, DStv Premium subscribers are declining.

While MultiChoice is adding DStv subscribers, the African pay-TV operator is now losing one specific type of subscriber, with one of its products that is no longer resonating as strongly with consumers as representing enough value for money: DStv Premium.

MultiChoice has released its results for the six months until the end of September 2016 that shows an increase in revenue and subscribers - but one specific type of DStv subscriber is not growing and in decline: DStv Premium subscribers.

After a previous slump of losing 164 300 pay-TV subscribers, MultiChoice bounced back by adding almost 600 000 subscribers (591 968 subscribers to be specific) during the reported six month period. GOtv added 150 000 subscribers across Africa compared to the previous year.

Interestingly, this growth is not coming at the high-end of its offering range, represented by its DStv Premium product.

MultiChoice's results for the six months until the end of September 2016 shows that while the lower end of the pay-TV customer base remains stable, the top end is contracting. Naspers says net subscriber additions now come from mainly middle and lower tiers.

While lower-end subscriptions remain stable at 52%, the subscriber mix is changing, with DStv Compact growing from 26% to 30% of the total, while DStv Premium is sliding from 22% to 18% (2.24 million subscribers to 2.005 million).

DStv subscribers who paid for DStv Premium are switching down to DStv Compact and new customers are opting for DStv Compact outright.

Looking at this graph from Naspers' presentation, it can be seen that the growth in DStv subscribers numbers are now coming from the middle - DStv Compact - while DStv Premium declines.

But why? Naspers and MultiChoice are not giving reasons but worsening economic conditions impacting on discretionary consumer spend is obviously making subscribers think twice about what they're actually getting in real terms, for what they have to pay and whether DStv Premium is worth it.

In addition, MultiChoice has also been changing the value offering of DStv Premium and DStv Compact (the others DStv packages as well, but for this report lets focus on these two specifically) over the past year.

This value change can be said or stated in two ways, depending on how you want to see it: MultiChoice has been diluting the value of DStv Premium by not adding enough exclusivity, products and services to this product - or, MultiChoice has been increasing the value of DStv Compact by adding a lot of the former exclusive products, services and functionality of DStv Premium to DStv Compact.

In essence the the totality of what DStv Compact offers has grown faster than DStv Premium, or stated another way, what DStv Premium offers subscribers hasn't grown as fast or kept up with what's made available to lower tiered DStv packages.

Over the past year MultiChoice added several TV channels to lower-tiered packages, but not nearly the same exclusively to DStv Premium.

HD channels were originally for DStv Premium subscribers only. (At 30 September MultiChoice offered 27 HD channels to subscribers).

The video-on-demand rental service DStv Box Office was originally for DStv Premium subscribers only. DStv Catch Up was previously for DStv Premium subscribers only.

The subscription video-on-demand service (SVOD) ShowMax was made available to DStv Premium subscribers first, but can now be accessed through all active, internet-connected DStv Exploras, irrespective of the DStv subscription.

There's also been several unencoded, so-called "open" weekends, weeks and half month periods during the past year where lower-tiered DStv subscribers got access to a lot of of premium content and channels for free that DStv Premium subscribers have pay for - ranging from Disney to M-Net.

For DStv subscribers clearly the perceived "value gap" between DStv Premium and DStv Compact in terms of what they get has narrowed, compared to the "price gap" they have to pay.

(Click on the graphic above and it will open bigger.)

In November, M-Net CEO, Yolisa Phahle, in an interview, alluded to the decline in the popularity of DStv Premium. She said the DStv Premium market could be reaching saturation point, but that the future still offers significant growth opportunities for subscription television.

Uptake of DStv Explora decoder remains strong
Naspers' video entertainment division that comprises MultiChoice running services like DStv and GOtv in South Africa and across the African continent says in its six months' report that it has come under pressure due to sliding African currencies, since TV content is procured in dollar.

Video entertainment revenue declined by 8% to $1,6 billion, while trading profit in the video entertainment segment fell by a third to US$331 million, from $492 million previously.

At the end of September 2016, MultiChoice now has 11 million pay-TV subscribers across Africa.

MultiChoice says that the "contraction in the South African economy continues to impact our customers" while "increased competition and the rand depreciation contributed to rising international dollar-based content costs".

"Despite the current environment, we have not compromised on delivering unrivaled local and international content, demonstrated by our dedicated coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics on 7 HD channels, the coverage of the Euro 2016 football and the best local and international shows such as Isibaya and Suits."

