Cape Town – In its ongoing viewership slide, TV ratings for the SABC has now dropped so shockingly low that some DStv shows – although available to only a much smaller audience due to it being pay-TV – now have more viewers than the most-watched show on SABC3.
Meanwhile timeslot and day changes for moved shows ranging from Zaziwa on SABC1 to 7de Laan on SABC2 has had, as expected, disastrously negative viewership consequences, plummeting in the ratings following inexplicable SABC schedule changes.
7de Laan lost over 400 613 viewers in just one month as viewers fled SABC2 in March following a third timeslot change for the Afrikaans soap within months. The SABC's acting chief operating officer (COO) Bessie Tugwana told parliament in February the soap was moved so that more viewers can watch it.
The erratic scheduling changes and dropping viewership is having a debilitating impact on the SABC's rate card for spot ads and the public broadcaster's advertising income.
During March, the Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) hits Isibaya and Our Perfect Wedding were watched by more South Africans than anything on the SABC's struggling SABC3 channel.
In March SABC3 continued the channel's ongoing viewership nosedive following the former controversial SABC chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng's abrupt order to introduce an expensive, but flopped, 80% local content decree in July 2016.
Isibaya grabbed 1.59 million viewers and Our Perfect Wedding 1.56 million viewers on Mzansi Magic for their most watched episodes in March, more than anything shown on SABC3 where Isidingo was the most watched show with 1.33 million viewers.
On SABC1 the once hugely popular talk show Zaziwa that used to lure 3.5 million has dropped more than a million viewers with its misguided and abrupt move from Thursdays to Sundays since February.
Zaziwa went from once of the most watched shows to not even featuring in SABC1's monthly top 20 most watched shows list.
Good news is that all three of SABC1's top shows edged somewhat higher with Uzalo, still in first place (8.52 million, 69.2 share), Generations The Legacy (8.43 million, 68.8 share), and Skeem Saam (6.3 million, 60.8 share) all gained a few viewers from their February tallies of 8.4 million, 7.89 million and 6.1 million viewers.
That's however where the good news ends. Only marginally up in March on SABC1 were the Zulu news (4.3 million viewers) from 4.06 million, the Xhosa news (4.12 to 4.18 million viewers), Ses' Top La from 3.9 to 4.03 million viewers, and the perennial Khumbul'Ekhaya from 2.72 to 2.74 million viewers.
Selimathunzi dropped from 3.58 to 3.45 million viewers, Nyan Nyan from 3.52 to 3.09 million viewers, Ngempela from 3.24 to 2.76 million viewers, and Mokapelo from 2.9 to 2.6 million viewers.
The big story on SABC2 is how 7de Laan's viewership keeps dropping like a rock. 7de Laan in an ongoing ratings slide, lost a further over 400 613 viewers on SABC2 in just one month during March.
Shocking timeslot changes and the abrupt removal of the weekend omnibus in March saw the Hillside soap plummet further, now down to 2.05 million viewers (25.3 share) in its new 18:00 timeslot.
That's down from February's 2.45 million and January's 2.78 million viewers.
The Afrikaans news bulletin on SABC2 also subjected to yet another new timeslot is likewise on the same trajectory as Cape Town's dam levels. From 2.1 million in January and 1.7 million in February the Afrikaans news dropped further to 1.34 million viewers in March in its new 18:30 timeslot.
The Sotho news bulletin also dropped from 1.31 to 1.21 million viewers in March while the Venda news bulletin had only 928 145 viewers.
The 11th South African Film and Television Awards, held at Sun City this year for the first time, wasn't a ratings grabber either. The 2017 Saftas was down at 1.55 million viewers from last year's 1.77 million viewers.
Muvhango is still SABC2's most watched show, up marginally in March from 6.14 to 6.24 million viewers, with consumer show Speak Out rising from 2.5 to 2.86 million viewers as the 4th most watched show on SABC2 for the month.
Drama series Bone of my Bones (2.41 million viewers) joined telenovela Keeping Score holding mostly steady at 2.5 million viewers (down slightly from February's 2.79 million viewers) to help prop up the upper-end of SABC2's ratings during March.
"Will SABC3 survive?" asked a veteran independent TV producer this week as SABC3's ratings that can hardly go lower fell further in March.
There's now more people watching DStv than anything on SABC3, with Isidingo at 1.33 million slightly up from February's 1.15 million but steady with January's 1.37 million viewers as the most watched programme on SABC3.
The SABC's flagship English TV news bulletin slid further from 893 617 to 756 753 viewers.
The perennially immune American soap The Bold and the Beautiful has finally also succumbed to the channel's downward ratings spiral, down from 890 100 to a shocking 665 445 viewers for its most watched episode.
The abruptly cancelled High Rollers still made a showing, luring 575 987 viewers (down from February's 611 468) as the 13th most watched programme on SABC3 during March.
Snakes upended e.tv's ratings in March, slithering to an unexpected ratings surprise.
The stable Scandal! remained e.tv's top draw, up from 4.46 million to 4.78 million viewers.
Yet the perenially second most watched show, soap Rhythm City – also rising nicely from 3.05 to 3.36 million viewers – got dethroned from its 2nd position by Sunday night movies.
Shanghai Noon (3.6 million), The Marine (3.57 million) and Snakes on a Plane on 12 March luring 3.48 million viewers, gobbled up the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most watched slots on e.tv for March, fueling e.tv's ongoing – and astounding – audience share growth.
Hit Disney films from Tangled (2.84 million) to Frozen (2.51 million) and Beauty and the Beast (2.54 million), to Disney series from Blackish (2 million) and local shows like Gold Diggers (2.77 million) and Z'bondiwe (1.95 million) are all clocking up massive audiences on e.tv as viewers are switching from the SABC to the red-letter channel with a better balance of local and latest international programming.
Once strongly dependent on basically wrestling to prop up its schedule, e.tv is dramatically and quickly TV-terraforming, with WWE Wrestling Raw (still a hit at 2.55 million) and WWE Wrestling SmackDown (2.21 million) no longer the rating smashers onto which e.tv must hang its entire schedule offering.
Miss South Africa 2017 broadcast on Mzansi Magic and M-Net made a showing luring over 874 027 viewers in March, where Mzansi Magic continues to reign supreme with its Isibaya, Our Perfect Wedding, Saints and Sinners and Date My Family as the 4 most watched shows not just on M-Net packaged channel but on all of DStv.
Further down the DStv most watched list, Mzansi Magic's The Queen, Greed & Desire, Utatakho, Papa Penny Ahee and The Ranakas crowded out the competition. On DStv it is Mzansi Magic's world and viewers gladly live in it.
The SuperSport 4 (DStv 204) channel proved a March most valuable player on DStv.
The soccer channel made a good showing during March, grabbing multiple top spots with the Absa Premiership, with 551 364 viewers for Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando on 4 March, and 478 209 viewers for the Baroka FC vs Kaizer Chiefs match on 18 March.
Besides Mzansi Magic, SuperSport 4 is the channel on MultiChoice's DStv that proved the biggest viewership draw during March.
The Nedbank Cup's matches on 11 and 12 March secured SuperSport 4 two further spots on DStv's top 30 most watched list, as well as the Soccer Wrap (449 618) and Soccer Build-Up (416 376) shows.
The FA Cup match on 13 March between Chelsea and Manchester United (338 942), and the Uefa Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain that scored 311 907 viewers added to SuperSport 4's champion channel tally.