SABC 3 Ends The Year On A Sour Note

Judging by the decline in ratings, SABC 3 will have very little to be cheerful about this festive season. The public broadcaster's channel is continuing to be hemorrhaged in the ratings with none of its shows making the Top 10 watched shows in SA as we end this year and season.

The once glamorous channel has seen viewership on some of its most popular shows drop drastically. As a channel you know you have a problem when a cartoon about ants has more viewers than any of your local shows. 

Top Billing, which has been the draw card for the channel has seen some very disappointing numbers in viewership this year as well. I am personally not surprised. The show has become nothing but a 45 minute product placement platform for the channel. 

Gone are the days of glamour with sophistication that the likes of Michelle Garforth and Bassie Khumalo brought to the show. Now all you see is cheesy inserts which make the show no different than any of the celebrity shows on tv. These days it is all about Yanez taking his shirt off every chance he gets and a blatant suck up to politicians. 

Then there is Isidingo, shame! 

I am a fan of Isidingo and was one of the people who were rooting for the show when it contemplated a move from 18h30 to 19h30. The move seemed the obvious choice since during the World cup when the show was moved to the slot temporarily, it did very well. 

Unfortunately, as soon as I saw the new opening sequence and the Sibekos, I knew it will not work. I remember people like Vivian on Facebook telling me that I am such a negative-Nelly. Everyone believed that the show was going to be better. I had my doubts.

Firstly, it worried me that the show was loosing its core selling point - which was the fact that its characters were real people that mirrored real lives. The whole glamour thing did not work for me. People related to Isidingo and the Matebanes because they were like your average South African family.

While on the Matebanes, why the heck did the show decide to dismantle the family as the centre point of the show? Everyone in television knows that you do not mess with the core family in a soap-opera. Days has The Bradys, The Bold has The Forresters, and we all know what happened when Generations started killing off The Morokas

This year the show brought in their much publicised, Sibekos, whom thus far have failed to connect with the audiences. South African gush about how Katlego Sibeko is so beautiful  and that's it. The acting by the new actors might be commendable but the story isn't working.

Then there is the issue of ghost characters. Lately Isidingo has been falling into a bad habit of making off screen characters the centre of a big storyline.

At some point you had Baker, Cherel and Rajesh in story about a child in Spain or something.

Before that there was a big story about Kim and Jody being chased overseas by Bakers "thugs". All that was happening offscreen with an occasional "skyping" by Kim to Len.

Soon after that there was a story about Frank and Nikiwe's (or was it Ayanda) father. A lot of names were thrown around in this storyline but we never saw any of those characters on our screen. 

Of course who can forget the recent Sfiso story about him being in some hospital overseas after being shot. Though he had appeared on our screens prior to that, much to a lot of us' annoyance with his accent, the storylines about his tumor ran way too long for a character that was offscreen.

When viewers can not connect with the characters, they loose interest. How then will they connect with characters when they keep talking about ghosts we never see on screen?

The show has indeed lost the plot and it is paying the price. 

SABC 3 has always been the least watched channel on SABC. However some of its shows were still able to compete with shows on etv and actually beat them. Isidingo used to beat Scandal on the 19h30 slot when it occupied it temporarily. 

It did not help the channel much that this year it was plagued by one blunder after another. On numerous occasions the channel released information to the media that they will be broadcasting shows, only to be embarrassed later when they can not honour that promise because they hadn't acquired the rights to the shows yet. 

The other issue that has been a negative for the channel is its inability to handle their publicity well. Dealing with the channel's publicity department is notoriously lackluster in industry circles. I think sometimes the channel's staff gets caught up too much in the perceived glamour hype of the channel that they forget to be nice to the "small" people like bloggers, forgetting that we push publicity better than any newspaper.

When Etv started to engage more with journalists and bloggers its ratings improved. I am not saying this because I am a blogger. It is a fact. We create the conversations  and thus draw attention to shows. SABC3 needs to start taking online media seriously. 

All is not doom and gloom though. The channel can still change the tide. Here are some ideas;

The channels has to seriously work on its marketing and PR. It needs to stop wasting money on unnecessary expenditure that does nothing for the long term publicity for the channel but just give its employees free holidays.

  1. The presenter search shoot in Mauritius was an unnecessary waste of cash. All that money that was spend on the programme could have been used better back here at home. The channel could have hosted a more interactive programme around that competition here in Mzansi by hosting events where the contestants for the competition could have been introduced to the media.
  2. Have a premiere of a show like Desperate Housewives where you invite fans and industry people. Not only will that bring publicity to the show but it would have a long term effect in promoting the channel with the glamorous launch parties they could host for such events.
  3. Engage more with people who actually have a power to bring some publicity to the brand. It doesn't help hosting an event and inviting a selected number of celebrities who have no publicity pulling power what-so-ever. How do you have an Oprah finale event and not invite bloggers who were more than likely to promote the event to people who actually watch the show? Having events and only inviting people who are only known to the publicists and their friends does nothing for the PR of the show.
I think it is time SABC 3 ate some humble pie and start reworking its strategy, if it hope to attract more viewers next year. People who actually watch the shows on its channels do not live the Top Billing life. Those "Top Billing" people would rather watch shows on DSTV than watch SABC so maybe it is about time that the channel engaged more with the right people.

The channel is about aspirational lifestyle for many South Africans. Nothing wrong with that. In fact I think we need that and it should not change but let it not be too far removed from its potential viewers. Yes we can watch them on Top Billing and marvel at their mansions and bling lives but let that not be the theme throughout everything the channel does. 

It is embarrassing that in a country with more than 50 million people and a tv audience of about 10 million, the most watched show on the channel is watched by only 1 million. That is not something to be proud of. 

It is even more embarrassing when that show is Days of Our Lives or a movie. Clearly something is not right and has to be fixed. 

Top 10 Shows on SABC 3

Days Of Our Lives
1 498 000
A Bug’s Life
1 484 000
1 383 000
Monsters Inc.
1 204 000
Desperate Housewives
1 036 000
3 Talk
 966 000
The Voice
 924 000
English News
 904 000
Top Billing
 812 000
Into the Wilderness
 784 000

TAMS RATINGS (November 2011 week 47)


Kevin said...

Wow this is so true Phil. I stopped watching Top Billing months ago. The new presenters are just not doing it for me. They should be on Selimathunzi not Top Billing.

As for Isidingo, I haven't been watching either. Now that you mention it about the story and actors talking about people we never see, you are so right.

Thank you for a beautiful and informative blog. Keep up the good work.

New Fan,

Kevin Moilwa

Anonymous said...

I am an avid fan of isidongo and to be honest the story lines are keeping me hooked! Through the new introductions I believe they are keeping it fresh and the transition was done very well.. I find most SA soapies stroy lines are very upbrupt and things are plonked in from nowhere but isidingo always manages to handle their story lines in a coherent manner!

P.S very nice blog! SA is lacking in the blog area and frankly was sick and tired of the infantile behaviour I have found elsewhere and this is very tastefully done!

PhilMphela said...

Thank you very much.

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