25 NEW SABC SHOCKERS - IN STAFFERS' OWN WORDS

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

FIRST INTERVIEW. DStv's chief technology officer Gerdus van Eeden talks DStv Explora and the powerful update to DStv's decoder line.


Gerdus van Eeden, MultiChoice's chief technology officer (CTO), sat down with TV with Thinus for an exclusive and comprehensive exclusive first interview about the satellite pay-TV platform's brand-new and much bigger capacity HD PVR decoder, the DStv Explora, which was just unveiled to the press and which will become available to DStv subscribers from 15 August.

ALSO READ: MultiChoice unveils its DStv Explora as the satellite pay-TV platform's brand-new, next generation HD PVR with a lot more content.

What are the basic specs, how is the DStv Explora the best new decoder of MultiChoice and representing the new next generation of what MultiChoice is bringing to market?
Gerdus van Eeden: The big feature with the DStv Explora is that it's got a 2 TB hard drive. That is four times the size compared to the current PVR that's available in the market. It has a dedicated tuner that's dedicated to pumping the DStv Catch Up and BoxOffice and TV guide data into the DStv Explora decoder.

On the current PVR the second tuner shared. So if you set a lot of your own recordings, that tuner is not free to pump the Catch Up and BoxOffice assets. Now it's a dedicated tuner and the second tuner is free for only your recordings. The first tuner is for what you're viewing. So you can expect a lot more reliability around getting your BoxOffice and Catch Up assets into the box.

The operating system is Linux. It Linux with essentially Java applications on top of it. The development for the application, that which the viewer is interacting with, that has been done by us here in South Africa.

That's a big departure from the past. In the past we've outsourced development of that to overseas entities. We've decided for the time to market and the sake of absolute control to take it into our own hands. So we're in control of a lot more of the development process. It's very much a South African product. The DStv Explora is assembled in East London.

With a mix of standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) recordings - most people use a mix of SD and HD recordings - we're talking about 220 hours of recording. It is more than twice the capacity of the current DStv decoder.


What's the price and when will it be available?
Gerdus van Eeden: It's manufactured by Pace. We contracted Pace. Pace is also one of the suppliers of our current PVRs. It will retail for R2499. We think it's a great price considering the fantastic specs on this decoder. It will be available from 15 August in retail.


With the roll out of the new HD channels on DStv and the launch of the new satellite last year I figured that MultiChoice must be hard at work on the development of an upgraded and more powerful HD PVR and now its the DStv Explora. When did you start development and how long have you've been working on the DStv Explora?
Gerdus van Eeden: Since this is a brand-new platform it's been a long development. The current PVR we can bring them out within a year because its basically the same platform which we just port to new hardware. But this is a brand-new platform from a hardware perspective and from a software perspective.

So it's been in the making for about two years. To be quite honest with you, initially when we conceived it, it was primarily a decoder or a PVR giving you internet connectivity. Two, three years ago we were hopeful that the South African broadband market from a fixed line perspective would become more mature. But it hasn't.

So we have actually changed tact about 18 months ago where we said okay, we have to deprioritise the internet connectivity a bit because you can make a big fanfare about it, but just about nobody will be able to use it out of the box. With the DStv Explora we will have to have this interim step of big video-on-demand (VOD) pumped in via satellite in order to give the DStv subscriber the experience. So we changed tact as well a bit through that two year period.


All of the DStv decoders, if you look at them, look quite different. The DStv Explora design and look physically is again a departure for MultiChoice. Why always these big changes?
Gerdus van Eeden: There's a good reason for it. In the past we've left it to our suppliers to bring a design to us and we've selected between a couple of designs. We didn't have this mindset of creating a design language.

With the DStv Explora this is completely different. We own the trademarks and that design. And when we bring a new PVR to the market it will follow that same design language. So the DStv Explora is the start of that era now.


Because I was surprised when I found out that oh MultiChoice will now give a name. And then I thought, oh will subscribers in future see a DStv Explora 2.0 for instance? And would it also be, or is it premature to say, that there will only be one name? Or might there be different product lines of DStv decoders from now on, all with different names? And why did you decide to name it?
Gerdus van Eeden: You will see there is a commonality between our devices. Think of the Walka with the "a" at the end. Think of the Drifta with the "a" at the end. So the Explora falls within that new scheme of naming of devices. And sure, there will be down the line - hopefully not to soon - more. For now for the future Explora will be the name used for our PVR product.

So there will be variations of the name, maybe Explora version 2 or whatever but essentially it will from now on always be Explora down the line.


How will the search functionality on the DStv Explora be better? Two weeks ago I watched on YouTube when Comcast in the United States unveiled their latest PVR. 
They reiterated that that is what subscribers struggle with the most: finding the content and knowing where it is, and knowing what there is and being exposed to the choices and having it easily accessible.
And no pay-TV player is really there yet. But I suppose the DStv Explora is evolving in terms of search functionality as well for the South African sphere.
Gerdus van Eeden: We've recognised that with all this additional content on the hard drive and available to you, you can easily simply get content buried. People simply don't discover that content and it's content which they would have watched. You will see now in terms of the interface with BoxOffice and Catch Up that we've reverted to a much more graphic interface.

We're using the poster art for BoxOffice and for the series and for the sport. It's much more identifiable. When you see the graphics it helps to pull you in. That's the one thing. We've really expanded the search in a big way.

You're obviously aware that the current decoder has limited search functionalities. There's a hotlink button on the remote for search. You press that button and you go straight to the search area. Now in that search area we've expanded it big time. There's  what we call advance searches that we've precooked for you.

So for example: You want to know what movies are on now, on all the channels on DStv, and you want to know for the next 2 hours. And there's one item that you select, "Movies on Now" and "Movies Next".

It will search across all the properties, not only the 8 day guide. Up until now we've only searched the 8 day guide. Now not only the 8 day guide but we search through BoxOffice, we search through Catch Up. And we search your Playlist.

So if you've happened to have recorded something a month ago and you've forgotten about it, it will show up in your search. Now you have this list of results across all these properties. Now we have a filtering function. As the search completes you just press left and right to select the filtering categories like "action" or "drama" for example.