In a statement Naspers says "the focus remains on giving subscribers the very best local and international content, while managing costs, improving customer service and retaining customers in an environment where there is intensifying competition from global players such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Google".

"ShowMax, the subscription video-on-demand service, is growing steadily".

Naspers says "DStv Catch Up was made available to DStv Compact customers, as well as a decoder payment plan, which boosted the uptake of our personal video recorders (PVRs)".

MultiChoice says that uptake of the DStv Explora decoder "remains strong and customers who make use of the Explora continue to report high levels of satisfaction".

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Broadcasting regulator slaps SABC radio stations with thousands of rands in fines for breaking election broadcasting regulations.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator has fined several SABC radio stations with thousands of rands over non-compliance and for breaking the election broadcasting regulations.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) fined several of the struggling public broadcasters's radio stations with fines with stations that will also have to broadcast apologies daily to listeners.

Icasa found that the SABC's radio stations failed to adhere to the municipal elections regulations during the election broadcast period.

The SABC's Afrikaans radio station RSG is fined R50 000 (of which R35 000 is suspended for three years).

Metro FM has been fined R5 000 with an apology to be broadcast once a day for five consecutive days.

Ligwalagwala FM has been fined R5 000 and must broadcast an apology once a day for five consecutive days.

Good Hope FM also erred but the radio station was not found negligent. Ukhozi FM was fined R5 000 and ordered to broadcast an apology once a day for five consecutive days.

Meanwhile the SABC has so far failed to provide Icasa with any undertaking that it has changed its policy of censoring scenes of property destruction in its TV news coverage, risking its broadcasting licence.                                                               

BREAKING. High Rollers on SABC saved from cancellation - for now - but still getting replaced on SABC3 by ... SABC1's Generations.

I can exclusively break the news and reveal that the SABC drama High Rollers facing the danger of axing has been saved from premature cancellation - from now - but in another new shocker the local drama series will still be yanked from the schedule and replaced in its timeslot on SABC3 from January by SABC1's Generations suddenly flipping channels.

TVwithThinus can reveal that the SABC has now suddenly put its decision to can High Rollers - described as "bizarre" by the South African TV industry - on hold.

The SABC backpedaling on its decision to abruptly remove High Rollers from the SABC3 and to just possibly pay out the show to go away, follows a massive public outcry from viewers last week, slamming the SABC over its decision to cancel High Rollers months before its third season contract is supposed to end.

The SABC's decision to rid its schedule of the casino-set local drama series - putting cast and crew out of work and income just before Christmas, comes after SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng said multiple times this year that the SABC supports local content and wants more local content on SABC3.

The decision to do away with High Rollers led to widespread shock and condemnation directed at the SABC by the South African TV industry at large, including producers and actors saying the SABC is only doing lip service when it comes to ensuring bigger work security and better employment stability for artists working in local TV production.

An online petition, started last week to try and save High Rollers on SABC3 and still amassing signatures and comments from very vocal South African viewers as well as people working in and watching television worldwide, seems to have done the trick in staving off the cancellation decision for now.

While the SABC is for now not going through with its decision to cancel High Rollers, it is making another shocking move: removing High Rollers from the SABC3 schedule and replacing it with SABC1's Generations from mid-January in its timeslot.

According to sources speaking on condition of anonymity to TVwithThinus, "the SABC has agreed to put a moratorium on the cancellation until they meet with the production company".

According to insiders, this meeting between Rous House Productions is set for sometime next week. "So everyone waits now," a person familiar with the matter told me.

Rous House Productions has so far not spoken publicly after the shocking revelation that the SABC planned to can High Rollers within 30 business days although there's months left on the contract because of "programming strategy changes on SABC3".

The SABC, asked about the High Rollers brouhaha, said last week that "the SABC is not in a position to discuss its contractual obligations with production houses and content providers with third parties including the media".

Another shocking twist
In another shocking twist, TVwithThinus can reveal that High Rollers will disappear from the SABC3 schedule from Monday 16 January when it will be replaced by SABC1's Generations on a daily basis at 19:30.

The SABC plans 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) soccer coverage on SABC1 from 16 January 2017 daily from 17:30 until midnight, and has to move Generations.

Oddly, the SABC plans to move Generations - its second biggest show in terms of viewership and a massive ad income generator for the public broadcaster - not to SABC2 but to its smallest TV channel.

