6:30-7 p.m. timeslot hotly contested
JOHANNESBURG — The evening primetime soap war has claimed its first victim — independent free-to-air channel e.tv is canceling its daily drama “Backstage” at the end of June.Since February, the 6:30-7 p.m. timeslot has been hotly contested with paybox M-Net throwing its hospital drama “Binnelanders” into an already competitive 30 minutes occupied by two of the country’s most watched local soaps, SABC2’s “Sewende Laan” and SABC3’s “Isidingo.” “Binnelanders” had been a weekly hourlong Afrikaans-language drama, but M-Net converted it into a daily 30-minute drama to follow its long-running “Egoli” to create a soap hour. The paycaster’s aim was to keep the nearly 1-million “Egoli” viewers switched on to M-Net and lure new subscribers ahead of the scheduled closure of the paycaster’s daily open-time free-to-air window at the end of March. A casualty was inevitable, and “Backstage” has never really taken off since its launch in May 2000. Created by Mfundi Vundla, the man behind the most watched and longest-running locally produced daily drama, “Generations,” “Backstage” is set against the backdrop of a drama school and was targeted at the youth market. However, the show was marred by controversy from the start, with continual cast changes and a legal battle over intellectual ownership and production control after e.tv ditched Vundla and appointed its own production house for the soap.