I think DStv subscribers will really like this new feature and we've worked really long and hard to make it easy to use. We've included theme search which is included in the current decoder. There is text search, there's advanced search where you can really say only search in BoxOffice or only search in Catch Up. I don't think a lot of people will use it, but for those people who really want to do a pinsharp search, that is there.

The second thing is "Other Airings". That is something that people have really asked for and we've given it to them now with Explora. On any live event you bring up the i-plate and you press OK. You will now see a little menu associated with that - set a recording, set a reminder. You select that and it shows you now immediately when that particular event is showing again.



If you look globally also in decoder sales one of the things where pay-TV operators in terms of marketing tries to one up each other is saying 'You can record 4 things at the same time', 'With us you can record 5 things at the same time'. I always wonder why we don't see that kind of progression in South Africa. Is it because the technology becomes too expensive for the price point or because not enough people want it?
Gerdus van Eeden: Typically those systems are what they these days call "home gateways", so they would put in -especially the cable operators in the States but even the satellite operators like DirecTV - where they would supply a very big box with many tuners and lots of resources and then they would have thin clients hanging from that and it then shares these.

Unfortunately our market dynamics - if we would do that - it would make the price point for our entry PVR way too expensive. And that's the entry point [a decoder], you have to have this thing before you can do anything else, You know, we've looked at it, we've crunched the numbers, everything. It's just too expensive for our market.

So we've gone for the ExtraView route where if you want a secondary recording facility you buy the hardware, you link it in, you pay the additional monthly fee - which is not a double subscription - and you have a secondary recording facility.

We're also planning with this a second generation ExtraView version which will mean that you will be able to share content in HD between boxes, but that's in the future, that's coming.


People often ask me do i watch on fast forward with two or with three green arrows. How is fast forward and slow motion going to be different?
Gerdus van Eeden: The trick modes - as we call them - are much smoother and more useable. And there's four levels for forwarding, and the fourth one is really fast. You can really quickly go through content. Rewind the same. Slow motion is pretty much the same as we have on the current box.

You activate these differently. There is a brand-new remote control. It doesn't have the colour buttons anymore and we've removed Shift. People told us they don't like the Shift and too fiddly. We've added these additional hopping buttons.

Slow motion for example is activated by pressing the Play button in for 2 seconds. Then you're in slow motion mode. Then you use the normal forward and rewind buttons to go through the different levels. It's all there but works slightly differently - and in our minds much better.

You will also find that with Explora the interface is very responsive. On current decoders as you crunch through the catalogue you will see a 5 to 10 second delay. Now you will see it's instantaneous.

You press that hotlink button for Catch Up and it's there. You press the hotlink button for BoxOffice and it's there.


When the HD PVR was launched in 2008 just before the Olympics it was a bit buggey. 
I think MultiChoice felt to push it to market to not lose out on Olympic viewing and rushed the product as part of a marketing strategy. 
Can you assure people that they don't have to be scared to go and buy this new generation DStv Explora? That MultiChoice isn't bringing the Explora to market now because you're forced?
Gerdus van Eeden: We absolutely did not force this launch. We're launching the Explora because the product is ready to launch.

BREAKING. MultiChoice unveils its DStv Explora as the satellite pay-TV platform's brand-new, next generation HD PVR with a lot more TV content.


MultiChoice just unveiled its brand-new next generation DStv Explora decoder which will become available from 15 August at a retail price of R2499 and which is loaded with terabytes more recording space, enhanced functionality and an improved interface and which will in time also include broadband internet connectivity.

Nicknamed by MultiChoice insiders as "the pebble" due to its shapely curved design, the new DStv Explora in a black casing is the first DStv decoder model to now come branded with a specific brandname - one which will be carried forward for this PVR decoder line.

The DStv Explora with a massive 2TB hard drive allows room for the recording of 220 hours of TV content will mimic the broad video-on-demand (VOD) services which pay-TV viewers are increasingly gravitating towards.

ALSO READ: First exclusive interview: Gerdus van Eeden, DStv's chief technology officer talks DStv Explora and the powerful update to the DStv decoder line.

The DStv Explora comes with a major expansion in the amount of content MultiChoice will be able to make available to push to subscribers on the DStv Explora thanks to the increased capacity, with a dramatic increase in the DStv Catch Up and DStv BoxOffice services and catalogue of titles offered on the new PVR.

The DStv Explora is manufactured for MultiChoice in East London by Pace in partnership with local manufacturer Vektronix which started mass production of the DStv Explora earlier this month.

Pace's relationship with MultiChoice dates back to the development of DStv's very first personal video recorder (PVR) in 1995.

The new DStv Explora comes complete with a redesigned DStv remote including hotlink buttons and a much more visual, streamlined, image rich interface as well as improved all-round functionality and better search options.

The DStv Explora represents MultiChoice's new next generation premium entertainment console to anchor subscribers' home viewing as more content than ever before gets funneled by satellite direct to homes.

MultiChoice will not be launching the DStv Explora with broadband connectivity, although the HD PVR which is making use of a new Linux with Java operating system has originally been conceived to be an internet connected device.

South Africa's terrible broadband prevalence - both in penetration levels and speed - has hampered plans for devices such as the DStv Explora to be seemlessly internet connected.

South Africa is the African continent's most advanced pay-TV market, yet high broadband penetration is still lacking and only 1,7 people per 100 inhabitants have access to a fixed line broadband connection.

MultiChoice will enable internet connectivity later for the new DStv decoder as broadband penetration grows and as DStv subscribers continue to adapt to the evolving VOD service. 

For now the DStv Explora is the way in which MultiChoice will pump content 24/7 to a bigger set-top box and making a much larger catalogue of on demand content available to DStv subscribers.

The need for a new decoder is necessitated by the number of high definition (HD) channels which keeps growing and which require more recording space for user recorded programming, as well as the lifestyle changes where subscribers demand the instant viewing of content.