The SABC recently made the same unprecedented move.

In October, and again in November, it moved Generations from SABC1 to SABC3 pre-empting High Rollers - the first time in the history of the SABC that it replaced one locally produced SABC TV soap with another of its locally produced TV soaps due to sport.

The triple-whammy result of the SABC move in January 2017 will firstly mean that High Rollers' dedicated daily demo audience on SABC3 will abandon the timeslot and "kick the habit" so to speak to tune in to the show - a daily prime time drama that cultivates habitual viewing and depends on an audience, following an unfolding narrative returning the next day to see more of the story.

When and if High Rollers returns to the SABC3 schedule, its falling viewership - as with most of SABC3's sagging audience ratings over the past few months - will very likely be down even more, with the show that will have to start over in trying to lure its dedicated viewer base back.

Secondly the move will mean that millions of SABC viewers won't be able to see Generations at all during prime time, since SABC3's terrestrial TV channel footprint is the smallest of the SABC's channels. The smallest number of South African TV households are able to receive the channel.

Thirdly the expected loss in viewers for SABC1, people not sticking around since there's no Generations and not wanting to watch African soccer broadcasts that will also be carrying a lesser ad load, will mean less ad income for the SABC1 during January for the cash-strapped broadcaster.

StarSat responds about dropping more TV channels, signal loss, FOX Life EPG problems and an open week it couldn't bother to promote at all.

With an unending stream of complaints about StarSat in South Africa, On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes South Africa answered media questions about the really appalling service levels, bad signal quality and channels once again being culled without people or the media being told about it.

StarSat subscribers are furious about the removal of the ZING and Zee Tamil channels and told TVwithThinus they're not getting any answers to their questions about it.

StarSat subscribers are irritated that the StarSat electronic programme guide (EPG) for certain channels, like FOX Life from FOX Networks Group Africa isn't working and is out of sync. Again, StarSat subscribers are not getting answers.

StarSat also had an unencoded Open Week in South Africa, similar and at the same time as StarTimes elsewhere in Africa. Shockingly, StarSat couldn't bother to publicise or promote this in South Africa to the press at all. StarSat - in its answer - also doesn't know whether it even had it on its own website.

StarSat subscribers are also angry over ongoing signal losses, signal quality and not getting channels even when they're paid up with nothing that should be wrong with their subscription.

Below is the questions TVwithThinus asked StarSat a week ago, and the answers, unaltered, it took StarSat a week to provide:

1. Has the ZING channel been removed from StarSat, several subscribers can't find it. If it has been removed, why did StarSat end the channel, and why wasn't subscribers told? Will the channel be replaced?
The ZING channel was removed  in November 2016 and will be replaced at  the beginning of December by a number of new high quality Indian channels.  Subscribers were informed of ZING being removed from the StarSat platform via SMS, Bmail and an email.  

2. Has the Zee Tamil channel been removed from StarSat? If it has been removed, why did StarSat end the channel? Why did StarSat not tell subscribers?
Zee Tamil  channel was removed in November 2016  and will be replaced at the beginning of December by a number of new high quality Indian channels.  Subscribers were informed of Zee being removed via SMS, Bmail and an email.  

3. A large number of subscribers are angry about signal issues, saying channels freeze, that they can't get signal(s). Why is this happening (yet again) and how is StarSat fixing this and why does it keep on occurring?
The issue of customers not receiving signal can be due to many reasons and since we don’t have detail of the error message; our response will address a number of potential issues. 
The first reason could be due to rain fade, for instance during severe thunderstorms the signal is affected.  
It could also be due to problems with the installation, the customer should contact the StarSat Call Centre so that the problem can be identified and resolved.

3. StarSat subscribers are angry that the EPG doesn't correspond to what is being shown, for instance the FOX Life EPG doesn't correspond with the channel. Why is this?
 StarSat had technical challenges on FOX Life EPG which the EPG provider has now resolved.  We do apologise for any inconvenience caused.

4.Was there an open week weekend for StarSat where people could view the offering unencoded? If yes, why did StarSat not tell anybody?
Yes, StarSat special package subscribers as well as those subs who had disconnected were offered 10 free channels to view during Open week from 12 - 20 November 2016.  
Subscribers and disconnected subs received an alert to the Open Week offering via SMS and email.  (was there any info on the website?)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Star Trek series, Star Trek Discovery, casts Doug Jones as alien crew member, adds Anthony Rapp as gay Starfleet officer.

