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More drama as another local soapie gets canned!

Isabel Smit, Implementation Planner at The MediaShop

We all love a good drama.  Following our favourite characters, seeing them grow, falling in love and witnessing the newly created love triangles.  Discussing or more accurately, arguing with your friends and fellow soap lovers on how the latest plot will end.

Well, in line with the 2020 plot, here’s another surprise!  On the 16th of July 2021, one of the most popular and highest ranking TV shows’ plot will come to an end.  After 13 seasons, with the first episode that aired on the 9th of July 2007, Rhythm City’s last episode will be aired on e.tv.

Not the plot twist we saw coming, or did we?

With the TV channels fighting to keep the audience’s attention, creative storytelling and new ideas are more important than ever.  We all know the phrase local is lekker and over the past few years, local TV productions have performed really well.  Not only do they fulfil language requirements but they also have to inspire and entertain jaded audiences.  Customers are more demanding and diversity of choice is reshaping the local drama and soapie categories. According to Futurefact 2019, 86% of South African adults agree that they “like to watch TV programmes where our social and cultural issues are part of the story”.  This is evident in the Top 20 programmes where 90% are locally produced shows.

It is important that producers and channels get local content and mandates right.  The SABC for example, have to serve both a public broadcasting service and a public commercial service mandate.  ICASA sets local content quotas of 55% for the public broadcast channels (SABC1 and 2) and 35% for the public commercial service (SABC3).  The SABC Annual Report of 2019 shows that all three channels exceeded the local content requirements.

Quality content is key, shows need to be able to continuously inspire and connect with the viewer. Audience ratings is probably the most basic test to a programme’s success.  Good ratings in turn draws advertising revenue.

Take Uzalo for example;  the most popular drama on SABC 1 with a viewership of 11.4 million people in April down to 8.8 million in October.  The producers of this show were told to come up with a more creative story line or stand the risk of being canned after it was criticized for being “boring”.  This seems like a Generations 2.0 scenario.

What started off as a three-month contract, Rhythm City has accumulated millions of viewers over the past 13 years and peaked at almost six million viewers in 2020.  As a local e.tv production, no doubt the impact will be felt on your TV plans, with one spot accounting for over 9% reach against an All Adults audience. It is consistently ranked in the Top 10 most-watched prime time soap operas in the country.

The show has taken us from a four roomed home, following the Generos and the Ndlovu empires in the entertainment space. Moving between the townships and the suburbs, filled with industry conflicts, backstabbing, love and pain, good and evil to winning the Best TV Soap award at the 2020’s Saftas.

E.tv has given no specific reason for the cancellation, other than “part of a business strategy”.  Audience numbers were expected to increase over the lockdown period, but the numbers have gradually reduced back to almost 4mil.  This opens up the speculation as to why the show is being cancelled. Their managing director, Marlon Davids, said in a statement that “e.tv continues to look forward to fulfilling its mandate of producing exceptional and relevant local content”.

What we do know is that it will be replaced with another locally produced show. Given the revenue that e.tv has gained for Rhythm City in advertising spend in October alone (over R35mill), we can expect that it must be something that they believe will drive not only viewership but also increased revenue. We will watch this space…

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