SA’s astounding record TV ratings surge continues as viewers seek out local shows and news

Katlego Danke in 'Gomora'. (Photo: DStv)
Katlego Danke in 'Gomora'. (Photo: DStv)

With the country still in a state of lockdown, South Africa's record TV ratings surge in March continued in April.

On the SABC's TV channels the locally-produced weekday primetime dramas Uzalo, Generations and Skeem Saam on SABC1, Rhythm City on e.tv, and the top shows on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service during April all shattered their own records to reach their highest viewership for episodes ever.

Even the SABC's struggling SABC3 channel logged a one-night-only viewership surge of over 3 million viewers when it broadcast the Contagion pandemic movie that pulled 4.46 million viewers. The channel's top rating is usually just over 1 million viewers.

The SABC's most-watched show Uzaloa show that has now gone into repeats in May – has kept up its already-record ratings surge in April and climbed from 10.2 million viewers to 11.4 million viewers. It means that the show that already added a million viewers in March, added another 1.2 million for its most-watched episode in April.

Generations that increased from 8.027 million viewers in February to 8.2 million in March added another whopping 1.3 million viewers to 9.54 million for April.

Meanwhile, Skeem Saam that surged from 5.9 million in February to a whopping 7.25 million viewers in March leaped another 1.6 million viewers to 8.84 million. It means that the show added an unheard-of 3 million viewers just since the start of 2020.

On SABC2 the Venda weekday drama Muvhango remained as the channel's most-watched show, at a level 5.2 million viewers.

SABC News coverage broadcast on 21 April on SABC2 pulled an astounding 5.01 million viewers, while president Cyril Ramaphosa's national address on 23 April on additional Covid-19 relief measures pulled 4.68 million viewers, and his address on 9 April lured 3.4 million viewers.

Ratings for these live presidential speeches dwarf the ratings of shows like 7de Laan than increased from 2 million to 2.16 million viewers in April on SABC2, and Lithapo that climbed from 1.79 million to 2.1 million viewers.

SABC3 that is still facing immense systemic problems had an eye-popping reality check about what the channel is really capable of. The Steven Soderbergh directed film Contagion from 2011 did numbers not seen on SABC3 for decades, pulling an eye-watering 4.46 million viewers (12.4 AR, 49.2 share) on Sunday night 5 April. It means that one out of every two TV sets in the country that were turned on that night were tuned to SABC3 and Contagion.

Besides the mere audience share, the 4.46 million viewers is extremely significant since the channel hardly cracks the 1 million viewership mark. It also means that advertisers who pre-booked 30-second spots during the timeslot got a massive bonus – scoring three times as many viewers against the guaranteed audience level and spot rate they had paid for.

Interesting to note is that Top Billingalthough cancelled – remains a very strong performer and keeps punching far above its weight, even in repeats, luring 634 529 viewers in a highly-desirable demographic, during April as SABC3's 15th most-watched show for the month, indicating that it was very likely a mistake to cancel it. This Top Billing performance also comes from a Saturday 18:00 audience – traditionally the least-watched day and time of the week.

On the free-to-air commercial broadcaster e.tv its two locally produced prime time soaps and double-barrel top performers also continued to build their lead with Scandal! retaining its crown as the most-watched show on the channel. After it already upped its rating from 4.8 million to 5.17 million in March, it grew further to 6.255 million viewers in April.

Rhythm City that lifted from 3.4 million to 3.8 million in March added – no typo here – another 1 million viewers in April to reach 4.863 million viewers. Imbewu increased from 4.1 million to 4.7 million viewers.

Meanwhile, Family Feud South Africa, a localised version with Steve Harvey made its first ratings showing, luring 2.61 million viewers (7.26 AR).

PAY-TV ON THE UP AND UP

While MultiChoice is going without live sports on SuperSport, it didn't impact the DStv ratings negatively where the ratings dam level likewise kept rising to new highs in April.

The new Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) drama series Gomora made a ratings debut at 1.7 million viewers in late-March it surged to a high of 2.51 million viewers in April, toppling The Queen (something usually only achieved by reality singing competition Idols) to become the most-watched show on DStv.

Ferguson Films' The Queen doesn't have to feel bad, though. It edged up from 2.2 million to 2.36 million viewers in April.

All of DStv's most-watched shows became even more most-watched in April. Our Perfect Wedding with pre-recorded new episodes of weddings before the lockdown climbed from 1.83 million to a phenomenal 1.9 million viewers, Date My Family went from 1.63 million to 1.79 million viewers, Mhakwethu increased from 1.34 million to 1.475 million viewers, while The River kept flowing stronger from 1.165 million to 1.4 million viewers.

DRAMATIC TV NEWS RATINGS SURGE

A dramatic surge in TV news consumption by South African audiences continue to propel TV news ratings to new record levels across almost all channels, never before seen in the country.

As the international and local devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic weaves a horrific, compelling news narrative, viewers keep coming back daily and keep tuning in, in record numbers to South African TV news bulletins in every language, across multiple channels.

eNCA (DStv 403) remains the most-watched South African TV news channel had the most-watched news programme on pay-TV with 912 336 viewers in March, and saw Nightline surging to 1.503 million viewers in April as the 6th most-watched piece of programming on all of DStv during the month. Full View on SABC News (DStv 404) logged a monthly best of 894 917 viewers.

The Xhosa TV news bulletin on SABC1 - still the most-watched TV news bulletin in South Africa – jumped a staggering 1.2 million viewers from February to March to 5.39 million viewers, increased further in April to 6.215 million viewers, an increase of almost another million. The Xhosa TV news is now South Africa and SABC1's fourth most-watched show.

The Zulu TV news bulletin (SABC1) that went from February's 3.94 million viewers to 5.28 million in March added almost 800 000 viewers to reach 6.014 million viewers in April.

SABC2's Tswana TV news bulletin likewise gained further viewers – in fact, the audience ... doubled. After it showed a massive increase in viewers to 1.75 million in March, it grew to 3.654 million viewers in April, adding an unbelievable 1.9 million viewers in just one month.

The Afrikaans TV news bulletin that grew from 1.38 million in February to 1.6 million in March edged up to 1.729 million viewers, while the SABC's flagship English SABC News TV bulletin on SABC3 grew from 650 306 sets of eyeballs in March to 1.034 million viewers.

On e.tv the viewership of its most-watched TV news bulletin went from 1.81 million viewers to 2.513 million viewers.