SA soapies battle for hearts and minds

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Igazi cast members
Igazi cast members

It’s war on the South African soapie front as every broadcasting channel wants to win the hearts and minds of everyone addicted to drama and melodrama.

M-Net’s Mzansi Magic has slowly been outperforming its competitors and has pulled out all the stops to bring viewers “authentic and captivating” local content.

This gives other soapie writers sleepless nights, as they are challenged to create even more refreshing story lines.

Although the SABC is still the leading channel, it’s been a while since it produced any notable local entertainment.

But SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told City Press on Friday that they did not feel threatened by Mzansi Magic or e.tv.

“We are comfortable that our programmes are the most watched in the country,” said Kganyago.

He said that just because shows from other channels were trending on social media did not mean they were the most watched in the country.

However, the last time the SABC produced a provocative new story was a telenovela, Uzalo, which has graced our screens since February last year.

It told the story of two controversial young men who carried the hopes and legacies of their family dynasties, the Mdletshes and the Xulus.

In less than five months, Uzalo, produced by Gugu Zuma-Ncube, Pepsi Pokane and Duma Ka Ndlovu, took the number one spot on SABC1, pushing the famed Generations to becoming the second most watched show on SABC1 for the first time in more than 15 years.

Generations mastermind Mvundi Vundla is still struggling to reclaim the number one spot, though Generations remains one of the most watched shows in Mzansi.

“I have lost and gained some viewers, and it was inevitable that things wouldn’t be the same between the old and new Generations,” he told City Press in November last year.

According to the SA TV Authority (TVSA) ratings released in December last year, Uzalo boasted an average viewership of 6.5 million, while Generations – The Legacy sat on 4.9 million viewers.

The competition is getting tougher for Generations, as e.tv has also upped its game.

Its long-running soap Scandal has grown its viewership to 4.1 million (watch out, Generations), while the channel’s popular drama Rhythm City galloped to 2.7 million, with the new drama series Umlilo hot on its heels, attracting 1.9 million viewers in 14 months.

Unfortunately, the latest TV viewership figures were not available on TVSA’s website because of a change of policy to charge R50 000 per year to access the data.

Marlon Davids, e.tv’s channels managing director, told City Press this week that their content teams were working with various production companies to find “captivating content”.

“We do extensive viewer research and pride ourselves on reflecting everyday stories that [echo] the lives of South Africans,” said Davids.

Mzansi Magic’s policy is that it does not reveal the ratings for its shows. Although popular shows on the channel, such as Isibaya and Igazi, clearly have a huge following, we remain in the dark about their viewership figures.

All that Mzansi Magic’s head of public relations, Nondumiso Mabece, was prepared to say was that Isibaya, launched three years ago, had more than 1 million viewers.

“We can only mention Isibaya figures,” she admitted.

For the past two weeks, Mzansi Magic’s new drama series, Igazi, has been trending on social media and has become the talk of the town.

Olwethu Sipuka, a viewer, tweeted last week Sunday: “Igazi is actually a top-shelf local production.”

It is a drama that tells the story of a Xhosa royal family in conflict over the nation’s throne. The series has a stellar cast that includes Vatiswa Ndara, and former Generations actors Thami Mngqolo, Anga Makubalo, Zikhona Sodlaka and Zenande Mfenyana.

Mzansi Magic has been lauded for creating jobs and discovering new talent.

When City Press asked M-Net’s director of local entertainment channels, Nkateko Mabaso, how the channel identified its “topical story lines”, he said: “Our strategy has always been very consumer-centric, which is about investing in understanding our consumer’s needs and delivering on them.

“We therefore look out for stories that will put our viewers on the edge of their seats with excitement, intrigue and entertainment,” he said.

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