TV fight for local content heats up

E.TV head of channels Monde Twala has played down the raging local content war between DStv’s Mzansi Magic channel, the SABC and his fast-growing station .

Twala described the 17-year-old free-to-air e.tv’s bid against the big guns as “our humble way of serving everybody because ‘e’ is for everybody”.

The competition for the hearts and minds of South African viewers is particularly fierce in the soapie, drama series and televenola genres.

“I believe in local content,” said Twala. “When everyone thought Matatiele would not work, I pushed for it to become a reality. Look at how well-received it was.

“Now another series similar to [to it] will be shot in the beautiful rolling hills of the deep parts of rural KwaZulu-Natal in the new year.”

According to him, the formula was simple: “Give viewers what they love; they are intrigued by star power and how celebrities live.

“This was proven with sushi king Kenny Kunene’s reality TV show.

“On the soapies front, we have grown from strength to strength. We decided to take Generations head-on in the 8pm slot this year. Since then, we have gained 35% of their viewers… It has worked for us.”

Twala said Ashes To Ashes 2 and Gold Diggers 2 would return to the small screen next year.

“Truth is, there are no winners or losers in the battle to win over viewers. It’s about what appeals to them,” he said.

“I believe in giving our viewers more than 48% of local content, far more than what government regulates.”

A new political satire programme is also on the cards. This follows comedian Loyiso Gola’s Late Night News (LNN)being canned, following a dispute between the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) bosses and the producers.

Twala attributed e.tv’s financial stability and growth to its belief in its product.

“As the first independent commercial free-to-air TV channel, the first five years were challenging for us. But we have since become profitable.”

He said a turnaround was realised in 2002 because staff and advertisers believed in democratic change.

“We are constantly in the market, watching trends and researching to improve our programming. We have turned one channel into a multichannel broadcaster, and have taken advantage of the digital space in order to use it to our advantage.”

According to Twala, e.tv owners Sabido Investments were in the process of repositioning the group. This would be done with a name change to eMedia Investments from next year.

The breakdown in share holding is as follows: Seardel Investment Corporation (67.7%) and Remgro (32.3%).

Seardel is owned by investments company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI).

The commercial success of e.tv led to the launch of South Africa’s first 24-hour news channel, eNCA, in 2008 and the country’s free satellite offering, known as OpenView High Definition (OVHD) in 2013.

“The OVHD once-off subscription service is growing steadily with over 60000 boxes sold to date,” he said.

Twala said e.tv recently opened an office in Durban, alongside its Joburg and Cape Town offices, and had smaller bureaus in and outside the country.

He said the e.Africa feed, serving more than 12 African countries, was launched five years ago as part of their expansion into East and West Africa.

Programming on e.Africa includes Hollywood movies, WWE wrestling and e.tv’s two most popular soapies Rhythm City and Scandal!, as well as live news bulletins from the eNews Africa service.

 

Source: Sunday World – Xolile Mtshazo