The DStv Explora saves two hours of television in the buffer of the live TV channel the decoder is tuned to, but now "remembers" and retains it for that same period even if a DStv subscriber switches channels.

Other much improved functionality with the DStx Explora includes the HD on-screen display. It's highly visual and mimicks Netflix and Hulu and other on-demand content operators in the United States with a representation of a "shelf grid" display populated by constantly updated content.

The DStv Explora is ExtraView capable and has a new blue "DStv" blue hotlink button on the remote control which takes the user straight to "DStv Central" from where the subscriber can navigate and scroll through sections and options.

BREAKING. SABC invites the press to the launch of its new 24-hour news channel on DStv ... one day before the time.



The SABC today invited South Africa's press to the launch of its new 24-hour TV news channel, doing so only one day before the time.

It's highly unusual, given that invites and alerts to press conferences and launch events for new TV channels starting - in cases where there are pressers and launch events taking place (for both TV channels locally and international for both MultiChoice's DStv and On Digital Media's TopTV) always happen days if not weeks in advance.

In all my time as a South African TV critic over the past 14 years I cannot remember of a single instance where press were summoned to a new TV channel launching a day before the actual press conference and launch of a channel.

The SABC's new 24-hour news channel on MultiChoice's DStv channel 404 will start broadcasting from 18:00 on Thursday evening.

On Thursday from 15:30 at the SABC's headquarters in Auckland Park at the Studio 7 TV Centre the SABC will hold their press launch event.

ALSO READ: The SABC's new 24-hour news channel will carry a lot of simulcast and other programming from the existing three TV channels when it launches on 1 August.

Add to the odd: Neither the SABC nor MultiChoice released any embargoed press material such as information, photos, schedules, profiles, line-ups, logos or anything as often happens so that publications and media outlets with long lead times can at least have something. Squat nil nada.

Add to the sad: A lot of South Africa's TV critics, editors and journalists covering TV and the television industry are in Johannesburg today and tomorrow for other TV related launches.

Because the SABC didn't communicate earlier about the intended SABC 24-hour news channel conference and event, none of those people can attend - they're all flying back and leaving on Thursday morning.

It's highly conceivable that several would have made other travel and coverage arrangements to stay and attend the SABC's 24-hour news channel launch on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CNN International's Nkepile Mabuse leaves to rejoin e.tv's news division as executive producer for a new current affairs show on eNCA.


Nkepile Mabuse is leaving CNN International (DStv 401) after her very unusual stint doing Outside Eye for the eNCA (DStv 403) earlier this year and joining the eNCA.

Nkepile Mabuse did Outside Eye for the eNCA while she was still also with CNN International and will now become the new executive producer of a new current affairs show for the eNCA which will start later this year.

She started with eNews in 2000, left for CNN International in February 2008 just before the eNews Channel launched and will now be working for that 24-hour news channel.

With the SABC's new 24-hour news channel starting on 1 August and with the ANN7 24-hour news channel also launching very soon, the eNCA is looking to add a new flagship current affairs show after 3rd Degree was abruptly ended two months ago and which was shown on e.tv and the eNCA.

Nkepile Mabuse will be the executive producer of this new current affairs show for the eNCA which the channel is looking to launch by the end of 2013.

Neither e.tv nor the eNCA has any current affairs or news magazine on the air. The SABC has Special Assignment and M-Net's groundbreaking Carte Blanche is celebrating its 25th anniversary at the end of August.

"Africa is on the rise and the world is hungry for African content and context," says Nkepile Mabuse in a statement. "I believe the eNCA is perfectly positioned to become the future platform of choice on Africa. The skills I've acquired at CNN should enable me to make a positive contribution towards eNCA's rise," she says.

Patrick Conroy, eNCA head of news says Nkepile Mabuse returns "with invaluable experiences, insights and knowledge. She is a great addition to our team and best placed to take investigative television journalism forward in this country."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

BREAKING. SABC's new 24-hour news channel will start on 1 August, on DStv channel 404, in all 11 languages, with a lot of syndicated SABC shows.


The SABC's new 24-hour news channel will start broadcasting on 1 August and will no longer be just an announcement to launch on that day; it will start on MultiChoice's DStv channel 404; it will do news in all 11 official South African languages; and it will contain a lot of syndicated and repurposed SABC news programmes and shows already seen on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.

The long gestating 24-hour news channel from the SABC went through many permutations and plans, false starts, failed launch dates, controversies and money shortages hampering the proposed plans the past three years.

It will now not only be announced at a launch event and press conference on 1 August but will also start broadcasting on 1 August.

The new 24-hour news channel finally replaces the discontinued SABC News International with MultiChoice paying hundreds of millions of rands to the SABC over multiple years for the news channel to be delivered to DStv.

MultiChoice declined to say how much money the corporate pay-TV provider is paying the public broadcaster for the delivery of what amounts to a public news service, saying "we can't comment on the terms of that agreement as the agreement is confidential".

The public broadcaster also declined to say specifically how much money the private satellite TV company is paying the SABC, saying "it's a commercial agreement between us and MultiChoice".

The new 24-hour news channel will only be available to MultiChoice's DStv subscribers and not to all SABC licence payers and will not be carried on On Digital Media's TopTV although "must carry" broadcasting regulations dictates that all SABC public television TV channels must be available on all pay-TV services.

The SABC will make the channel available later on digital terrestrial television (DTT) once that long-delayed switch-over from analogue broadcasting eventually starts in South Africa.

The SABC's news channel will broadcast primarily in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, Ndebele, SiSwati, Xhosa, Venda and Tsonga.

The new 24-hour news channel from the SABC will show Morning Live between 06:00 and 09:00 at the same time as it is broadcast on SABC2. Morning Live is SABC2 and the SABC's flagship morning breakfast show with a more newsier slant than SABC3's Expresso.

At 13:00 the SABC's news channel will simulcast News@1 at the same time it is seen on SABC3.

It will work the same way in which South Africa's other existing 24-hour news channel, eNCA (DStv 403), gives half an hour of News Day to e.tv at the same time in the afternoons and Morning News Today to replace e.tv's Sunrise on public holidays.