The latest upcoming Star Trek drama series, Star Trek: Discovery has cast and is finally adding some actors to the now delayed series that's behind production.

Doug Jones who will play Lt. Saru as a new alien species Starfleet science officer, and Anthony Rapp has been cast as Lt. Stamets, an astromycologist, fungus expert and Starfleet science officer aboard the starship Discovery.

The two actors following the casting news of Michelle Yeoh as Starfleet captain Georgiou aboard the starship Shenzhou that will be another spaceship seen concurrently in the first 13-episode season of the new series postponed from its January 2017 start to now begin in May 2017.

Star Trek: Discovery is months behind and still to cast a British male doctor, a male admiral, a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male adviser, an openly gay actor in an as yet unnamed role,as well as the lead character who will be female but not the captain of the starship Discovery.

South African viewers will have to watch the series on the global subscription video-on-demand (VOD) service Netflix that grabbed the international rights, meaning that Star Trek: Discovery won't be seen on ShowMax,, M-Net or any of MultiChoice's DStv or StarSat's TV channels.

With Star Trek: Discovery months behind in production, Bryan Fuller was fired and removed from his showrunner position in October since he didn't devote enough time to the show as he's also juggling other TV series and projects.

CBS Television Studios is producing Star Trek: Discovery distributed by CBS Studios International through Netflix in 188 countries worldwide, with one episode that will be released on a weekly basis.

Sudanese government orders banning and shut-down of private TV channel Omdurman, warns Channel 24 of 'crossing the red lines'.

The Sudanese government has ordered the banning of the private TV channel Omdurman Broadcasting Channel and has warned another TV channel, Channel 24, that it has "crossed the red line".

The Sudanese authority, Khalil Ibrahim, the director of the Sudanese Public Radio and Television Corporation, who ordered the Omdurman Broadcasting Channel shut-down, falsely claims the channel doesn't have a broadcasting licence.

Omdurman announced its TV ban on-air.

Channel 24 was also called by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), warning the TV channel and slamming it for the show Hal El Balad [The Situation in the Country] having "crossed the red lines".

Omdurman's owner, Hussein Khogali told Reuters the Sudanese government is lying about it not having a valid TV licence and for ordering it off the air.

Omdurman Broadcasting Channel got a TV broadcasting licence 6 years ago but Sudan's government is now further clamping down on freedom of speech in the struggling African country.

"This is not true because we've worked legally non-stop for the past six years. The channel has recently included coverage critical of government austerity measures. The purpose of pulling the channel off the air is to silence dissent and we will take all legal steps possible to protect our rights," said Hussein Khogali.

In an unsavoury parting gift, former Idols judge Gareth Cliff slams M-Net in his new book, says he went to court to show he is 'unf**kwithable'.

In an unsavoury parting gift, the former Idols judge Gareth Cliff is slamming M-Net in his second book that will go on sale on Thursday, casting scorn on the pay-TV broadcaster who paid him to be a reality show judge, writing that he went to court to show he's "unf**kwithable".

M-Net fired Gareth Cliff earlier this year as an Idols judge from the 12th season after his social media response on Twitter in the racist Penny Sparrow debacle when he weighed in on the swirling controversy, saying "People really don't understand freedom of speech".

After that, saying he's damaging M-Net and "toxic" to the Idols and M-Net brands, the pay-TV broadcaster cut him loose from the show.

Gareth Cliff then went to court demanding to be let back on the show and won, with the court that ordered M-Net to reinstate him for the 12th season of Idols that concluded on Sunday night.

Gareth Cliff is now gone however from the 13th upcoming season in 2017, with insiders saying there's no love lost between M-Net and Gareth Cliff who also did a local TV talk show previously for the M-Net channel.

Gareth Cliff's second book, Cliffhanger: Confessions of a Shock Jock goes on sale on Thursday which he started writing long before the conclusion of the latest Idols season and in which he includes some choice words for Naspers and M-Net about his controversial Idols firing, court case and subsequent re-instatement on the show.

In an extract from the 215-page book Cliffhanger, published on Sunday on the day of the live Idols finale, Gareth Cliff doesn't have nice words for M-Net.

Several journalists from a broad section of media houses who attended Sunday's live Idols finale described the release of the extract on the same day as the Idols finale as "a distasteful move" and "deliberately detracting from what's supposed to be the show's high point that he himself is in and getting paid for".

