South Africa’s most-watched TV shows

SABC 1 soap Uzalo was South Africa’s most-watched TV show in November — and every month of 2022 for which South African TV audience ratings have been released.

That is according to the latest television audience measurement (Tams) data provided by the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRCSA).

The BRCSA analyses viewership numbers using “people meter” technology provided by reputed market research firm Nielsen.

This approach uses a panel of 1,620 homes representative of the broader TV-watching population.

These homes have Nielsen Unitam measuring devices installed on their TVs to detect what programmes they are watching and for how long.

Although many South Africans have made the switch to online video streaming services in recent years, the reality is that the vast majority still rely on television broadcasting for entertainment and news.

Digital TV Research previously projected that Netflix could have 2.61 million subscribers across the entire African continent by the end of 2021, doubling to 5.84 million by 2026.

Across the entire subscription video-on-demand sector, the business intelligence company projected 5.11 million subscribers by the end of 2021, tripling to 15.06 million by 2026.

South Africa and Nigeria would each supply around 2.3 million net additions. They will be the only two countries on the continent with over a million subscribers in the next five years.

Back in the traditional broadcast TV world, the BRCSA’s data shows that the most popular shows in November 2022 had well over four million viewers glued to a single episode.

The most-watched among these was an episode SABC 1’s Uzalo broadcast on 3 November 2022, which recorded a viewership figure of roughly 5.67 million.

That is not a strange place for the soap to find itself. It also topped viewership stats in the ten other months of the year.

Uzalo was followed by an episode of E-tv soap Scandal broadcast on the same day, which reached about 4.78 million viewers.

SABC 1 also had the third-most watched episode, with another soap — Generations: The Legacy — amassing 4.51 million viewers on 29 November 2022.

Rounding out the top five were two more soaps — E-tv’s House of Zwide and SABC 1’s Skeem Saam — which had their most-watched episodes draw around 3.96 million and 3.91 million viewers.

The table below summarises the viewership of the three most-watched single broadcasts on SABC 1, SABC 2, SABC 3, and E-tv, in November 2022.

Most-watched TV shows in South Africa — November 2022
Rank Programme Viewership of most-watched episode
1 Uzalo 5,671,465
2 Generations: The Legacy 4,509,223
3 Skeem Saam 3,910,369
1 Muvhango 1,728,874
2 Muvhango Repeat 1,235,545
3 7de Laan 883,330
1 Con Air 588,151
2 Serengeti 575,617
3 News 496,443
1 Scandal 4,784,687
2 House of Zwide 3,964,282
3 The Black Door 2,231,199
1 Uyajola 9/9 904,082
2 Gomora 858,986
3 Idols SA 739,426

Soaps seem to be the lifeblood of the analysed channels and broadcasters.

On SABC 2, the top five most-watched episodes, and the top three broadcasts with the highest number of viewers were soaps.

The most-watched TV show on a paid-for service — DStv’s Moja Love reality show Uyajola 9/9 — fell short of 1 million viewers.

The vast majority of the most-watched broadcasts were available on free-to-air TV channels.

Big change for South African TV coming in 2023

Since the dawn of television in South Africa, free-to-air channels have been broadcast through highly inefficient analogue TV signals.

That is finally set to come to an end on 31 March 2023 — the latest deadline set by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) for South Africa’s total analogue switch-off.

Barring any further legal challenges from detractors, all terrestrial television broadcasts in the country will be digital.

Viewers must have a modern TV with a digital tuner, a satellite TV system, or a decoder-like digital terrestrial TV set-top box (STB) to keep receiving free-to-air channels.

The government has supplied indigent households with monthly incomes less than R3,000 with free boxes. Roughly 1.7 million households registered for them.

As of November 2022, 185,382 still had to get their boxes installed. According to the minister, the department would finish these installations in just over three months.

On instruction from the minister, state-owned signal distributor Sentech gradually started switching off the SABC’s analogue transmitters from March 2021.

Most of the country’s provinces no longer have analogue SABC transmissions. However, E-tv has kicked against the digital migration, claiming it would lose a large chunk of viewers that don’t have digital decoders or TVs to watch its channels.

That is despite the government’s free STB registration programme running from early 2016 to the end of September 2022, giving qualifying people more than six years to get their box at no charge.

Aside from producing better video and audio quality than analogue, digital signals occupy less spectrum than analogue, allowing for additional channels with less capacity.

Much of the low-band spectrum currently used for analogue services will be opened up for use by mobile operators.

They are expected to employ the capacity to improve their network performance and coverage and bring down the cost of data.

The tables below show the top 20 most-watched broadcasts on SABC 1, SABC 2, SABC 3, eTV, and DStv for






Now read: Goodbye analogue TV — Hello 4G and 5G

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South Africa’s most-watched TV shows