kykNET’s popularity continues to grow. Karen Meiring writes of her experience as head of the channel.
kykNET, M-Net’s flagship Afrikaans channel on DStv, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, making this a great opportunity to reflect why this channel became a star performer.
Five years ago when I had just started out as the channel head, I had no formal background in the television industry. I came from theatre and doing Afrikaans festivals. But once I joined the channel, I realised that although the media is different, the audience is the same and that it resonates with similar festival content.
I related very strongly to our market. My approach was a gradual one as I was learning with and from my team as we started moving forward. Our first objective was to “make good shows popular and popular shows good!” Also, we needed to work with what we had.
At the time I wondered: Is the Afrikaans television market saturated? How can we improve on our offering and schedules? What are we overlooking? How can kykNET support local storytelling and Afrikaans arts and entertainment?
We soon realised our viewers were very frustrated with the same-week repeats of programmes. It was clear that to minimise this, we needed more content and that was what we had to look for and create with a very small budget. Lifestyle shows were the target and as the productions started coming in, we could change the scheduling strategy. This gave the channel a new texture and brought a great sense of variety to the schedule.
The next big step we took was partnering with eNCA to produce our prime time news bulletin at 7pm. So on 18 July 2010, our first evening news bulletin was broadcast. At the same time, we created a soapie hour between 6-7pm every weekday evening. With these, kykNET became a full-spectrum, general entertainment channel, focusing on drama and local reality.
It was also time to entrench kykNET within its viewing communities. Apart from the channel getting more involved with Afrikaans arts festivals, we created the Fiestas awards. Now in its fifth year, the Fiestas reward the best stage performances from all the performing arts festivals. In 2013, our panel saw 170 debut productions alone.
In 2011, we started the Silwerskerm Festival in Cape Town, which has had a direct impact on the South African and Afrikaans film and television industries. It is an event that brings together veteran and new filmmakers to share ideas and to watch the latest feature film releases. The festival also includes a funded short film competition and an open section for existing films and documentaries.
In 2012, kykNET inspired and launched the first independent Ghoema awards for contemporary Afrikaans music. Subsequently, the Afrikaans family of channels has grown with the addition of kykNET Musiek at the end of 2012 and kykNET & Kie in April 2013. These channels are available on lower tiers to make Afrikaans content more accessible to a larger number of DStv subscribers and to stimulate and inspire the local Afrikaans music industry. kykNET and kykNET Musiek are also both available on the YOUview Talk Talk platform in the United Kingdom and we are gaining subscribers by the day.
Our youth music channel, MK, has gone off the linear (television) platform and we are exploring the digital possibilities for Afrikaans-speaking youngsters. The MK Awards have gone from strength to strength and celebrate seven years on air this year.
We live and work in an ever-changing media environment, which directly affects our film and television landscape. What has been one of the most exciting journeys for me in this process is working with such an experienced, young, talented and passionate team. We believe in everything we do! It has been a privilege.
This story was first published in the June 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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