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New shows to reflect current lifestyles – Naicker

SABC TV moving with the times - New shows to reflect current lifestyles

Emmanuel Tjiya S Mag Editor-in-chief
The cast of Giyani: Land of Blood
The cast of Giyani: Land of Blood

SABC television is getting a facelift this April. The makeover includes the controversial move to decrease  Muvhango and 7de Laan soapies to three airing days on SABC 2, making way for second season of Tsonga telenovela Giyani: Land of Blood and new Afrikaans series Die Sentrum.

Axed Isidingo has already found its replacement in The Estate on SABC 3, while SABC 1 will welcome new series in uBettina Wethu.

Merlin Naicker, SABC group executive for video entertainment, gives Sowetan an all-access pass on the new changes.

Is SABC 3 getting its groove back?

Definitely. Watch out for The Estate on April 5. It’s beautiful and relevant in our day and time. You will see the storyline parallel with what’s happening in SA right now. We are also doing it in multi-lingual [format]. We feel that we need to re-energise the market on the offering we are bringing to the channel.

What other new shows will viewers be introduced to?

uBettina Wethu is another show on SABC 1, which is a local take on Ugly Betty. There is also Die Sentrum on SABC 2 taking you through the back story of a call-centre. On SABC 3 we will also introduce edgier and risqué content in international shows like Orphans of No Nation.

The decision to decrease Muvhango and 7de Laan broadcast days, how difficult was it?

These decisions are not easy to come to. We are juggling a lot of different objectives with many balls in the air. In terms of productions, what we had to look at is that the performance on these had declined and we have introduced some interventions into the different productions.

Whilst we still have the numbers then we thought it could be good to introduce additional programmes so that we can limit the content and therefore drive some appeal that’s more focused during the week.

That way we can adjust the storyline to be punchier over three days. We also have a mandate to introduce new content and this is allowing us to introduce new content in these key time slots.

What are some of the cool television trends that you looked at in changing the schedule?

What we have noticed is that consumption of content into OTT – television content provided via the internet like Netflix – platforms is becoming a big thing. Our consumers are becoming more of an on-demand generation.

The benefit that we have is that we are free-to-air and are a public broadcaster. So this technological changes are slower to take place in our world.

With Gomora on Mzansi Magic, The River on 1Magic and Imbewu on e.tv, more shows are moving towards regionality. Is it something the SABC is moving into?

I think we have been moving in that direction already. Giyani is one such show. We are trying to infuse more regionality. In the next couple of months we will start to not just shoot in Cape Down but film in Khayelitsha for example. There a lot of programming that will speak to that.

Uzalo remains the favourite child in the family. What pushed the move to renew the show until 2023?

We need to ensure from a production perspective that when you spend a budget in excess of R30m or R40m that there is a little bit of stability required. So we went with a three-year approach so that we can work on the storyline; give stability to cast and crew. We moved the entire production recently to KZN completely. Post-production is all done in KZN, previously it was done in Gauteng.

Did you ever think you will see the day that soapies lose their cool in SA with telenovelas taking over?

Remember, the telenovela comes from the soapie. They just decided to make it faster in pace and more self-contained. It’s reflective of competition because you always look at the number of product you have and realise how big the competition is.

The soapie-drama space is so contested that new formats are arriving to contest the space. It’s a natural evolution as we proceed, but also noting that television is a fickle product.

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