MultiChoice’s global co-productions for M-Net are in English, crime stories and in beautiful South African settings.

by Thinus Ferreira

When four upcoming drama series on DStv, all done as co-productions with international partners, unspool in the coming months on M-Net, they’ll have three things in common: They’re crime stories, they’re in English and they’re in beautiful South Africa settings.

These three factors are what’s in vogue right now for South African co-productions, what works, what viewers in South Africa and worldwide want to see when they watch a South African series, and what MultiChoice and international partners are looking for when doing South African co-prods together.

Devil’s Peak, launching on 29 October on M-Net (DStv 101), is a 5-episode crime thriller set in Cape Town – an international co-production from Lookout Point and Expanded Media Productions together with MultiChoice Studios and BBC Studios Distribution distributing it internationally.

Spinners – launching on 8 November on MultiChoice’s streamer Showmax and 13 November on Canal+ in Africa – is an 8-episode drama set in the crime-infested Cape Flats resembling Paris’ banlieue and Brazil’s favelas where a 17-year-old gang getaway-driver dreams of escape through an eclectic motorsport subculture called spinning.

Spinners is a co-production between Showmax and Canal+ with SutdioCanal handling international sales.

Meanwhile filming is underway in KwaZulu-Natal on the second season of the crime drama series Reyka for M-Net – a co-production between Quizzical Pictures and Fremantle – and the two companies are also working together and are filming the crime thriller White Lies also done in scenic Cape Town.

Popular South African co-productions on M-Net and for DStv premium subscribers generally now have three things in common, Nicola van Niekerk, MultiChoice’s head of content for premium channels and co-productions, says: “It’s crime, it’s English and it’s in a beautiful setting. We can tell that those work the best”.

Nicola van Niekerk was a panellist this week at a MIP Africa session in Cape Town about how TV and film producers in Africa can work with MultiChoice to unlock co-production opportunities with international companies interested in telling and showcasing South African and African stories.

Waldimar Pelser, channel director for premium channels at MultiChoice, was also a panellist and said “The most productive conversations we
have are with producers that consume our content and on a visceral level know
who our audience is. Our partners have to understand who they’re making
content for.”

He mentioned that content that can only be made locally in South Africa – and that viewers would not be able to find elsewhere – reap the most success.

Tebogo Matlawa, head
of scripted content for the middle and mass market for South Africa at MultiChoice, said “producers should also look outside the bubble of their own existence” when
working on content but cautioned that while action and dramas have seen success “there isn’t much of an appetite for violence”.

Always think, would you watch this with your grandmother?” he advised when considering pitches for scripted content for middle and mass

Victor Sanchez
Aghahowa, head of production for MultiChoice West Africa, said “Compelling
characters in compelling situations that anybody can relate to – that’s what
we’re looking for. Anything inauthentic will immediately be sniffed out by our
younger audience”.

Nicola van Niekerk’s advice to production companies are for producers to have an in-depth understanding of both the local and the international audience before
pitching a project.

“As a producer, you need to assess your story and say, ‘Where will this story work?’ Will it work in a very specific demographic hyper-locally in South Africa, but where else will it work? Which other broadcaster
will like that? And to know that you need to understand all of the
broadcaster’s strategies on a global level.”

Lerato Moruti, senior manager for reality and entertainment for the middle and mass market at M-Net, said that successful reality TV shows provide a sense of “tabloid voyeurism, with
family-based reality shows that rate high with viewers”.

Africans look for meaning in content, and respond well to ‘help TV’, like the Mzansi Magic reality show
Abandoned about orphaned children that
seek out family members later in life.”

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