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THE MEDIA APRIL 2018

TV DRAMA South Africans love drama, and the TV soapie hits just keep coming That South Africa’s TV soap industry is tough goes without saying. Sixday weeks, 12-hour shifts and 4am calls are de rigueur, and job insecurity is a feature. But soapies are infinitely more profitable than other TV genres, writes LUCINDA JORDAAN. In early March, Muvhango actress Florence Masebe set off a Twitter storm with a tweet claiming that South African audiences shouldn’t be emotionally blackmailed into watching local films, highlighting the lack of effective marketing as the reason for paltry audiences at cinemas. See story on page 34. But if viewership figures for a steady stream of local soapies are anything to go by, South Africans clearly love their drama. And our local stories come out tops every time, with all of them beating out even longtime US favourite, The Bold and The Beautiful, in terms of audience numbers. And the hits just keep coming, with new series in the works, telenovelas hitting their stride – and some transitioning from one form to another. “Local soapies pull audiences not only because they’re indigenous and follow the winning formula of good guy vs bad guy, but because they’re also relevant, up to date with current affairs and ingrained in the psyche of the community,” notes freelance line producer Michael Modena, who’s worked on various local productions from Mzansi Magic’s Greed and Desire to SABC 1’s ratings champion, Uzalo. Accounting for more than 40% of overall television viewing, soapies are a broadcaster’s bread and butter, and prime time slots across all channels are highly contested spaces for advertisers. These slots, says e.tv’s general manager for new business and Africa sales, Santie Raubenheimer, are not negotiable, with no discount packages available. “Obviously, people buy eyeballs and if the show gets enough eyeballs, it sells out fast,” she adds. Bookings are made on a three-month basis and, with soapies meeting the majority of the market – on all LSM ranges – advertising comes from “pretty much across the board” with a variety of brands wanting to fill the 12 minutes of airtime available during a particular screening, notes Raubenheimer. But while viewers now have more choice in terms of language or storyline than they did when Egoli, South Africa’s first homebrewed soapie first hit our screens 26 years ago, the proliferation of drama series on an increasing number of channels opens up another nightmare for broadcasters: That of dwindling audience figures – and less ad revenue. Spreading it thin “It’s a worldwide phenomenon: As TV channels have proliferated, audiences are more fragmented, with the result being that each broadcaster has smaller audiences – and their slice of the ad revenue pie becomes significantly smaller, which is not good for producers,” points out Harriet Gavshon, co-founder of Quizzical Pictures, who produce e.tv’s Rhythm City. The effect trickles down. “Our rates as an industry, for providing content, have decreased year on year, so rand for rand, we’re working with the same budgets as 10 years ago – which is extremely difficult; a lot of productions are underfunded because the broadcasters are squeezed. “I suspect with some that there’s just not enough money to get paid properly – producers are always blamed for it, but they do the best they can to stretch resources – and this, in turn, creates a squeeze on actors and crew rates.” P 14 The Media | wagthedog.co.za Rhythm City actor Mpho Molepo “As TV chanels have proliferated, audiences are more fragmented, with the result that each broadcaster has smaler audiences – and their slice of the ad revenue pie becom es significantly smaler, which is not god for producers.”


THE MEDIA APRIL 2018
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