Mzansi Magic
Mzansi Magic is headed by film veteran Lebone Maema, who has 12 years of experience in film industry management.

Andy Stead

MultiChoice’s fledgling Mzanzi Magic channel, available on a number of DStv bouquets, is set to boost the production of local content as it tries to attract the attention of South Africa’s growing black middle class.

Launched in mid-July 2010 and broadcast from Johannesburg on DStv channel 107, Mzansi is headed by film veteran Lebone Maema, the former deputy director of audiovisual media at the national Department of Arts and Culture. Maema has 12 years of experience in film industry management, having been executive producer for the South African Film and Television Awards, project manager for The African Film Summit, head of sales and marketing at DV8 Films, and executive producer for Diprente Films.

“Mzansi Magic is MNet’s proudly South African entertainment channel,” says Maema. “The channel’s content mix comprises of the very best South African and international feature films, bubblegum movies, short films, documentaries, comedy and music specials. It is specifically targeted at the growing African middle class in southern Africa.”

Since its launch Mzansi Magic has ranked among the top 10 channels in the target audience. Its broadcasts of feature films including White Wedding, Jerusalema, Nothing but the Truth, Hansie and Finding Lenny have proved popular. Bubblegum features produced by Sello Twala such as Madluphutu and Moruti wa Tsotsi, previously only available on DVD, have also garnered high AR ratings.

“Mzansi Magic launched with three new commissioned shows,” says Maema. These are Top 10 @ 10 – My Life in Music, Redi on Mzansi and Headline. “A search for audience responses about these shows on Facebook and Twitter will attest to their resonance with our audience.”

Top 10 @ 10 is a 48-minute music variety show filmed entirely in a radio studio, while the radio show of the same name is live on air. On the show, prominent South Africans tell their life stories against a backdrop of music.

Produced in association with Kaya FM and hosted by Thabo Mokwele, the show is gaining a reputation for getting under the skin of some of South Africa’s most highly regarded leaders and personalities. Celebrities featured in the show include boxer Baby Jake Matlala, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, broadcaster Bob Mabena, former footballer Doctor Khumalo, model and philanthropist Sonia Booth, journalist Lerato Mbele, broadcaster Debora Patta, and music icons Abigail Kubeka and Ray Phiri.

The second show, Redi on Mzansi, is a weekly 24-minute talk show, hosted by Redi Tlhabi, a popular young radio talk-show host. In a short space of time Tlhabi, Maema says, has “established herself as synonymous with South African talk shows that are entertaining, probing, informative, amusing and satisfying – and which appeal to all South Africans.”

The central theme of Redi on Mzansi is transformations – the journeys that South Africans are making in their daily lives, whether it is towards sexual liberation, financial prosperity, artistic expression, and recovering from abuse, trauma and plain bad luck.

Redi on Mzansi has already featured up some fascinating interviews, marking it out as one of South Africa’s most watchable talk shows. Guests on the show have included Graca Machel, John Kani, kwaito artist Zola, victims of xenophobia based at the Methodist church in central Johannesburg, recovered drug addicts and a host of local celebrities including Khanyi Mbau, Sonia Booth, Rapulana Seiphemo and Kenneth Nkosi.

Headline is another sure-fire hit show hosted by Kuli Roberts, a South African fashion and beauty tabloid journalist and television presenter best known for co-presenting the reality television show What Not To Wear. As is to be expected from a show with Kuli at the helm, Headline delivers fast-paced, high-voltage and glamorous entertainment with only one subject – the celebrities and wannabe shlebs who regularly notch up space in the country’s media.

Walking the fine line between humorous gossip and tactless trash the way only Roberts can do, Headline offers viewers the chance to get an intimate and close-up look at the lives of celebrities – and carry on the discussion after the show through Kuli’s Facebook and Twitter postings.

Mzansi Magic also broadcasts a light talk and comedy sketch show hosted by Trevor Noah, The Trevor Noah Show. Originally commissioned by MNet, the show is re- broadcast on Mzansi Magic On Fridays at 8pm.

“We received an overwhelming response to our request for proposals and commissioning briefs in the genres of soap, drama, reality series, comedy series and bubblegum features,” Maema says. “We are currently reviewing the proposals and look forward to developing some of the best television entertainment South Africa can offer.

“We aim to be among the top five channels in the target audience by the beginning of 2012. To be able to do this we need to average between 30% and 35% audience share.”

Mzansi Magic currently broadcasts in standard definition, but, Maema says, high definition is the future, and the channel will in due course move toward HD programming.

Viewers can also expect to see award-winning documentaries on the channel. “The documentaries programmed have been very popular and we have recently acquired a selection of interesting and compelling local and international documentaries,” Maema says.

Mzansi Magic presents an exciting new platform for the South African creative industry, and a new destination for viewers who are interested in proudly South African entertainment.

The channel is a six-hour block channel, with new content premiering from 6pm to midnight. This block then repeats from 6am to noon, and again from noon to 6pm. A new premier block then begins at 6pm.