South African soap gets a reprieve

16-year-old Afrikaans show renewed

JOHANNESBURG — M-Net has renewed its production agreement with Franz Marx Films for its daily flagship soap “Egoli,” finally putting to rest speculation that the 16-year-old Afrikaans-language show was about to be canned.

The uncertainty arose after the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa closed the paybox’s free-to-air open time window in April.

The 5-7 p.m. window was granted to M-Net at its inception in 1986 to help it market itself as a new concept in South African television but was closed to level the playing field.

Shows broadcast by M-Net during this window attracted more viewers, and more advertising, raising the ire of free-to-air competitors like e.tv.

“Egoli’s” viewership fell from around 1 million to just 360,000 once the window closed, but M-Net is sticking with the show, which is scheduled to screen a special in celebration of 4,000 episodes on Aug. 3.

M-Net’s head of original productions, Carl Fischer, said the decision to extend “Egoli’s” contract was based on the soap’s remarkable performance. “Now that we don’t have access to any other viewers, we can only measure a show’s performance in terms of its pay TV viewership. Currently, ‘Egoli’ has more pay TV viewers than ever before and continues to be the No. 1 M-Net program on weekdays between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.,” he said.

Franz Marx Films will produce another 12 months of episodes, to be screened on M-Net until the end of March 2009.

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