Generations’ replacement Skeem Saam viewership skyrockets

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on October 7, 2014. 

A change in TV scheduling at SABC1 has seen Sepedi drama Skeem Saam more than double its viewership numbers overnight.

As the last episode of Generations aired last week, Skeem Saam was catapulted into prime time.

According to data from the SA Audience Research Foundation, a week prior to the drama moving from its 6.30pm time slot to 8pm, their viewership stood at 3.5 million per show on average.

On the night the soapie occupied the 8pm slot for the first time on October 1, viewership shot to 8 881 352.

By Friday last week, the third day in that slot, the number went down slightly to just over 7.6 million viewers.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told The Citizen: “Viewership doesn’t sell ads; the time slot a show is in does.”

This was his answer amid fears that replacing Generations would have a negative impact on the massive ad revenue the show has managed to pull over the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, shooting for the new-look Generations – which will be ready to air in December – will start on October 28.

A source involved with the revamped production said: “We are all back at work and busy putting the new show together.”

The striking 16 actors – all dismissed in August – are still going ahead with their legal action.

“We have referred the matter to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and it will be dealt with on October 14,” said Desmond Brown, their legal representative.

Commenting on reports of a separate claim by the actors for never being registered for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits, Brown said: “The first issue we need to deal with is whether they were employees or independent contractors.”

He claimed the actors had not been registered for UIF, despite all South African employers being obliged to register their employees.

“When we contacted them on this issue they said the actors were not employees of the SABC or MMSV, which is why they weren’t registered for UIF,” Brown said.

Generations dispute far from over

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on September 3, 2014.

There is no end in sight to the ongoing Generations drama as the popular soapie enters the fourth week of no filming.

MMSV Productions owner and Generations producer, Mfundi Vundla threw a spanner in the negotiation process with the 16 fired actors when he reportedly jetted off to Mackinac Island in Michigan, the United States of America over the weekend.

Vundla reportedly said he was going away to think of the new direction the show would take, adamant that he would not be taking back the 16 who “betrayed” him.

Seemingly following in Vundla’s footsteps, actor Thato Molamu, who plays Nicholas Nomvete has also taken steps to change his situation. He has landed a hosting job on SABC 2 show, What’s Behind The Wall? 

Sophie Ndaba during a press conference held by the Generations stars that were fired recently at the Market Theatre in Newtown, 26 August 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney
Sophie Ndaba during a press conference held by the Generations stars that were fired recently at the Market Theatre in Newtown, 26 August 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney

He was reportedly on leave like a pregnant Katlego Danke when he got fired.

The last move made in this standoff between the actors, their production company and the SABC came last week Thursday. The actors sent a letter to the SABC requesting a time and date to meet again to possibly start negotiations.

The actors legal representative, Desmond Brown said some of the other fired actors had also started looking for “other gigs” while waiting to solve their dispute.

Winnie Modise, Sophie Ndaba and Nambita Mpumlwana did just that when they attended the Women in Sport awards evening hosted by the department of sports and recreation last week.

Ministerial spokesperson, Anda Qhama Bici said the three “were invited as guests, they weren’t making an appearance”.

Last week the fired actors received partial salaries because they have not been at work since August 11. They are demanding a cut of the show’s royalties and three year contracts.

At the moment pre-recorded episodes of Generations are still being aired, but there are only two to possibly four weeks’ worth of episodes left that are ready to air.

2Cents: The #Generation16 and cultural activism

The past two weeks have been the stage on which a wage dispute has turned into a full on cause to change the entertainment industry as it pertains to artists working in broadcast television.

Sixteen gatvol Generations actors decided to withhold their services (not strike they say) until their production company and the national broadcaster, SABC entered into wage negotiations with them.

They were given an ultimatum to return to work or get fired – the latter was chosen for them or by them depending on which “side” you’re on.

Since headlines have been abuzz with stories of inflated salaries, new talent, forlorn stars etc. This past Tuesday, for the first time in two weeks everyone got a big ol’ dose of perspective.

Initially when Mfundi Vundla spoke last week dropping the R55 000 bomb – I was like, well that is some good money, why are these guys kicking their toys about. But I immediately chided myself – the 21 year old soapie probably makes more money than any production of its kind in the country. Yesterday I learnt they make R500 million a year now.

That they cannot sit down to negotiate a way to cut the actors a piece of that pie seems unreasonable, to me at least. Apparently they have only received R3000 in royalty fees for the past 11 years.

Some of the dismissed cast members highlighted what was wrong, what they wanted and broke down in tears when doing so – illustrating to me that I actually have no idea how the “industry works”. Then Dr Johan Kani explained for us all.

“We carry the residue of the apartheid era master/servant relationship,” he said. Kani expanded on this saying that actors are not employed by their production companies, they are in a contractual relationship with them. Adding that actors should not be treated in the disposable manner that the dismissed 16 were treated.

He spoke at length about he had used his art to help bring down an oppressive system, yet here sat 16 people, 21 years later who were being treated in a way that resembled that past regime. He said that as an academic entity in society, artists should be valued and now was the time for them to stand up to say they are worthy of more.

He called on them to make the Generations set unworkable, much like the miners in Rustenburg had done to Lonmin for five months. Block the doors, barring clening staff, writers and the like from going to work until their demands are met.

His speech was the ultimate ah-uh moment. His son, Atandwa Kani then took to the podium. He was fired along with the 16 after only being a part of the team for three weeks, he had not even been on screen yet.

He admitted that he came on board wanting to “ascend his status as an actor”, acting alongside some of the country’s best.  However, “this was a battle I could not turn my back on,” he said.

“I come from a family where I was raised by a father who spent most of his life, and dedicated his life to the emancipation of this country – as a political activist through the arts. Now, I cannot having his blood running through my veins sit back and be silent.”

What they had to say, what everyone had to say on Tuesday afternoon made me realize the dire need for cultural activism of this kind in South Africa.It also made me realise that this is no longer just about the 16, but about something much bigger.

I really do hope their cause catches on and that they do stand as firm as they have promised to. Pay back the royalties maan.