Fighting industry perceptions that it’s challenging to do business with the SABC, the public broadcaster’s TV sales division is making moves to rectify this thinking.
Key aims for the sales team are to become more accessible, responsive, speedy, proactive, and flexible, says SABC’s general manager for television sales, Warren Bedil. Members of the team will be “present with purpose” and deliver services to clients of all budget levels. Bedil’s aim is to develop a team that agencies and direct clients think about first when considering media solutions.
To achieve this aim, several core actions are being undertaken. Structural changes, upskilling of sales staff, and providing measurable solutions are at the heart of SABC’s new television sales drive.
“Being in the market on a constant basis, you don’t need to explain what the SABC is, and the fact is we need to move on from selling buckets of spots. We are undoubtedly moving into a space where we offer a hybrid of classic advertising and crafted solutions for clients,” explains Bedil.
“I constantly hear that we are a ‘need to have’ rather than a ‘want to have’, so the onus is on us to reverse that mind-set with our advertisers, and effectively show them the endless opportunities that exist in our space. The stats don’t lie – our audiences absolutely love our product, but we want the media and marketing industry to fall in love with us all over again,” he adds.
With TV advertising being the dominant revenue driver at the SABC, the work this division does is crucial for the future sustainability of the public broadcaster.
A brand new offering
April 2019 will see the launch of SABC TV Automated Packages for media planners that will offer advertisers across budget levels access to the audiences it aggregates, according to Bedil.
“We provide some fresh thinking for the market, and it is already available on Telmar and Arianna, making it easily accessible to all clients looking to access our audiences. All the packages have been constructed via our business intelligence unit, so it’s not just throwing spots around. It’s about adding true value to existing and new clients,” he reveals.
“We want to take hands with our clients on this journey. We are deeply ambitious to return to the heights of the past, and if we are to achieve long term success, partnership is the key word,” he adds.
A massive reach
SABC’s five channels (SABC 1, SABC 2, SABC 3, SABC News, and SABC Encore) cover a massive portion of the South African television market.
SABC 1 and SABC 2 are the two most consumed media platforms in the country, with SABC 3 coming in fourth. In terms of specific SABC programming, the numbers are simply staggering. SABC 1’s Uzalo, for example, is the most watched programme in the country, averaging 9.6 million viewers a night. The show broke South Africa’s viewership record on 25 September 2018, reaching 10.2 million viewers, beating the previous record holder, Bafana Bafana’s opening game against Mexico, also on SABC 1, at the 2010 World Cup (10.1 million).
Generations follows in second place with 9.2 million viewers on average per episode and Skeem Saam in third with just over seven million viewers per night. SABC 2’s Muvhango comes in fourth with a six million audience per night.
“We’ve got 27 of the top 30 programmes in the country based on viewership numbers, which despite all our well documented challenges, is a remarkable feat,” says Bedil.
Another popular programming block are the Afrikaans slots on SABC 2, with some outstanding programming on offer including 7de Laan, which has seen a massive growth in audience over the past 18 months, while the likes of Voetspore and Koskaskenades will further entrench the audience on the channel.
“On another positive note, we are proud to be bringing the first Tsonga drama to air with Giyani, Land of Blood launching on SABC 2 in late prime at 21.30 in April 2019. Our audiences will certainly get their fill of drama across the network with Skeem Saam, Isidingo, Generations, Uzalo, Muvhango and now Giyani poised to dominate viewing habits for the foreseeable future,” says Bedil with pride.
Digital enhancing audiences
Aside from its television presence, the SABC is also using digital platforms to enhance its impressive reach. Episodes of Uzalo loaded onto YouTube after they’ve aired, regularly attract over 400 000 views, a trend seen with all of SABC’s major programming. The very recent OTT partnership with VIU will further future-proof SABC’s multi-channel market power and accessibility.
Another message that the SABC television sales division wants to convey to the market concerns sports programming. There are so many opportunities for advertisers to play in this area either via sponsorships or through the booking of loose spots which are available. The double coup of signing up the English Premier League, and being the exclusive broadcaster of the Mzansi Super League, both on SABC 3, provide tremendous opportunities for clients to capitalise on the rapidly growing audiences on the channel.
In terms of innovation on normal programming, the division is taking an assertive approach to market by creating opportunities for advertisers outside of traditional spots. Advertiser funded productions (AFPs) are an exciting space that creates brand awareness through long and short-form content, while there are a number of sponsorship opportunities in and around programming that go way beyond the generic spot.
“With the sheer weight of our audiences across the SABC network, if an advertiser elects to do something innovative or alternative, the impact is unrivalled and we encourage all our clients to put us to the test,” says Bedil.
Empowering SABC sales staff
Since taking up the position, one of the main things Bedil has focused on is motivating and encouraging his team, underlining the fact and true belief the SABC is undoubtedly the number one media platform in the country.
“I’ve inherited a team that’s gone through the wringer. The SABC is constantly under the spotlight and you need a strong and resilient sales team able to continue to deliver business benefits to all our partners despite the challenges that we face,” he explains.
Bedil is supported by three strong regional sales managers in Zodwa Vundla, Debbie Taylor and Ntokozo Tshabalala, who he describes as the go-to people for anything SABC television sales related in the primary regions of Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal respectively.
Upskilling of sales people and better trained account executives has also been a key focus for the SABC, as well as greater access to the team which will increase the speed at which business is done. The structural change of introducing business unit managers to create additional safety nets is another move to streamline and ensure the success of the sales process.
The public broadcaster is also working on innovations designed to deliver quality audiences at affordable prices for all advertisers, and this will be revealed as the business continues to make progress.