Free-to-air channel e.tv's audience numbers continue to face pressure, "mostly due to the popularity of local dramas commissioned by the SABC," parent company eMedia Holdings said on Wednesday.
"While the SABC commissions a substantial amount of local programming, at much higher cost than equivalent international content, our ability to commission additional local drama is limited by our production budget and profitability," the company said in commentary on dismal annual results.
e.tv launched its own new local drama, "Imbewu: The Seed" with fanfare in April as one part of a strategy to counter the SABC. It has also implemented various other schedule changes, eMedia said – but its best hope is to "arrest any significant decline" in its audience.
The SABC has a long list dramas that include such long-running favourites as "Generations" and "7de Laan".
Meanwhile, eMedia reported a slightly smaller loss for its Openview free-to-view satellite platform, which competes with the DStv pay service.
Openview recorded revenues of R60 million for the year to the end of March, the company said, while it spent R173 million on content and R74 million in retail subsidies to get its set-top boxes to customers.
eMedia recorded an average of around 35,000 new Openview boxes being activated every month in the last year – but estimates it has attracted only 3.5% of the television audience in South Africa since launch five years ago, while it needs around 6% to break even. At the current growth rate that will take another four years at least, but Openview plans to spend more money on content in the next year to attract more viewers.
24-hour news channel eNCA – which is distributed via DStv – remained eMedia's star television performer, with more than half the audience in its market.