The SABC3's News at 18:30, the SABC's hour long flagship primetime news bulletin will also be shown at the same time on the new 24-hour news channel, followed by an hour long Afrikaans news bulletin from 19:30.

SABC2's existing A View from the House covering parliamentary proceedings in Cape Town will be simulcast at the same time, or shown at other times, during the weeks in which parliament is in session.

In between the end of Morning Live and News@1 in the mornings the SABC news channel will have Newsrooms LIVE which will be rolling coverage, commentary and reaction on the day's unfolding and already reported news of the previous day and stories making headlines in the morning.

During the afternoons and into the evening the SABC's news channel will bring viewers rolling news updates and do live crossings to SABC reporters across South Africa and the few at the SABC's remaining international news bureaux.

Other programmes on the SABC's 24-hour news channel include Question Time, an interview show with newsmakers and about topics, stories and issues in the news in South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.

Kaleidoscope is the SABC news channel's programme focusing on arts, culture, lifestyle, travel and entertainment news.

Sports Live will be broadcast daily, covering the day's sports news from a SABC studio with studio guests and with live crossings.

Network will be like Tech Report on the eNCA, a show covering news on the technology front and covering and incorporating social media.

Media Monitor will be a bit like Maggs on Media on the eNCA, a show looking at the news behind the news and the media industry and issues the media is dealing with.

Edu Talk will be focused on covering educational issues and topics in South Africa.

BREAKING. Food Network gives second season to Jenny Morris; heading to France and Italy for Jenny Morris Cooks the Riviera.


You're reading it here first. 

The Food Network (DStv 175) has given a second season pick-up to the Cape Town celebrity chef Jenny Morris who will do a second series entitled Jenny Morris Cooks the Riviera for the channel filmed along the French and Italian Rivieras.

Jenny Morris' first season of her show on the Food Network - the first South African commissioned TV production for the channel - debuted to boffo ratings when Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco started.

"Jenny's second series showcases one of South Africa's most loved chefs and her cuisine," says Sue Walton, the vice president for commissioning and original content for Scripps UK and the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.

"Throughout the series, Jenny's journey through the Riviera's picturesque landscapes will be stacked with inspiration as she serves up menus inspired by the natural beauty and glamour of her surroundings."

In the second series Jenny Morris will journey along the French and Italian Rivieras, starting in the west of France and travelling east along the coast. Jenny Morris Cooks the Riviera will show viewers Saint-Tropez, Monte Carlo, Portofino and Cinque Terre, as well as discovering some of the less well-known tucked-away places while preparing French and Italian cuisine.

"Once again Food Network is feeding my foodie soul," says Jenny Morris. "I'm delighted with the new commission and look forward to an incredible journey and fun experiences I can share with viewers throughout the world," says Jenny Morris..

""From Jenny's Cape Town cookery school she has already had many Mediterranean influences," says Nick Thorogood, the senior vice president for content and marketing for Scripps UK & EMEA. "I'm pleased she will have the chance to travel to the Riviera and explore the cuisine in more detail."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kagiso Media wants to start an 'affordable' pay-TV service in South Africa heavily focused on local content driven by entertainment and news.


Kagiso Media (KGM) wants the South African broadcasting regulator to grant it a pay-TV broadcasting license to operate an "affordable" pay-TV service costing R240 a month for which it wants to become "the leading provider of pay-TV services to low-income households in South Africa".

Kagiso TV's pay-TV offering in South Africa would be heavily focused on providing subscribers local entertainment, local news and educational programmes.

Kagiso TV, Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings, Siyaya Free to Air, Mindset Media Enterprises,  and Mobile TV have all applied for new pay-TV licences in South Africa with the aim of starting brand-new subscription services in the country and is this week presenting their applications and plans before the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

Should it receive a subscription TV licence in South Africa, Kagiso TV plans to have subscribers choose their own TV channels from a selection of available TV channels to build their own bouquet and is highly focused on providing South African pay-TV subscribes with local content.

KGM for instance owns Urban Brew Studios which specialises in TV broadcasting and is also involved in TV content and TV channel creation, as well as several radio stations across South Africa which it says proves its experience and track-record in broadcasting.

Icasa's previous round of licensing for pay-TV operators in South Africa saw Telkom Media, On Digital Media, WOWtv and eSat apply. All besides ODM failed to launch a service and ODM's TopTV which eventually launched is now in business rescue.

Sky News has yet another once-off TV special for viewers, A Son and Heir, tonight at 21:30.


Sky News (DStv 402) has yet another TV special tonight at 21:30 (South African time), following the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis, the son of Prince William and Kate, entitled A Son and Heir.

A Son and Heir is presented by the Sky News royal correspondent Paul Harrison.

Yesterday Sky News had the special, A Royal Son.

Not to be outdone CNN International (DStv 401) will tonight bring viewers a TV special as well in the form of The Royals A New Prince with Max Foster.

BREAKING. Gay TV coming to South Africa if CloseTV is granted a pay-TV licence by the country's broadcasting regulator.


Gay television in the form of "high-quality international and local programming" aimed at gay viewers could be coming to South Africa if South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) grants Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings a pay-TV licence to start a subscription service in the country.

Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings, Kagiso TV, Siyaya Free to Air, Mindset Media Enterprises,  and Mobile TV have all applied for new pay-TV licences in South Africa with the aim of starting brand-new subscription services in the country and is this week presenting their applications and plans before Icasa.

Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings want to bring South Africans gay TV content, including a pay-per-view on demand service and wants to become South Africa's first pay-TV operator servicing the viewing needs of what it calls the "thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual community".

CloseTV say it has already set up exclusive partnerships with global gay content providers such as the OutTV group, Logo TV and the OUT in Africa Film Festival. CloseTV programming will include independent and art house movies, cinema nouveau, foreign language films, cultural programming, travel and fashion events.

CloseTV says there are millions of gay TV viewers in South Africa with virtually no television-based programming for that community.

Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings also says subscribers to its service will be subscribing to what it has developed as "niche audience specific bundles" which "won't be made up of rehashed bouquets of older or lower quality programming, but rather high-quality international and local programming," says Mia Groenewald, director of Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings.

According to Close-T, the intention is that consumers will pay only for the bouquets that are of interest to them, as opposed to paying a monthly subscription for a premier service and then only watching 20% of the total bouquet.

Close-T Broadcast Network Holdings says CloseTV subscribers will "only pay for the bouquets that are of interest to them, as opposed to paying a monthly subscription for a premier service and then only watching 20% of the total bouquet".

Icasa's previous round of licensing for pay-TV operators in South Africa saw Telkom Media, On Digital Media, WOWtv and eSat apply. All besides ODM failed to launch a service and ODM's TopTV which eventually launched is now in business rescue.

BREAKING. ESPN has to continue to provide American sport to MultiChoice, some ESPN content will be shifted to SuperSport channels.


ESPN which is removing its ESPN channels - ESPN and ESPN Classic - from MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform at the end of the month, is going to have to continue to provide DStv with certain ESPN programming such as golf, the US Open Tennis tournaments, NCAA basketball, the X Games, motorsport, boxing and ESPN documentary films.

ESPN is pulling its channels from Africa, the Middle East and Europe which means the end of these channels on pay-TV operators' channel line-ups like DStv.

Yet ESPN has/had a standing contract with MultiChoice and other pay-TV operators - and were strongly reminded of that.

The past few weeks since ESPN made the announcement, there's been a to-and-fro regarding the issue behind-the-scenes and now a not so preferable, but workable plan B: shifting ESPN content to SuperSport channels on DStv.

TV with Thinus asked SuperSport last week whether it is in talks with ESPN to take over ESPN content or rights to programming which ESPN holds. SuperSport said MultiChoice is the party engaging with ESPN.

MultiChoice and ESPN is now announcing that ESPN will continue to provide DStv audiences across sub-Saharan Africa with some of the ESPN content which used to be on the ESPN channels, and making it available on certain SuperSport channels.

MultiChoice says the pay-TV operator will still communicate the relevant channel numbers and broadcast times of this continued ESPN programming.

Golf such as the US Open Golf and PGA Tour events, tennis such as the US Open Tennis tournaments, NCAA basketball (regular season, conferece and March madness), NCAA football (regular season and superbowl),motorsport (NASCAR and Indy Car), boxing, the X Games and ESPN documentary films will now move onto SuperSport channels.

"MultiChoice is also in discussion with the relevant rights holders to acquire other popular sport programmes previously broadcast on ESPN," says MultiChoice in a statement. "This includes basketball, baseball, American football and soccer."

Carte Blanche 25 Years - The Stories Behind the Stories commemorative book coming with Carte Blanche birthday episode on 1 September.


Kalahari.net is now taking pre-orders for the upcoming book Carte Blanche 25 Years - The Stories Behind the Stories, the special commemorative book which TV with Thinus first reported in February is coming later this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the longrunning local weekly investigative magazine show on M-Net.

M-Net's Carte Blanche will be celebrating it's silver anniversary in August and TV with Thinus can be first to reveal that the longrunning Combined Artistic Productions show will have a special birthday episode for viewers on Sunday 1 September.

Carte Blanche 25 Years - The Stories Behind the Stories is a trade paperback (and a definite collector's item!) from Jonathan Ball Publishers and will be published to co-incide with the special birthday of Carte Blanche on 1 September.

The excellent Jessica Pitchford is the author of Carte Blanche 25 Years - The Stories Behind the Stories and readers can get ready for a very revealing and exceptionally insightful behind-the-scenes look through stories filled with perspective about the show.

The book reveals untold and little known facts and background about Carte Blanche and its existence the past two and a half decades through the eyes of the producers and presenters who have shaped and guided the show since it started in 1998 on M-Net.

Carte Blanche remains the pay-TV broadcaster's highest rated and most watched programme in its now iconic Sunday evening berth of 19:00 on M-Net which has since become not just live appointment television, but also the most valuable real estate in all of South African television broadcasting.

BREAKING. Platco Digital's OpenView HD satellite TV service could be shut down, fined if it starts in October without a licence.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator remains firm in repeating for a second time that the new Platco Digital's planned satellite TV service, OpenView HD, will be operating illegally and flouting South Africa's broadcasting regulations if it goes ahead with launching a commercial service in October without possible approval from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) and a valid licence.

On Tuesday Platco Digital said in a press statement that it "won't engage in any licensable activities on its own behalf" and that the 15 to 20 TV channels - 5 of which it plans to broadcast in high definition (HD) will be legal as Platco Digital "merely provides technical platform services to licensed free-to-air broadcasters on the basis of their existing licences".

Icasa however, asked again on Tuesday about Platco Digital's plans, remains resolute and adamant that Platco Digital will need to apply for a license (although the regulator isn't currently issuing any and is busy with listening to applications and presentations for possible new pay-TV platforms in South Africa who applied months ago).

Icasa says it hasn't been aware of Platco Digital or of OpenView HD, nor any intended launch of any such free-to-air satellite service for the end of the year. 

Icasa says the law and the regulations governing broadcasting and the TV industry in South Africa are very clear: first obtain a licence and keep to the licensing conditions, or face shut down and fines.

"The law is very clear that no broadcasting service can be provided without a valid broadcasting service licence issued by Icasa in terms of the Electronic Communication Act," says the regulator.

Platco Digital with its head office in Johannesburg and Maxwell Nonge as managing director is backed by e.tv's parent company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI). HCI owns Sabido Investments, which holds a 67% interest in Platco Digital and a 63% stake in e.tv.

Platco Digital's national roadshow for OpenView HD is taking place today in Cape Town in a hotel in the city centre but journalists and the press covering television have not been invited.

Elsewhere on the continent Malawi's broadcasting regulator last month said that MultiChoice Malawi started and is operating its new GOtv digital terrestrial television (DTT) offering in that country illegally. 

