S. African soap opera phoning it in

'Sewende' moves to cell phones

JOHANNESBURG — One of South Africa’s most popular locally produced soaps, SABC2’s Afrikaans-language “Sewende Laan” (Seventh Avenue), has moved onto cell phones.

As of Dec. 18, viewers could watch the show via 3G Vodafone cell phones.

Cell-phone viewers also can access packages specifically designed for them, with additional behind-the-scenes info and tidbits about the show.

Vodacom commercial services director Peter Matlare said the mobisodes, each about two minutes long, are released daily after the show ends at 6:30 p.m. and can be downloaded directly by anyone with a suitable phone.

“The mobisodes, unique for cell-phone viewers, contain everything from the latest gossip and innermost thoughts and confessions of the characters to inside scoops about what’s going to happen in the next episode,” said Matlare, who was CEO of the South African Broadcasting Corp. before he resigned to join Vodacom in April 2005.

Matlare said the development signified the cell-phone service provider’s commitment to developing local content for mobile TV.

“This is the first locally produced and commissioned content for mobile TV, and we plan to add more in the future,” he said.

Vodacom launched South Africa’s first mobile TV service in January; it currently features 22 channels on its mobile service.

“Seventh Avenue” airs Monday-Friday from 6-6:30 with English subtitles. It has developed into the country’s second most watched locally produced soap, attracting a growing crossover audience beyond its original Afrikaans target market of around 2.5 million daily, according to TAMS rating figures.