I am fascinated at how print brands around the world leverage their base brands and their equity to extend their content over new platforms and, of course, to develop new revenue streams for themselves. It was, therefore, with some anticipation that I drove out to the slick curvilinear MultiChoice City last week to discover what VIA was all about. The invitation promised a fresh local lifestyle channel in Afrikaans, courtesy of MultiChoice and Media24.
Earlier in the year I attended Caxton Magazine’s presentation of their 360-degree solution for Unilever with the Bona brand taking content into Bona Mo, and touting this content solution as Caxton TV. While the Caxton initiative was an admirable attempt at solution creation for a particular client, the VIA launch was something else entirely. It underlined the might of Media24. This company doesn’t mess about. This was not an example of a nicely crafted solution for a single client, but a full blown TV channel harnessing existing Media24 talents across print, digital and social media, and taking them on to television. Every weekday lifestyle and reality shows are broadcast in a three-hour fresh content block, with shows premiering between 4pm and 7pm. These are repeated across the week and weekends. Via launched on Monday [9 November] with 22 new shows.
For Esmaré Weideman, chief executive officer of Media24, it was clearly both an exciting and nerve-wracking undertaking. As a self confessed control freak, whose career began in print, she is accustomed to knowing exactly what will be going out in a publication. Not being able to view every second of hours of new television programming must be quite daunting for her and her team, more so because the timeline from concept to first broadcast has been excruciatingly short.
Fittingly for an Afrikaans female-targeted lifestyle channel, the key editorial pillars are food (and thus inevitably, diets), relationships and style. Collaboration with well established magazines such as Huisgenoot and SARIE, mean that foodie icons such as Carmen Niehaus and Herman Lensing take to the small screen with shows such as ‘Jy het n Wenresep’ and ‘Inspirasiekos met SARIE’. There is a place for the newspaper brands too, with Rapport’s Hanlie Retief introducing viewers to interesting personalities in ‘’n Halfuur met Hanlie’. Not only do these established personalities move on to a new platform, but clearly the print and digital platforms will also promote and drive engagement with the shows.
While food is the pillar that has the most attraction for this English viewer, my random dipping into the channel has provided me with some interesting viewing, despite my slightly dodgy Afrikaans. The first episode of ‘Mooi van Binne’, in which photographers work with unlikely candidates for a potential magazine cover shoot, proved to be surprisingly poignant, as well as giving a good sense of what goes on behind the scenes of a shoot. Zavion, featuring Zavion Kotze, a decathlete and events planner, is both slightly offbeat as well as intriguing. It also has a liberal amount of English scattered throughout the programme, making this viewer feel very comfortable. ‘Kersie op die Koek’ has a family charm and sweetness to it, while Carmen Niehaus awards her “wenresep” stars with consideration and care, ensuring that viewers enjoy the making of simple, tasty, modern, local food. In ‘Maak my Nuut’, some of the harsher realities of South African life intrudes with the victim of a violent housebreaking being given a make-over. Although personally being sceptical about the rejuvenating qualities of lipstick and mascara, I appreciated the time the victim had with a martial arts expert. Overall, however, the channel has a bright and upbeat feel to it, and a good mix of the stylish and aspiration balanced by recognisable South African reality.
I would certainly agree with Charlene Beukes, general manager of Media24 Lifestyle, that they have a potential “household name” for their current and new audiences. The challenge that Media24 now faces is the weaving of rounded content solutions for their advertisers, utilising the array of properties and platforms available to them. Historically Media24 has been somewhat ‘siloed’ in terms of their advertising solutions. Having made this considerable commitment to TV, I have no doubt that they will now meet this challenge. Five stars to Media24!
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