Skeem Saam rose from the ashes when SABC1’s mainstay soap Generations had to be pulled from the air when pre-recorded shows ran dry after 16 Generations cast members got the axe in September.
The youth drama’s move to the coveted time slot in October caused a rarity – the show was able maintain some of Generations’ faithful viewers in the timeslot, and grow its own audience.
This was a miracle considering speculation that the SABC faced losing millions when Generations was pulled, and could not get the same audience while the show was being revamped to live on after the culling of 16 characters from its storyline.
In its first week in a new time slot in the first week of October Skeem Saam reeled in just under 8 million viewers. Generations averaged between eight and 10 million viewers before going off the air.
City Press reported on October 5 that the SABC could lose more than R140 million during Generations’ hiatus. Advertising slots during Generations can cost up to R230 000 for 30-seconds of screen time.
The report stated that an average of 16 adverts played during a single Generations episode, which meant that the SABC potentially pocketed R4 million a night from the show. It was suggested the SABC could lose up to R74 million a month while the show was off air.
Luckily Skeem Saam fared well, and while it is assumed that the SABC might have had a drop in paid advertising, considering Skeem Saam’s meteoric rise in the ratings – the financial hit couldn’t have been as dire as expected.
Before moving to the 8pm time slot, Skeem Saam’s viewers was usually just more than 3 million in its 6.30pm spot.
During the first week of November the show was reaching an audience of just under 7 million according to ratings on tvsa.co.za.
“Skeem Saam is, and has always been about discovering brand new talent. Actors like Clement Maosa, Patrick Seleka, Mogau Mothlatswi and Cornet Mamabolo were discovered through open auditions. So whenever possible, we will always afford young people these opportunities,” said SABC 1 publicist Phillip Mabitsela.
Soon after the buzz over Skeem Saam’s move started, producers announced a round of open auditions for the end of October and start of November.
The casting call on the SABC website reads, “High school is over for some of our beloved characters; in 2015 they progress from high school to university and leave Turfloop for new adventures in Johannesburg.”
As a result the addition of a Joburg-based story line means a producers are looking for fresh faces to add to the mainly Sepedi show.
“The Jo’burg world will be as true a reflection of the diversity of Jo’burg as we can create. It will be populated by people from all over the country and even from different parts of our continent and abroad,” the casting call reads.
The first round of auditions took place in Hamanskraal on October 31 and November 1, with the second round of auditions at Bassline in Newtown on November 7 and 8. The latter, however, never took place. The show’s sudden led to too many people answering the call for applicants.
“I’m afraid we had to cancel the planned Joburg auditions due to health, safety and logistical concerns. We had way too many people coming to audition, more than we had anticipated. After a meeting with the JMPD and the Bassline management, we were advised to cancel. New audition dates will be announced,” Mabitsela said.
The cancellation follows the announcement of the new Generations cast on November 3.
Skeem Saam will also move back to its original time slot on December 1 when the revamped Generations launches.
“Skeem Saam will go back to the 6.30pm slot, which is what we were originally contracted for,” Mabitsela confirmed.
The move won’t cause too much damage on the SABC 1 schedule. Skeem Saam’s placeholder at the 6.30pm slot was Hola Mpinji, a youth drama that already unfolded on television screens in 2010.
But, during Skeem Saam’s absence in this time slot, eTV’s Rhythm City was able to poach viewers. The 6.30pm soap’s audience grew with around 500 000 according to the ratings data compiled by tvsa.co.za.
It remains to be seen how the latest reshuffle will affect audiences of Generations, Rhythm City and Skeem Saam.