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority said MultiChoice Malawi started its digital TV service without any authorisation and said in a statement that MultiChoice officials "acknowledged that they didn't follow both the law and procedures in launching GOtv".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Royals A New Prince, a once-off special programme coming to CNN International on Wednesday at 22:30.


The Royals A New Prince is a brand-new TV special coming to CNN International (DStv 401) on Wednesday night at 22:30 (South African time) following the birth of Prince William and Kate's new baby boy.

Born to a life of palaces and privilege, the newest edition to the British royal family also faces challenges. Can he also enjoy something of a normal childhood?

CNN International's royal correspondent Max Foster on Wednesday will look at how the British monarchy has changed, and what the new baby can expect before becoming king.

M-Net looking for a new boss for the pay-TV broadcaster's in-house production arm, Magic Factory.

M-Net is looking for a new boss for the South African pay-TV broadcaster's in-house production arm, Magic Factory.

The head of Magic Factory, a position M-Net is now advertising for, will be in charge of producing compelling and relevant programming in high definition (HD) for M-Net's channels.

Sky News has an hour long special programme, A Royal Son, tonight with Anna Botting reporting from Buckingham Palace.


Sky News (DStv 402) has an hour long special programme tonight following the birth of Prince William and Kate's son yesterday.

Anna Botting will present A Royal Son tonight on Sky News at 20:00 (South African time) from Buckingham Palace.

GREAT TIMING. Royal Babies tonight on BBC Knowledge at 21:00 looks at royal pregnancies, births and babies.

BBC Worldwide Channels programmers can smile: BBC Knowledge (DStv 184) - and keep in mind these schedules were compiled months ago - tonight has Royal Babies at 21:00.

"With Kate and William expecting their first child, this programme takes a look at royal pregnancies, births and babies and insight into what lies ahead for the next royal baby," says BBC Knowledge.

Syfy Kids starts as a programming block on KidsCo at 17:00 on weekdays with a roll of the Rubik's Cubes.


Syfy Kids, the new programming block on KidsCo (DStv 308 / TopTV 255), has started and can now be seen daily at 17:00 since yesterday - to remind TV critics, editors and journalists covering television, KidsCo sent over two Rubik's Cubes in a box.

Syfy Kids is a partnership between KidsCo and NBCUniversal's Syfy channel.

In this block Syfy Kids will show the animated Back to the Future, Matt Hatter ChroniclesZuZu & the Supernuffs, Z-Squad, The Future is Wild, Evolution: The Animated Series and Dino Squad.

"We are delighted to announce the launch of Syfy Kids in South Africa exclusively on KidsCo," says Herman McDermott, the managing director of KidsCo. "KidsCo has invested in a strong range of imagination-based content, including the acclaimed Matt Hatter Chronicles, which coupled with our new on-air graphics package, will bring Syfy Kids to life for our young viewers."

BREAKING. Get ready for a ... SHARKNADO! Sharknado coming to Studio Universal on 21 September for South African viewers.


You're reading it here first. 

Umbrellas aint gonna help when you're caught in a ... Sharknado! I can break the news and reveal that Sharknado, the unanimously so-terrible-it's-so-must-see-terrific movie is coming to South African viewers closely on the heels of record buzz in America.

South Africa viewers who will be able to drench themselves in bad acting and Sharknado on Studio Universal (DStv 112) on Saturday 21 September at 21:15. And this is MUST SEE folks.

Sharknado, a B-grade movie with Beverly Hills, 90210 actor and now Chippendales stripper Ian Ziering, and can't act tabloid star Tara Reid created a tsunami of buzz when it was shown in the United States on 11 July.

Tara Reid says she wants to be considered for further roles and Ian Ziering says he enjoyed running around with a chainsaw as his character jumped into a flying shark to cut it up from the inside to free another character.

In Sharknado a tornado - due to a storm - sucks up sharks which then rain down on Los Angeles, devouring their prey from the skies.

Critics simply love the terrible-yet-amazing Sharknado, viewers love the schmaltzy schlockfest, of Sharknado  and it was even the last Tweet of Glee star Cory Monteith before he died of a drug overdose. Now a shark sequel is planned.

Sharknado is actually part of a "Crazy Shark Attacks!" month in September on Studio Universal. Viewers can get ready for Swamp Shark on 7 September, Two Headed Shark Attack on 14 September and Ghost Shark on 28 September.

BBC World News has Born to be a King special documentary today following the birth of the Prince of Cambridge yesterday.


BBC World News (DStv 400 / TopTV 400) has a special documentary, Born to be King, today, following the birth of the son yesterday of Prince William and Kate.

Born to be King with presenter Sophie Raworth is shown on BBC World News today at 15:30 and 21:30 (South African times).

Born to be King will look back on the history of Royal births, the rich tradition and endurance of Royal baby names and the challenges William and Kate could face bringing up the future heir to the throne amidst wide media attention.

Additionally BBC World News is continuing with Royal baby coverage and special reports on the historic news event.

BREAKING. Platco Digital's OpenView HD satellite TV service won't be engaging in licensable activities, says it is merely a platform.

Platco Digital, the new satellite TV operator seeking to launch the new OpenView HD service in South Africa by October with 15 TV channels but which isn't licensed by the South African broadcasting regulator says that it will not be engaging in any licensable activities on its own because it's only providing a platform for free TV channels.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) told TV with Thinus on Monday that Platco Digital's OpenView HD would need to get licensed before it starts broadcasting and that it's never heard of Platco or OpenView HD.

Platco Digital with its head office in Johannesburg is backed by e.tv's parent company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI). HCI owns Sabido Investments, which holds a 67% interest in Platco Digital and a 63% stake in e.tv. Platco Digital is however a separate company housed in a separate building.

Platco Digital wants to start a free satellite TV service with approximately 15 free-to-air standard definition and high definition TV channels which only acquires a once-off installation cost of around R2 000.

"The authority is not aware of any launch of a new satellite television service," says Icasa. "The law is very clear that no broadcasting service can be provided without a valid broadcasting service licence issued by Icasa in terms of the Electronic Communication Act."

