South Africans are hungry for local content and streaming services have jumped on the bandwagon to deliver.
We have seen streaming platforms like Black give us great content as well as Viu SA, which offers the e.tv and SABC collection of soapies, dailies and programmes. Netflix and Showmax have upped their game, producing original local series like "Shadow," "The Girl from St Agnes," "Tali’s Wedding Diary" and "Trippin’ With Skhumba," all of which received favourable reviews.
Netflix also announced in December that it commissioned its first African original drama, "Queen Sono," directed by comedian Kagiso Lediga and starring Pearl Thusi, who will play a top spy in a South African agency.
"We want to work with great storytellers – wherever they come from in the world. The excitement surrounding the announcements of local shows such as "Catching Feelings," "Son of Patricia," "Lionheart," "Shadow," "Queen Sono," "Chief Daddy" and "Blood & Water" have already proved that there is an appetite for local, quality content that has the ability to resonate with consumers both locally and globally. And our goal is to satisfy this appetite with our upcoming local originals,” said a Netflix spokesperson.
Candice Fangueiro, head of content for Showmax, said the reason for getting behind local was because it made good business sense and because people like watching local shows.
“Big budget Hollywood and UK productions are great, but people have just as much if not more interest in watching local stories told with an authentic local voice. Showmax originals are a powerful driver of new customer sign-ups. Finally, we do it because it’s good for the industry – by investing in local production, we help create jobs and build the home-grown talent base. It’s a win-win for us,” said Fangueiro.
Not only are these shows using local talent, but they also showcase the country in all its glory.
The eight-episode Netflix show, "Shadow" is set in Joburg and stars Pallance Dladla as Shadrach “Shadow” Khumalo – a detective and former task force specialist who turns rogue to “fix” the criminal justice system. The series also features actress Amanda du-Pont, who plays Ashley, a good friend of Shadow’s sister. She’s a medical student by day and adult entertainer by night, and later it is revealed that she has superpowers of her own.
"The Girl From St Agnes" first-day viewing numbers broke the all-time viewing record on Showmax for any new show. This dark murder mystery is about St Agnes, a prestigious allgirls boarding school in the Midlands, where a popular student is found dead at the base of the old mill. The police are quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld (Jane de Wet) as a tragic accident, but drama teacher Kate Ballard (Nina Milner) doesn’t believe it. The more she investigates, the more she realises she didn’t really know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed. The show also stars Zakeeya Patel, Graham Hopkins and Robert Hobbs among others.
Showmax’s first original show, "Tali’s Wedding Diary" received five awards at the 2019 Saftas, including Best TV Comedy ad Best Actress in a TV Comedy. And recently passed the one million views mark on Showmax. The show is a hilarious mockumentary starring Julia Anastasopoulos as Tali, a Joburg princess who moves to Cape Town – and she’s getting married. The eight-part series focuses on highlighting everything about the journey leading up to her wedding.
Travel show "Trippin’ With Skhumba," also on Showmax, sees the comedian get down and dirty with fellow South African comedians in their hometown, exploring places that won’t make any tourism brochures and stories that would be edited out of any authorised biographies. Guests included Celeste Ntuli (Empangeni), Siya Seya (Port Elizabeth), Tumi Morake (Bloemfontein) and Schalk Bezuidenhout (Gauteng).
Showmax is also home to South African comedy with the roasts of AKA and Somizi and Kenny Kunene, "Trevor Noah Presents NationWild" and stand-up specials from the likes of Barry Hilton and David Kau.
Unlike a few years ago when there did not seem to be a huge interest from these services to produce localised content, this move shows that both streaming services have become serious about giving South Africans homegrown entertainment.
“We’ve got more Showmax originals coming this year. I can’t give too much away, but what I can say is there will be a number of new shows that explore different genres and we can’t wait to launch them,” said Fangueiro.
Streaming services are cheaper than traditional TV subscription packages making them a very attractive option for consumers.
Netflix subscribers pay R99pm for a basic plan, R139 for standard or R169 for a premium plan and the service has more than 3 557 titles to choose from.
Showmax subscribers pay R99 per month. DStv Premium subscribers get Showmax included with the cost of their subscription, while DStv Compact and Compact Plus subscribers pay R49 for a full Showmax subscription. The platform has just over 1 000 titles Viu SA premium costs R69 a month.