Free-to-air comes at cost of fresh shows
When angry about the content on the box, viewers are quick to point out that they pay their TV licences and deserve better programming. To a degree, they are justified in demanding that. Pay channels are a different matter altogether.
At SABC3’s autumn showcase last Wednesday, I was far from blown away by its line-up. Yes, it has new seasons of popular international TV series. But is that enough to get excited about?
Highlights include: Rules of Engagement (season three), Dirty Sexy Money (season two), Ugly Betty (season two), Nurse Jackie (season two), Luther (season one), What I Like About You (season four), Brotherhood (season two), 30 Rock (season six), Californication, Footballers’ Wives (season two) and The Amazing Race (season 15).
On the channel not securing as many new shows as it used to, Ed Worster, acting general manager of SABC3, said: “Free-to-air broad- casters generally occupying the ‘second window’ (in other words, distributors offer their content first at premium prices to pay TV broadcasters) is a significant factor.
“However, SABC3 was proud to secure The Voice, which was first marketed in South Africa, and the second season is running out to our audiences a mere three weeks after it was shown in the US.
“Entertainment Tonight is shown on SABC3 only three days after it was seen in the US. The sitcom Til Death, Dr Oz and The Nate Berkus Show are brand-new shows exclusive to SABC3. We have a number of first-to-market titles that have been with the channel for a while, such as Survivor and Law & Order.”
Local content factors in, too, with Cooking with Azania, a reality cooking show; I am Woman, which documents journalist Lisa Chait’s journey in fighting cancer and trans- forming her life; The Ride, a documentary tracking the equestrian adventures of Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson who follow a historical path; and On the Couch, a satire that aims to leave SA in stitches. On Cooking with Azania sounding very similar to Mzansi Magic’s Cooking with Siba, Worster said: “We have very different audiences and the similarity in the title is not an issue – the proposition from the two hosts is very different, too.”
On the upcoming home-grown content, he said: “The Bar One Manhunt returns to the channel in May. Later in the year, a new glossy prime-time drama set in the extravagant world of SA gam- bling, will air. There are four new sitcoms set to air from July.
“There is Day Time Talk with Thami Ngubeni, Tjailatyd, an international travel programme and Shoreline, the second season, in September.”
As for the resurrection of 1980s series such as Knight Rider, The A-Team and now MacGyver, which got a huge punt at the press preview screening, Risuna Mayimele, SABC3’s marketing manager, said: “Retro drama is enjoying a worldwide surge and the recent success of The A-Team and Mission Impossible proved that audiences have an appetite for this kind of content. The channel is offering two retro drama slots across day time as part of its strategy to offer content that audiences want cost effectively.”
I guess SABC3 is, in a way, putting its money where its mouth is. It remains to be seen whether viewers will buy into its tactic, or if they will feel short-changed.