Platco Digital says that "in any territory where it operates, Platco Digital willwork with licensed broadcasters to provide viewers access to channels licensed to operate in those territories. Platco Digital will therefore always be in compliance with national broadcasting laws and regulations."

"Platco Digital's South African direct-to-home (DTH) platform, OpenView HD, will not be engaging in any licensable activities on its own behalf as it merely provides technical platform services to licensed free-to-air broadcasters on the basis of their existing licences," says Platco.

"Viewers wishing to access the OpenView HD offering will need to purchase and install a satellite dish and set-top box from retail outlets," says Platco. Approximately 15 TV channels will be available.

"We are excited about participating in the digital television space - there are vast opportunities to grow free television in Southern Africa and drive digital migration and we believe satellite, digital terrestrial television (DTT), mobile TV and other digital platforms can play an important role," says Maxwell Nonge, Platco Digital's managing director.

"Platco Digital has entered into partnerships with a range of companies including satellite providers, leading set-top box (STB) distributors, major retailers and broadcasters. The company is very keen to create a strong free TV platform that will benefit all."

A national roadshow is taking place this week for installers and distributors of OpenView HD to which press has not been invited.

Besides Platco Digital's OpenView HD initiative, e.tv is separately still committed to run a free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel offering working in conjunction with the SABC to make available TV channel clusters broadcasting digitally when South Africa eventually switched from analogue to digital broadcasting, a long-delayed process known as digital migration.

BREAKING. ANN7 is coming to DStv channel 405, causing Russia Today to move to channel 407 and NDTV to move to channel 413 from August.


ANN7, the new 24-hour South African TV news channel is coming to MultiChoice's DStv channel 405, which means that Russia Today (RT) which is currently on channel 405 will be moving to channel 407 and that NDTV which is currently on channel 407 will be moving to channel 413 from August.

RT told TV with Thinus on Monday that the channel is relocating to channel 407 from August. 

MultiChoice responded to a media enquiry today about the channel number changes, saying "MultiChoice would like to advise its customers of a change in the channel number of two news channels on DStv".

"Russia Today (currently channel 405) will be moving to channel 407 and NDTV (currently channel 407) will be moving to channel 413 as from Thursday, 1 August 2013".

ANN7 starting on channel 405 necessitated the news channels' move.

The SABC's 24-hour news channel will likely get DStv channel 404, which means that all three local South African TV news channels will be in a linear grouping next to each other on channels 403, 404 and 405.

BREAKING. New South African satellite TV provider Platco Digital wants to start OpenView HD in October but isn't licensed.

A new South African satellite TV provider Platco Digital wants to start a new direct-to-home (DTH) TV offering to viewers in October but isn't licensed to do as it needs to be for such as service by South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa.

Platco Digital with its head office in Johannesburg is backed by e.tv's parent company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI). HCI owns Sabido Investments, which holds a 67% interest in Platco Digital and a 63% stake in e.tv. Platco Digital is however a separate company housed in a separate building.

Platco Digital has big plans to start a free satellite TV service with multiple free-to-air standard definition and high definition TV channels which only acquires a once-off installation cost of around R2 000.

The service would need to get licensed before it starts broadcasting with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), which makes an October starting date unlikely. Platco Digital doesn't currently have such a licence.

Starting today, Icasa is having public hearings for five possible new licences for new pay-TV broadcasting services with Kagiso TV, Siyaya Free to Air, Mindset Media Enterprises, Close-T Broadcasting Network and Mobile TV who've made the necessary applications in 2012 already.

These presentations are all for subscription television however and not for any free-to-air TV services. There isn't any free-to-air TV service licence hearing scheduled on the Icasa diary.

"The authority is not aware of any launch of a new satellite television service," Icasa tells TV with Thinus.

"Icasa will be having public hearings in respect of the applications received for individual commercial subscription broadcasting services this week.  This process follows the invitation to apply by the authority in 2012 whereby the authority received five applications."

"OpenView HD is not one of the applicants for this particular licensing process and the law is very clear that no broadcasting service can be provided without a valid broadcasting service licence issued by Icasa in terms of the Electronic Communication Act."

In a statement Platco says it wants to "provide carriage to licensed free TV broadcasts locally and the rest of Africa". The company has uplink fascilities in Cape Town and aims to acquire as many channels as possible "to ensure sustainability and will offer both standard and high definition".

Besides Platco Digital's OpenView HD initiative, e.tv is separately still committed to run a free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) channel offering working in conjunction with the SABC to make available TV channel clusters broadcasting digitally when South Africa eventually switched from analogue to digital broadcasting, a long-delayed process known as digital migration.

Platco Digital spokesperson Zenzele Bam declined to answer specific questions around OpenView HD such as whether Platco Digital is licensed to start this service, what the service will cost, and how many channels and what type of channels are envisioned for the platform.

A national roadshow is taking place this week for installers and distributors of OpenView HD to which press has not been invited.

Monday, July 22, 2013

M-Net secures the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards; grabs new drama King & Maxwell for September.


M-Net has secured the broadcasting rights to The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards which the South African pay-TV broadcaster will be showing live and in high definition (HD) early in the morning of 23 September, and again in South African primetime on 23 September at 20:30.

M-Net once again leads as the South African broadcaster with the most Emmy nominated shows.

M-Net also picked up the broadcasting rights to the new drama series King & Maxwell which just started in America and which will start on M-Net (DStv 101) on 19 September at 19:30.

King & Maxwell follows Sean King (Jon Tenney) and Michelle Maxwell (Rebecca Romijn), former secret service agents who solve crimes as private detectives.

The Walking Dead season 4 will start in South Africa on DStv and TopTV on FOX within a week of 13 October when it starts in America.


The fourth season of the zombie drama The Walking Dead will start in South Africa on MultiChoice's DStv and on On Digital Media's TopTV on FOX (DStv 125 / TopTV 180) within days and less than a week after the new season kicks off on 13 October in the United States.

FOX International Channels (FIC) says its committed to rolling out the fourth season of The Walking Dead "across all FOX International Channels markets" since it remains committed to broadcast the series near the launch day and date globally of the AMC channel which shows it in the United States.

