Rubbish management killed SABC’s most-watched Afrikaans series — report

The SABC was forced to axe the highly-popular Afrikaans TV soapie 7de Laan due to poor management and its ongoing financial crisis.

That is according to feedback given to Sunday newspaper Rapport by an anonymous source. The paper describes the source as someone with insight into the public broadcaster’s management decisions.

In a statement on Monday, SABC 2 and producer Danie Odendaal Productions announced that 7de Laan’s final episode would air on 26 December 2023, over 23 and a half years and nearly 6,000 episodes after its debut.

In response to a query from Rapport, SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said that 7de Laan’s viewer figures no longer justified its commercial value.

That explanation does not seem to hold water, as 7de Laan is not only the most-watched Afrikaans TV series but also among the most-watched TV shows overall in South Africa.

According to statistics from the Broadcasting Research Council of South Africa, the most-watched episode of the soap in June 2023 drew 1.19 million viewers.

To put that number into perspective, the most-watched show on DStv in the same month — the high-budget Shaka Ilembe — drew roughly up to 929,000 viewers — while none of kykNet’s most popular soaps even broke into DStv’s top 30.

The current 7de Laan cast

The high viewership means that the SABC should easily be able to make a good case for advertisers to buy space during 7de Laan’s commercial breaks.

However, Rapport’s source described the SABC’s advertising division as “rubbish” and a “joke”.

Despite the high viewer numbers, the ads sold during the show’s timeslot did not bring in enough money to pay for the production.

The broadcaster’s advertising revenue for its last reported financial year — 2021/2022 — plummeted by R740 million.

In December 2022, SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon said the broadcaster expected revenue for the 2022/2023 financial year to be R1 billion less than it had budgeted.

According to The Sunday Times, the SABC is expected to report a loss of over R1 billion when it tables its latest annual report.

Netwerk24’s source said that dropping shows like 7de Laan was not going to benefit the SABC’s revenue in the long run.

Instead, they said the broadcaster should focus on creating high-quality content and optimising scheduling.

TV licence problems add to SABC’s woes

The broadcaster’s other primary source of revenue — TV licence fees — is also in a deep crisis.

According to a recent Parliamentary reply by communications minister Mondli Gungubele, the broadcaster is owed R44.2 billion in licence fees and associated penalties for outstanding licence fees.

Of the 9.2 million TV licence holders that have an outstanding bill, 5.6 million had their accounts handed over to external debt collectors.

In the past few years, the SABC’s annual collection TV licence collection rate has plunged to around 18%.

With less than a fifth of the TV licence holders on its books paying the R265 annual fee, the broadcaster is losing billions every year.

Some might ask why the broadcaster even bothers trying to collect licence fees.

According to Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage, the SABC could afford to lose out on this due to its dwindling advertising revenue.

Aside from being enjoyed by millions of viewers, 7de Laan helped kickstart the careers of several actors, some of whom would even make a name for themselves on the international stage.

Perhaps most notable is Neil Sandilands, who used to star as deli owner Bart but has featured in popular Hollywood shows and movies such as Netflix’s Sweet Tooth, CW’s The Flash, and Tom Hanks-led News of the World.

7de Laan cast in the early 2000s.

Several Twitter users expressed sadness at the news of 7de Laan coming to an end.

Many poked fun at the fact that they had used 7de Laan as a tool to learn Afrikaans.

“Afrikaans First Additional language just got a lot harder,” one user said.

“Crazy how a lot of us relied on this show to learn Afrikaans as a first additional language,” another said.

A  nostalgic viewer also shared a video of the soapie’s iconic original intro, embedded below.

 


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Rubbish management killed SABC’s most-watched Afrikaans series — report