Uzalo, Isibaya running low on new episodes
Uzalo and Isibaya are the first daily dramas to run out of episodes due to the national lockdown.
SABC has confirmed that the number one TV show in SA - with an average viewership of 10-million - is running out of episodes for the rest of the month.
"The SABC can confirm that due to the production of SABC1's popular series Uzalo being halted as a result of the lockdown, unfortunately there is limited stock for this particular programme," SABC acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said.
"However, the SABC has put measures in place, including crucial engagements with relevant stakeholders concerning the organisation's delivery on the set local content quotas as well as possible essential service permission for certain productions.
"It must also be noted that all our productions remain closed until a collective decision regarding production houses resuming work is made. Such a resolution has not been taken, however, when decided, it will be a decision based on not one, but all production houses.
"It is worth noting that the SABC is operating to ensure full compliance with the lockdown regulations. The health and safety of our employees and production houses
remains a priority."
Another show in trouble is DStv's longest-running telenovela Isibaya that airs in the same 8.30pm time slot as Uzalo.
Sowetan has reliably learnt that the Mzansi Magic daily drama, watched by more than a million South Africans on average, is fast running out of new episodes to air for the rest of the month.
An insider at DStv revealed to Sowetan Isibaya is not the only show on pay TV that is running out of new material as local content starts to feel the heat of halting productions, especially after President Cyril Ramaphosa's extended lockdown.
Safta-winning telenovela The River with Sindi Dlathu in the lead and airing on 1Magic is also said to be running out of new episodes to air for the duration of the month.
The fate of other daily dramas on DStv, including The Queen and Gomora, also hang in the balance.
"Video entertainment production in South Africa has been halted for nearly a month, as the industry adheres to the national lockdown needed to reduce the spread of Covid-19," said Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice Group CEO for general entertainment.
"The current lockdown is in place until May 1 and at this time we're confident that we will be able to offer our viewers fresh episodes of must see TV. Any scheduling changes will be announced in due course, as well as being published on dstv.com."
But insiders working at MultiChoice have painted light on the pressure and predicament that is currently faced by the pay broadcaster.
"Currently there have been a number of strategic meetings held since Friday to come up with a way forward. Only then will it be communicated to the public what will replace those popular time slots for the duration of lockdown and what will continue to happen in case lockdown is extended," one source told Sowetan.
Another source said: "More shows have been affected - it's not just Isibaya and The River. As a result, a new TV schedule on those channels has been drawn. Remember, promotional material has to be changed and people who pay to see these programmes will be upset. A new strategy has to be well thought of."
"Isibaya and The River are two shows that have a TX [the date something was broadcast from the day it was filmed]", another source said.
Sowetan reported earlier this month that the second season of drama series The Housekeepers, starring Thando Thabethe, was pulled from its planned schedule on Mzansi Magic at the 11th hour and replaced with season five of prison drama Lockdown that debuted on Showmax back in January.
"We remain committed to supporting the industry and have committed R80m to pay salaries for cast, crew and creatives that are involved in MultiChoice Group commissioned productions for April and are working hard with all of our contracted producers to ensure minimal viewer disruption, and to make sure we can be up and running again as soon as it is safe to do so," Phahle said.
Public broadcaster SABC and free-to-air channel e.tv have confirmed to Sowetan that all their daily dramas will air new episodes for the duration of April.
"Productions, including Generations: The Legacy, Muvhango, Skeem Saam and 7de Laan have sufficient transmission stock until after the lockdown thus, ensuring uninterrupted airing of episodes for South Africans to enjoy and importantly remain at home," Seapolelo said.
Managing Director at e.tv Marlon Davids said: "e.tv has sufficient content to keep our viewers informed and entertained during the lockdown. They can continue to watch their favourite soapies, Scandal!, Rhythm City and Imbewu."
An earlier version of this article had stated that Safta-winning telenovela 'The River' was 'said to be running out of new episodes to air for the duration of the month.' However according to Multichoice, the telenovela has enough episodes to be flighted until the 8th of May. The article has been amended to reflect this.