Friday, September 15, 2006

TheTVObserver: South African TV Websites

It’s a perfect vehicle to shape how you’re perceived or classified by the very viewers who spend hours watching your channel, and in the case of subscription service providers. It is a great way to attract new viewers to your service. This brings me to my observations:

SABC1 website (
I like the artistic concept and feel of the website. But it seems to me, the site is more like someone’s crazy idea for a hip-hop type creative juice, which just happened to spill too much over to the left, therefore missing the mark completely. The site is very small, you don’t get the full context of the channel and I doubt it has gunned a lot of fans. The key soap, Generations is available at and to find it, you need to navigate their muddle called a website. The site is also not regularly updated; the cast list does not even include some of the newly added cast members of the show “Generations”. I think even if they don’t intend to keep them, they should at least have thier details temporarly online.

SABC2 website (
The site takes forever to load, not to mention the flash presentation on the homepage. When the flash presentation does not load, you don’t get to see content. Hahahahahahaha… typical SABC, there is always a catch. Moving on, visually the site is frightening, when you try to navigate the menu everything appears on opposite sides of the screen (especially when using mozilla). I then observed one thing wired or should say expected… the website runs the flash presentation with shows like Motswako, Muvhango, Hillside, Our Beautiful Country, Curious Culture, Eastern Mosaic, Morning Live, Tube. So I then think, is Hillside and Our Beautiful Country still on air? or are they returning for another season? If so, why aren’t they announcing it on their flash billboard, you know “Hillside: New Season”?

For a typical SABC2 viewer, the site has enough to address your enquiries, if you only use the internet once every two weeks or so. But don’t despair; the movie content is updated well and they also have links to your favorite SABC2 soap 7delaan. After visiting 7delaan’s website, I only have this to say: “We know its an Afrikaans soap, it would be nice to have an English option to the whole site”. When navigating, it is not easy going back to the homepage.

SABC3 website (
They truly managed to give horrible a new meaning. This site is….(hold on I think am having a heart attack)… oh wait, it was my state of shock getting worse. From a channel that is supposed to be commercial and has a more polite channel branding than the other SABC channels, SABC3 has failed its fans. It has cool shows to create an online heaven for its viewers, but we end up with dismay. You click on some links and you’re greeted with uncle BLANK! You try again and you get cousin NOTHING!, you kindly reload the website and their flash loads forever. At this time your boss has already issued you a warning or your pots are burning.

ETV website (
The site is not great but its not SABC2 or SABC3. It gives you what you want to know about what’s on air now or later. You get press-release type content about the shows, which is the opposite of what a television channel website is supposed to be. That’s much better than SABC2 or SABC3’s website. The great thing about ETV’s website is that it is updated frequently. The home page gives an introduction to what the channel considers a must see for the prime-time line-up.

MNET website (
This is the only company in South African television that has recognized the value of a good website for a television channel. Mnet’s website is great; their homepage alone gives you a clear indication of what’s on offer. I particularly like the main channel menu which gives you the easiest way to go to your channel of choice. You log to their site and you want to immediately watch television.

I also like the schedule list which is not designed to promote what the channel wants you to see, but rather, what is on air throughout the week, ensuring that you plan your viewing ahead of time. Then they offer you the weeks top picks, amongst other things, because by now you would have figured out what you want to see on the pay-service. The site loads very fast (which is great in my book). Their Egoli website is fantastic, it offers fans all they need and more. You get to know all your stars and if you register you get to see more.

I also like the coming up section, because you get to see which shows are scheduled to air in the months ahead. Ahaaa the benefits of premium television. What sets them apart from SABC and ETV is their ability to adapt to current trends with the introduction of new mediums such as blogging. They have truly managed to keep interacting with their viewers and it does pay-off. Their brand is part of their viewer’s lifestyle.

DSTV website (
Keeping with the culture of Mnet’s brand, Dstv’s website is clean, direct and very warm to its visitors. From their homepage you set your course for the digital satellite television world very easily by getting what you need and you find yourself needing more.The site loads very fast as well, and the amount of content housed is enough to address all your enquiries. How they managed to keep their brand through the designs, reminds me of how much SABC mist the mark on their online brand. Even with its clear and to the point, you log in and you know its ETV, but as for SABC1 and SABC3 you log in and you feel like you have reached the pit of hell. One thing thou, Dstv may want to call ETV to update the logo.

Wrapping up
Websites can yield a lot of consumer interaction and great opportunities for television channels. Not only can networks promote their shows to a wider audience, but they are able to create added revenue streams. In the days of blogging, channels can get information instantly about their programs, viewer opinions and much more. Call it research made easy.

Clearly a winner here is Mnet and it does not take a genius to figure out why. Their website is comprehensive, friendly, cool and easy to navigate. As for the rest of the gang, they really need to pull their socks and stop giving web design and management tenders to their buddies.

Having said that, it amazes me that with so many people watching television, certain channels have failed to promote web traffic to their very own websites. It is unbelievable!

Websites have revolutionized television, in that, we know can access shows immediately after they air on television by buying episodes from the likes of itunes and many more.

Through all this endless possibilities of the internet world, South African television channels such as SABC and ETV have failed to fully acknowledge and utilize the great possibilities of the internet.

I am afraid that there might be something in the water, because I don’t understand why in the world, would a television channel marketing manager; fail to recognize that a lot of people can subscribe to an internet service if they knew that their channel of choice had a cool website which offered more than press-release type content. I then stop myself right there… when I realize that, chances of having a website like,,, or by a local channel will take us another 100years to achieve.

The problem in South Africa is not television, but the 100year old executives who still think like the oppressed or oppressors of a good old S.A. Until channels are owned or programmed by energetic, creatively driven, authentic trailblazers, and they are not suffering from O.M.S.S (as in “Old-Mind-Set Syndrome”). We will start to see better local shows, and great channels. Like I said… it will take us another 100years to achieve. Hopefully with ICASA’s new licensing of subscription services, we may have channels which can introduce a new culture of television.

The Observers Reviews of TV Websites
"There are more black people with access to the internet and internet enabled phones. SABC1 has to just grow-up and RECOGNIZE the infinite potential it has within its market, through a well designed website".

"There is NOTHING that makes one feel at home with"

" needs HELP!"

"All needs is more CONFIDENCE in its ability to deliver."

"You can only expect Mnet, to value its customers enough to create a website which is friendly, informative and entertaining! Benchmarked against the local television websites, is the MOST EXCELLENT website."

"The flexibility of getting all the information I need from a single source, truly demonstrates that an ELEVATED LEVEL OF THOUGHT, has gone into, to make it easy to use and advantageous to its customers."

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