It was just three weeks into what was supposed to be a perfect TV relationship when Bloomberg Television viewers stamped their feet and demanded that the global business station be given its own channel again. Bloomberg had been “folded in” to Business Day Television, a merger between the existing South African business channel, Summit TV, and Bloomberg.
“Bloomberg was facing the chop,” said Business Day TV head, Vernon Matzopolous. “We heard it was going about six months ago, that it was to be discontinued on DStv. We figured viewers of the channel would be rather disappointed as it’s a hell of a good channel.”
The brains behind Business Day TV, familiar with Summit’s operations, knew they weren’t strong in the mornings. And Bloomberg was. “So we reckoned by incorporating Bloomberg would improve our overall offering,” says Matzopolous. “We’re stronger in the afternoons, so this fitted perfectly by filling our weaker morning programming. Early in the morning. Late afternoon when the US markets open, and at night when the Asian markets start operating.”
But Bloomberg’s “small, influential and vociferous” markets were not so impressed with the idea, and made their feelings know to MultiChoice.
“We have been reviewing the performance of the business news channels on DStv for the last few years, due to very low viewership. These channels typically have a very limited niche following,” MultiChoice told The Media Online.
“In this case we believed we arrived at a solution which improved the content offering for our viewers, namely combining the best of the local content from Business Day TV (Summit TV) and the best of international content from Bloomberg. Importantly this collaboration was fully supported by all parties, including Bloomberg,” it said.
But the move was not supported by the “limited niche following”, as MultiChoice soon found out.
“When Bloomberg Television was discontinued, we received very clear feedback from the finance community in South Africa that they need a dedicated 24-hour channel for international business news. We were in a position to revise our decision and reinstate Bloomberg Television to its original slot on channel 411,” said MultiChoice.
“Some would argue this was a blow to Business Day TV but frankly, it hasn’t made that much difference in our lives,” Matzopoulos says.
Except for a gaping whole in its morning programming. “Our morning programming isn’t a huge priority as interest grows as the day builds,” he says. “We’ve taken the best of certain personal finance and other shows and relooped content to feature in the morning,” says Matzopolous.
“We take a different view of business content to Bloomberg, which is driven by the markets. Business Day TV takes a broader look at business, looking at topics such as entrepreneurship and small business, and business advice, for example. We have to cater to that, as it’s a growing market in SA. So we don’t have a massive crossover. So perhaps Bloomberg and Business Day TV do belong on separate channels,” he says.
The move hasn’t impacted on advertising, as Bloomberg doesn’t carry local advertising driven by DStv Media Sales. “We’ve got a great offering as we pretty much own the business space,” says Matzopoulos. “We have Business Day, our print title; BDlive online and a television channel. That’s pretty useful. Now that BDFM has bought out the Pearson shareholding, we’re one big happy family.”
But Business Day TV is very much a work in progress. And it has plans for something “very different” that it will “unleash” on the South African market. Much more than that, Matzopoulos can’t say for now.
IMAGE: Free African Media