Netflix and other over-the-top (OTT) streaming services may be enticing subscribers away from DStv, but M-Net has a secret weapon – the Sunday night movie.
Generations of South Africans exposed to DStv will have the recurring 20:00 on Sunday time slot burned into their memories thanks to the popularity of M-Net’s weekly film.
Even though a fair proportion of DStv Premium subscribers have cheap, fast Internet and access to a streaming service like Netflix which delivers on-demand video across a variety of genres, the Sunday night movie does not seem to be going anywhere.
Many South Africans have latched on to the tradition of sitting down to watch the film as it airs after Carte Blanche each week, and no alternative online offerings can tear them away.
To find out more about the local devotion to this specific time slot, we spoke to M-Net channels director Jan du Plessis.
Du Plessis told MyBroadband that the Sunday night movie remains extremely popular and has benefitted from the addition of Catch Up functionality to DStv’s offering.
“The Sunday night movie remains to be a firm favourite among M-Net 101 viewers and the combo of Carte Blanche attracts the channel’s biggest viewership,” du Plessis said.
“What has changed is that viewers can now opt to watch the movie on linear television or Catch Up and that our viewership figures are based on both.”
When asked whether South Africans still religiously watched the Sunday night movie despite the growth of Netflix and other OTT platforms in South Africa, du Plessis said that the time slot was viewed as eagerly as ever by DStv subscribers.
“This is a viewing habit – we curate the best and most popular box office hits for Sunday nights and our subscribers still enjoy this careful curation,” he said.
“‘Sunday Night Movie on M-Net’ is a tradition like Mrs. Ball’s Chutney… one of the things you miss about South Africa when you travel!”
Past and future
The Sunday night movie has been around almost as long as M-Net, and has remained popular since its launch in 1988.
DStv screened Carte Blanche at 19:00 and the film at 20:00 on M-Net for decades, but recently changed this timeslot to accommodate its new Trackers series, which it said has proven very popular.
Following the launch of Trackers on DStv, the Sunday night movie has been moved to 21:00, with the new series taking its previous spot.
“M-Net 101’s schedule will always be dynamic and on the edge of innovative content discovery,” du Plessis said.
“Our strategy to schedule our first ever international co-production Trackers in the traditional movie slot illustrates how much M-Net values this new event mini-series and in the slot we curated over many years.”
“We’re proud to share that Trackers is performing exceptionally well in this slot. The first episode of this production that has been lauded for its high production values, action-packed storylines and brilliant performances, has attracted more than 30% of the DStv Premium audience.”
Du Plessis said that once Trackers ends on 24 November, the blockbuster movie will be back at 20:00 again, no doubt continuing to enjoy its devoted following.
It is apparent from du Plessis’s comments that while Netflix may lure some newer viewers away from traditional broadcasting with on-demand access to widespread content, it cannot replace the tradition of M-Net’s Sunday night movie.
The 20:00 M-Net time slot has become an institution in South Africa, and it doesn’t look to be disappearing any time soon.