At the Idols post-win press conference, TVwithThinus asked Nkateko Mabaso, the group general manager for M-Net South Africa, what M-Net and Idols make of Gareth Cliff's comments about M-Net and Idols in his new book, with Gareth Cliff's parting shot awkwardly coming on his last day as part of the show in which he pointedly also slammed the media in his last TV appearance for the "nonsense in the press".

Nkateko Mabaso said M-Net has no comment.

About the Idols brouhaha in Cliffhanger Gareth Cliff slams M-Net for allowing "a trial by Twitter before the matter was even heard in court" and how his lawyer, Dali Mpofu in the South Gauteng High Court "took shots at Naspers, the parent company of M-Net, chastising them at their cheek in asserting that I lacked empathy for the country when their own record was abominable".

While M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle called Gareth Cliff "toxic" to the M-Net and Idols brands in court papers, he writes in his book "I had interviewed Yolisa Phahle just a couple of months earlier, and I was sure that the ugly things said about me didn't necessarily come from her. She's actually a gracious lady".

About why he went to court to be reinstated on Idols when the show didn't want him, he writes that "It was about the important, free conversations our nation needs to have and that were stifled by the outrage of the Penny Sparrow debacle. And it was about showing the loudmouths on social media that I wouldn't be bullied, that I was 'unf**kwithable".

In his book Gareth Cliff says "what can and can't a white man say in South Africa in 2016? Some people will advise you to say as little as possible, like the big corporations who don't want to cause trouble with government or the loudmouths on social media. I say that's nonsense. If you're not free to say what you think, you're really not free, even if what you say is wrong".

Gareth Cliff who stated his online radio station CliffCentral in May 2014 and writes about being a new media entrepreneur, writes that he wants to live "in luxury and happiness and with as many options as I can exploit at any given time".

"Mine will not be a life of suffering or deprivation. There is no nobility in poverty. I want to make myself happy so that there is surplus happiness for everyone else".

The SABC couldn't cope with Black Friday as its TV licence server crashed; caused TV retailers losses in sales and TV-set buyers fuming.

The SABC couldn't cope with Black Friday last week with the public broadcaster's TV licence validation server that crashed, causing losses of TV set sales to retailers across the country and leading potential TV set buyers fuming and abandoning transactions.

Consumers who wanted to make use of special deals on the heavily discounted retail day known as Black Friday was left frustrated by the SABC and decided to abandoned sales and leave, causing losses to shops as the SABC's validation server buckled and was unable to process TV licence validations and issuing of new licences.

Consumers who want to buy a TV set and a new SABC TV licence or who want to add another TV set to an existing licence, must validate their TV licence number in shops. The SABC's TV licence server was however not capable with coping on Black Friday and timed out due to capacity problems, leaving consumers and retailers stranded.

The SABC said "the TV licence validation server was overwhelmed by the abnormal increase in validation requests from retailers due to the Black Friday deals which resulted in the server timing out between 07:00 and 10:30".

"We have upgraded the server capability to cater for the influx of validations and retailers were able to process online validations from 10:45".

The SABC said it's "apologising for any inconvenience experienced."

Substitute teacher Noma Khumalo wins 12th season of Idols on Mzansi Magic, breaking female winner dry spell after 7 seasons.

With only 50 000 more votes out of the 14.5 million votes cast last week before Sunday night's live finale, the substitute teacher from KwaZulu-Natal, Noma Khumalo, won the 12th season of Idols on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) over fellow KwaZulu-Natal rival Thami Shobede.

It's the first time in 7 seasons that a woman managed to win the South African version of the singing reality show produced by M-Net, with Idols that is now only broadcast on its Mzansi Magic channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform since the 12th season.

With record vote tallies  - over 83 million votes were cast in total by viewers during the 12th season - and a renewed surge in viewership making Idols the 3rd most watched show on all of DStv by October, Mzansi Magic announced during the live finale that Idols will definitely be back for a 13th season in 2017, with nationwide auditions starting in January 2017.

The controversial Gareth Cliff is now also gone from Idols as a judge, slamming M-Net in newspapers on Sunday as a parting gift, with Mzansi Magic and Idols bosses saying they haven't yet whether he will be replaced or whether the 13th season will only have three permanent judges.

The Idols live finale on Sunday at Carnival City's Big Top Arena had pyrotechnics, a laser light show and included appearances by artists AKA, Kelly Khumalo and Idols season 11 winner Karabo.