SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:
When the 2019 South African Film and Television Awards nominations were announced, MultiChoice walked away with the most nominated shows in all major categories: feature film, TV comedy, TV drama, soap, and telenovela. MultiChoice was also the most nominated broadcaster overall with more than 150 nominations.
Yolisa Phahle, CEO for General Entertainment at MultiChoice answered some questions about how MultiChoice approaches original content:
Are these nominations a big deal for MultiChoice? How did you react?
This is a fascinating time to be in TV – we talk of ‘peak TV’ thanks to the flood of international content – there are more new shows out there than can possibly be watched. On top of that video-on-demand services are going direct to consumers, meaning broadcasters have more competition. For MultiChoice this means working even harder as an African storyteller to earn viewing time with our customers. So yes, these nominations are absolutely a big deal – we’ve invested heavily in local content and it really does mean something to have that recognised. How did I react? Well, the nominations came out on a Friday, so a quick glass of fizz was in order. We’ll also be having a party to celebrate with all of the amazing producers who’ve worked with us.
How important is owned local content to MultiChoice vs buying international content? Do you see it as a differentiator vs Netflix?
Owned local content is a huge differentiator. People care about their stories, their language, and the reality of the lives they live and aspire to live: African stories told in an authentic voice. Hollywood shows most definitely have their place but equally if not more important are relevant stories that speak to people’s own experiences. We have a duty to tell our stories not only because people want to see them but also because we have an industry that we believe in and want to grow.
Do you see the mix of originals vs international content changing in the future?
There’s no question that you’ll be seeing a greater volume of originals coming from MultiChoice. It’s a mind-shift from saying we aggregate the content made by others to saying we’re the ones telling Africa’s stories.
How much autonomy do the various units have when creating their own content – is it strongly centrally driven or highly decentralised? What role does MultiChoice play?
Africa is a diverse continent, so when it comes to telling Africa’s stories we need to reflect this. The best way we’ve found to do that is give our various production teams as much autonomy as possible. MultiChoice’s role is primarily to provide advice and support, and secondarily to coordinate and ensure quality.
You’ve branded Showmax-owned content as Showmax Originals but you don’t do that for other entities like 1Magic or kykNET – why is that?
Great question! It’s something we’ve been asking ourselves. MultiChoice has been producing in effect MultiChoice Originals for years, but we never branded it that way. It’s something we’re looking at now. We invest billions supporting local production – we’re in fact the leading producer of pan-African content – and we need to do a better job highlighting that work.
Yolisa was appointed as CEO of General Entertainment for the MultiChoice Group in late 2017. Prior to that she was the CEO of M-Net.