Johannesburg – On Thursday night a phalanx of stars – including TV talent and media, TV executives, politicians and musicians – from across the entire Africa showed up at pay-TV broadcaster M-Net’s dazzling 30th birthday celebration.
Toasting with Moët & Chandon champagne as massive surround sound video walls replayed iconic M-Net nostalgia ranging from beloved yesteryear M-Net and SuperSport themesongs to modern day TV magic, guests inside the massive marquee tent at MultiChoice City in Randburg “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” at three decades of unforgettable television entertainment.
Afropop star Claire Johnston from Mango Groove sang Special Star as guests tucked away at everything from smoked salmon trout and nordic shrimp to beef mignon with potatoes, followed by a dessert and cheese emporium.
Following a magical exhibition of M-Net highlights over the past 30 years, guests watched in delight as M-Net, that dug deep into its video vault archive, took attendees on a “remember that?” visual journey of sound and colour through its iconic programming of the past three decades.
Other performers included The Voice SA winner Richard Stirton and African songbird Lira, moving the audience with several songs including an emotional In Memoriam tribute to all the people who’ve worked to bring the M-Net magic over the past 30 years and who had passed away as their names flashed across the giant screens.
'The magic is in the stories we tell'
The South African comedian Trevor Noah, now host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, appeared in a recorded stand-up act throughout the night as a hologram projection and said M-Net didn’t stop with just one TV channel when it launched in October 1986 “but thought about the whole African continent”.
“M-Net is an African show, this is an African channel and they took it out there. And you’ve got different magic now – not just Mzansi Magic. You’ve got Maisha Magic Bongo, Maisha Magic and Africa Magic!”
Noah said while Americans have and know “ketchup” as tomato sauce, South Africans and Africans know and love DStv Catch Up – MultiChoice’s TV on demand video service.
“We’re going to be watching on our phones, we’re going to be watching on our laptops. We don’t even know what TV of the future will be. For all we know it’s going to be on the inside of our eyes.”
“But the most, most important thing, and you know this if you’re an African,” said Noah, “is that the story will always remain the most important thing – and I’m glad that M-Net invests in the community and are producing the content that people really want to see. TV is merely a platform but the magic is in the stories that we tell.”
Ferdinand Rabie, the first winner of Big Brother South Africa, told Channel24 “I just want to thank M-Net who ensured that when I was a high school laaitie there was something to watch on a Sunday evening when you’re in school res after a wonderful weekend. And thanks for throwing me out there and giving exposure with Big Brother!”
Bob van Dijk, Naspers CEO said M-Net’s “profound success” wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the media and stakeholders without whom “M-Net could have never been what it is today”.
Yolisa Phahle, M-Net CEO said “M-Net would not have been where it is today without the loyal support of our viewers”.
'M-Net has helped to give Africa a different voice'
Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, M-Net’s regional director for West Africa, told Channel24 “congratulations M-Net, they’ve achieved a lot in three decades, investing in talent and telling African stories in a unique way.
“Local language is a big thing. My part of M-Net is looking after Africa. A lot of in investment has gone into talent and building talent. We’ve got big shows like Tinsel going into its 10th season. It’s a huge investment. M-Net has helped to give Africa a different voice; to help people see Africa in a different light.
“Africa isn’t doom and gloom. There’s tremendous talent in Africa and M-Net Africa helps to showcase the talent in front of and behind the screen and I’m personally so proud to work for M-Net and to manage the Africa Magic brand.”
Lalla Hirayama, the face of M-Net Movies and presenter of Lalla Land said “Happy, happy birthday M-Net! You’re such an incredible force in African television the past three decades. To be part of a brand that’s delivered so much magic to the homes of South Africans is such an honour. God bless you and may we see another 60, 90 years of magic!”
Gideon Khobane, SuperSport CEO told Channel24 on Thursday night that “M-Net changed all our lives. When I was young we watched Open Time. Then we got a decoder. Then started working and got DStv. It’s been the pinnacle of entertainment.
“I’ve worked at SABC and when I was there I said to myself one day I want to work at M-Net. And then I’ve been fortunate enough to work at M-Net. Now I’m at SuperSport and SuperSport was M-Net’s baby. So congratulations and all the best for another 30 years.”
The minister of communication Faith Muthambi said M-Net introduced reality TV with shows like Big Brother, Idols, Survivor SA. “The original channels and shows it created reflects the diversity of languages and tastes of viewers. M-Net has made a huge investment in talent and industry to create this magic.”
Nolo Letele, MultiChoice South Africa chairperson said “[in] 30 years of history M-Net hasn’t rested on their laurels. They continue to find new formats in broadcasting. They broadcast in local languages. And they invest substantially in local productions. May the magic never stop.”