SABC1’s Uzalo tops whopping 9.1 million viewers

The cast of Uzalo. (Facebook)
The cast of Uzalo. (Facebook)

Cape Town – SABC1’s weekday drama Uzalo nears the end of its third season with an ongoing ratings rise and has now topped 9.18 million viewers as it keeps adding viewers and widening the gap between any other competitors as South Africa's most watched TV show.

Uzalo, produced by Stained Glass TV, grabbed 9.18 million viewers for its most watched episode in August on SABC1, streaks ahead of competitors like Generations - The Legacy, and has continued its steady, massive ratings rise.

The 9 186 516 viewers makes Uzalo the SABC, SABC1, and South Africa's most watched TV programme by far.

Uzalo's viewership is actually even slightly more but not currently quantifiable: Besides the 9.1 million viewers on the linear SABC1 channel which is used to compile South Africa's official TV ratings, thousands more are watching the episodes on YouTube.

MultiChoice has also added Uzalo to its DStv Catch Up service that makes on-demand and delayed viewing possible with Uzalo episodes that can be watched in the high definition (HD) standard that it was filmed in and that is something that's impossible for the SABC, that is still transmitting analogue TV signals, to show.

The steady viewership growth of the isiZulu show with subtitles the past year, created by Duma Ndlovu and executive produced by Gugulethu Zuma-Ncube, is largely due to a massive increase by the writers in the amount of melodrama, incredible tension and eye-popping characters without fully going over-the-top.

It manages to cleverly skirt the very fine line between being realistic and outrageous - something it shares with only one other drama on TV, The Queen on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) that is a weekday series only accessible to a pay-TV audience on DStv.

Since 2017 viewership of the KwaMashu set drama kept surging with Uzalo that dominated South Africa's TV ratings with gasp-inducing story lines that Mmamitse Thibedi, Uzalo's creative director credits to the gripping writing, cast and relatable plots.

In August, with an audience share of over 72%, almost three quarters of all South African TV sets that were turned on between 20:30 and 21:00 on weekdays, were tuned to Uzalo on SABC1.

Jaw-dropping plot twists

In July and August millions of South Africans watched the jaw-dropping plot twists of Pastor Mdletshe's marriage unraveling due to the revelation of his secret love child, Mumsy.

Viewers likewise buzzed over actor Khaya Dladla, portraying the character GC, who was forced to choose between family, tradition and love after he was revealed to be leading a shocking double existence – the out-and-loud hairdresser in KwaMashu on the one hand, and the macho, heterosexual heir to the royal house deep in rural KwaMashu on the other.

"We're really focused on creating story lines that get South Africans talking," says Mmamitse Thibedi.

"Our inspiration is South African society, and the amazing stories that our country has to share."

"It is our privilege to be able to bring the various issues to screen-life, and create a platform to entertain, educate and generate dialogue and debate. We're grateful that they resonate, and will continue to deliver plots that keep our audiences enthralled," says Thibedi.

It's not clear if Uzalo's 4th season will follow seamlessly after the third season but as one of the last remaining revenue drivers for the struggling public broadcaster, the SABC can ill-afford to lose the viewership that the drama series is drawing to the 20:30 timeslot.

At the beginning of September South Africa's parliament was told that while its the down-and-out and ratings-challenged SABC3, the broadcaster's only commercial TV channel, that is supposed to bring in the revenue to support the public broadcasting services side, it has become SABC1 that is now supporting the struggling SABC3.