FIC says The 4th season of The Walking Dead will start internationally in 120 countries within the same week as the show returns in the United States.

"A 16 episode season of the series will air in two-parts with the first eight hours kicking off the week of 13 October and returning February 2014 with the final eight episodes," says FIC in a press release.

"Internationally season 3 consistently ranked as the number one show on pay-tv, beating out all other completion in major markets and out-performing all prior season averages."

"In the highly anticipated new season, we find Rick and the group fostering a thriving community in the safe haven of the prison. Sadly, in this brutal world, happiness is short-lived and walkers and outside threats are no match for danger brewing inside the fences. The group's home and new way of life will be thoroughly tested, and their struggle to survive has never been so perilous."

Al Jazeera America announces senior executive appointment ahead of the 20 August launch of the new American version of the news channel.

Al Jazeera's new American spin-off new channel Al Jazeera America which will start in the United States next month in the place of the discontinued CurrentTV which finally folded there as well has appointed Kate O'Brian as the president of the American version of the 24-hour news channel financed by Qatar.

Kate O'Brian will work alongside Ehab Al-Shihabi who has been named the interim CEO of Al Jazeera America.

It's not clear what programming of Al Jazeera America such as its planned flagship nightly news programme, America Tonight, would be syndicated and be shown on Al Jazeera English (DStv 406 / TopTV 401), if any.

Al Jazeera America also appointed David Ross as senior vice president of news programming, Marcy McGinnis as senior vice president of newsgathering and Shannon High-Bassalik as senior vice president of documentaries and programmes.

According to The Huffington Post MSNBC (TopTV 410) is losing the TV presenter David Schuster who will be joining Al Jazeera America.

"The groundbreaking American news channel is scheduled to launch on 20 August," says dr. Mostefa Souag, the acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network in a press release.

"As president, Kate O'Brian will be based at Al Jazeera America's headquarters in New York City and will have full responsibility for defining and implementing the editorial strategy and operations across the network, including news, documentary and all other programming."

"Kate's arrival speaks volumes about what we intend to do and how we intend to do it. She is a highly experienced and award-winning journalist who fully understands what Americans want to see and hear when they watch the news. Kate has the vision, tenacity and integrity to ensure that Al Jazeera America will quickly become the success we expect it to be," says dr. Mostefa Souag.

"Al Jazeera America will demonstrate that quality journalism is alive and well in the United States," says Kate O'Brian in the statement. "As I bring everything I learned to this new role I’m looking forward to showing the Al Jazeera viewers that there is a strong demand for the type of in depth reporting for which Al Jazeera is so well known."

MultiChoice ended Afro Music Pop channel; says 'music channel is not popular and for this reason it was terminated on DStv'.

MultiChoice has ended the Afro Music Pop (DStv 326) TV channel on its DStv satellite pay-TV platform, citing its unpopularity under subscribers.

Afro Music was ended on DStv three years after it was added during which time it underwent a name and format change in 2012 from the Afro Music channel to Afro Music Pop.

"We conduct regular research on our channels' performance and we have found that this music channel is not popular and for this reason it was terminated on DStv," says MultiChoice in response to a media enquiry.

Afro Music Pop specialised in Nigerian, South Africa, and other African rhythms mixed with R&B, hip-hop and international pop music.

New minister of communications Yunis Carrim meets with SABC; says digital terrestrial migration, vacant exec positions to be addressed urgently.


The new minister of communications Yunis Carrim and the deputy minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams met with the SABC management, SABC board, trade unions and SABC staff to talk about the public broadcaster's long-delayed digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration process, the SABC's turnaround strategy and critical issues preventing the SABC from moving forward.

"We looked at the need of the filling of critical positions at senior management level and some of the challenges around that," said Yunis Carrim.

"We will be back here in two weeks to take things further. We've set up a joint technical task team without interfering with the operational autonomy of the SABC. We want to help, as a shareholder to assist the SABC to be the fully functioning, effective, public broadcaster it needs to be, and this country so desperately needs," said Yunis Carrim.

"The SABC board and management agreed with us that we need to settle outstanding matters related to digital terrestrial broadcasting migration, including the set-top box issues, so that the project is expediously implemented in all our interests. It was also agreed that challenges in filling senior management posts will be addressed urgently."


"It's very clear that the things that have been delaying our progress he is taking very seriously and is taking them rapidly, in particular matters relating around digital terrestrial television (DTT and the roll-out of DTT and providing appropriate oversight on implementation," said Lulama Mokhobo, the SABC's CEO.

"[He's looking at] the matter of the SABC's chief operating officer (COO), we have had a litigant that position back for a long time; and also looking in general, how do we bring the SABC to where it should be. How do we lift it to where it should be? We are very excited," said Lulama Mokhobo. "It's going to be business unusual at the SABC under his tenure."

"We are determined to play our full role in turning the SABC around," said Ellen Tshabalala, the SABC board chairperson.

The department of communications will be back at the SABC in two weeks.

BREAKING. So You Think You Can Dance SA? returning to SABC1 for a 3rd season on Saturday 17 August at 18:30.


So You Think You Can Dance South Africa? is set to return to South African TV screens for a third season from Saturday 17 August at 18:30 on SABC1.

There's been zero communication about it - in fact nationwide auditions have already started, audition dates have come and gone with zilch in terms of any announcements from SABC1 or anyone else to the press - and So You Think You Can Dance South Africa? is set to return to South African TV screens for a third season in less than a month.

SABC1 already had two seasons of the format dance reality show in 2008 and again in 2010, produced by Rapid Blue. Now the show will be back for a third season as Rapid Blue is also producing another international format dance reality show - Strictly Come Dancing for SABC3.

No word yet on the So You Think You Can Dance SA? presenter or panel of judges for this season.

It's too late to enter if you wanted to and live in Cape Town or Durban or anywhere else than Johannesburg; only the Johannesburg auditions for the show is still happening at a future date on 27 July - the rest has all come and gone.