The Generations gap

2014-10-05 15:00

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Was youth drama Skeem Saam really the best choice to replace Generations when it went off air, asks Thinus Ferreira

It wasn’t a fiendish plot hatched by the evil Ntsiki that took Generations away from your TV screen; it was just disastrous telenomics.

Now, SABC1 has had to move the early evening educational youth drama Skeem Saam into the 8pm primetime slot until Generations, The Next Generation, returns to the hottest spot on the box from December 1.

The choice of Skeem Saam is most likely one of desperation. Although quite a few new dramas are in commission, SABC1’s local series cupboard is pretty bare.

Skeem Saam’s new 6.30pm slot has proved a ratings coup. When SABC1 reintroduced the show as a weekday drama in the middle of July, viewers soon got used to its new daily, serialised nature and an interesting thing happened: it did major damage.’s most watched show, Rhythm City, which airs at the same time, suddenly lost a whopping 2?million viewers. Take a guess where they went. It happened because at 6.30pm the younger viewers (and some older ones) watching Rhythm City found a story as compelling, if not more compelling, and they wanted to invest their time in it.

However, it is unlikely that Skeem Saam will be able to hold on to Generations’ viewers at 8pm, where it will have to pull a much heavier wagon. What is quite likely to happen is that both slots will be damaged by the decision.

But were there other options for SABC1 to guarantee the Generations’ ratings lead at 8pm? Actually, yes. The X Factor SA is big on-air property and could do with some more exposure and more airtime. It could conceivably come to the rescue with some B-roll quickly spun into proper primetime ratings gold.

Currently, SABC1 has one episode of The X Factor SA a week, which, like SA’s Got Talent and Idols, is a general entertainment talent show meant for prime time – meant to capture and court large audiences. It is perfectly suited to do some heavy lifting.

SABC1 executives could quickly have told The X Factor SA producers – and still can – to package and deliver at least one or two additional weekly half-hour episodes. Instead of diluting the main episode of the week, additional half-hour episodes would allow viewers to get to know and bond with contestants – a crucial ingredient for a successful season of a talent search competition.

There’s also another option. Because of Generations, SABC1 is in the middle of a schedule management crisis, so why didn’t it look to the crisis management specialist in vogue? Two words: Olivia Pope.

If SABC1 takes The Fixer from its sister channel SABC3 (the SABC’s content hub already secured the licensing rights), the first and second breathtaking seasons of the antics of Washington spin doctor Olivia Pope – played by Kerry Washington – could be plopped into the must-fill weekday slots during October and November.

The high-quality series, with its extremely dramatic soap element and massive twists and turns, will not only grab viewers, but make it impossible for them to tune out.

Instead of Skeem Skaam, it’s a given that Olivia Pope would approve of The Fixer on SABC1 as her solution to the channel’s generational primetime problem.

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