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SABC reveals: SABC2 schedule is weak

2014-07-19 14:00
Cape Town – The SABC2 schedule only survives on two pillar programmes – the largely Afrikaans soap 7de Laan at 18:30 and the Venda soap at 21:00; "other than that the prime time schedule is weak".

So wrote Leo Manne, the SABC's general manager for the public broadcaster's TV channels in an internal memorandum he prepared on 30 June to Veronah Duwarkah, the SABC's group executive in charge of television, as "motivation for schedule changes risks and mitigations".

The SABC's has come in for sharp criticism and scorn from viewers after permanently moving the bulk of Afrikaans programming and the SABC’s only daily Afrikaans TV news bulletin from SABC2 to SABC3 permanently – something which the SABC initially denied is going happen.

SABC3 however has the smallest national footprint of all of the SABC's TV channels, making the programming unavailable and inaccessible for millions of South African TV households who can't watch it even if they want to because they don't receive the broadcast signal.

'Schizophrenic nature of SABC2 schedule'

"The schizophrenic nature of the SABC2 schedule" according to the internal memorandum and the content offering to two very unrelated audience segments – being Sotho and Afrikaans viewers "has seen overtake SABC2 as the second most watched TV channel in South Africa over the years to the third most watched with consistent declines continuing".

"Ignoring these declines will severely compromise the viability of the SABC TV network to deliver against its set audience and revenue targets," reads the internal SABC memorandum.

Although the SABC earlier this week said Afrikaans has nothing to do with the dramatic scheduling changes, in the internal memorandum in possession of Channel24, Manne writes that "despite a very strong lead in from 7de Laan, the 19:00 Afrikaans news has been losing audiences over the last couple of years".

"The Afrikaans block of programing at 19:30 to 20:30 which includes the Afrikaans dramas on Tuesday and 50/50 on Mondays loses even more audiences".

"At 20:30 the Sotho news bulletin struggles to perform because of a very weak lead-in from the Afrikaans content".

SABC3 News losing viewers

According to the internal memorandum, the SABC's chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, held a SABC content summit in November 2013 where the SABC Television division presented its strategy forward for the next three years, and which included looking at trends and factors influencing the changing viewing patterns across the South African TV landscape.

Schedule and content decisions for SABC Television were proposed and approved at this SABC content summit in November 2013.

On SABC1 "18:30 is the weakest part of the prime time schedule and hence the introduction of a new local soap offering," says the memo.

"The Nguni bulletin is the strongest bulletin on the network and moving it to the 19:00 slot on SABC1 would weaken the strong bulletin," according to the SABC's internal memorandum.

On SABC3, the SABC memorandum reveals that "the one hour news block has lost significant audience share between 18:30 and 19:30 creating a very weakened lead in for Isidingo at 19:00 despite it being the third best performing program in prime time after Days and Bold".

"The shortening of the 18:30 news bulletin will be revived in the schedule followed by an improved Isidingo and then followed by the Afrikaans News," Manne wrote in the internal memorandum.

Areas not covered by SABC3 'a current minor challenge'

"The movement of the Afrikaans drama's and other content will, within a year of this strategy, ensure a very competitive and advertising attractive audience of LSM 8-10 audiences, while SABC1 and SABC2 deliver mass audiences in LSM 5-8".

The SABC was and is also well aware that SABC3's footprint is smaller and that moving the Afrikaans TV news and other content to SABC3 would take it out of reach of some viewers, but calls it a "current minor challenge".

"The roll out of both digital terrestrial television (DTT) and direct-to-home satellite (DTH) within a year will ensure that any areas not covered by our current transmitter network are filled," states the internal memorandum.

"This current minor challenge though cannot and should not deter the SABC from protecting its current business as it builds for niche multi-channel and platform digital future where special interest groups can be adequately served".

In written media enquiries Channel24 asked the SABC whether the broadcaster wants to comment on the memorandum and its content or explain anything about it. The SABC declined to respond.
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