SA’s Most-Watched Show, Uzalo, Extends Contract With SABC1

Wiseman Mncube and Thuthuka Mthembu in Uzalo. Photo: iMprente Media

South Africa’s most-watched show Uzalo will remain on-air until at least 2023 after the South African public broadcaster signed a new 3-year deal with SABC1 saying it will help to improve the quality and storylines of the series that viewers say have become boring.

The new contract comes as the production is currently shut down and ended production last month – earlier this year than usual – while negotiations were still taking place about the show’s renewal.

Production on the Stained Glass produced series in Durban was supposed to restart on 18 November, but because no new deal with SABC1 was in place, producers decided to shut down work on the series for the remainder of the year. It means a longer Christmas break for the Uzalo cast and crew.

Production on Uzalo, owned by former president Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Gugulethu Zuma Ncube and Pepsi Pokane, will restart during the first week of January, with the new season that will start to broadcast in March 2021.

The show told Channel24 that “production halted as part of its annual break and was to resume on 18 November 2020. However, due to the contracting process taking longer than anticipated, production has extended its break and will resume the first week of January 2020”.

According to insiders, SABC executives have expressed unhappiness over some of the Uzalo storylines described as boring and recycled, as well as concerns by Uzalo cast and crew members that they’re not being paid enough.

SABC1 says of the 3-year deal with Uzalo that “it is the first time that such a long-term arrangement has been put in place and it represents an unequivocal vote of confidence” that the channel places in the series.

Sane Zondi, SABC1 programme manager, says “Uzalo has earned it and its performance speaks for itself. The property has broken a set of records in the industry for a soap or long-running series. It’s the youngest entry in the SABC stable, and it is phenomenal what the property has managed to achieve despite the challenges this year has shown – not only in the broadcasting landscape but the country as a whole”.

About improving the “boring” storylines, the SABC says that the long-term deal “will provide the SABC and the production ample time to invest more in workshopping storyline developments with the view to producing more powerful storylines, thus impacting positively on the overall quality of the show”.

Uzalo, that was forced off-air for five weeks this year after it ran out of produced episodes because of the local impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, has remained the country and SABC1’s most-watched TV show with 8.8 million viewers (22.75 AR) during October and around 4 million viewers watching the show on SABC1 carried on MultiChoice’s DStv satellite pay-TV service.

On two occasions this year Uzalo hit 11.4 million (15 April), and 11.1 million (24 April) viewers after South Africa entered its lockdown period that led to a ratings surge across the board for broadcasters as more people stayed home.

Written by PH

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