South Africa ups soap to primetime

'Sewende Laan' to test 6:30pm waters

JOHANNESBURG — The South African Broadcasting Corp. is hoping that three minutes is all it will need to seal SABC2’s “Sewende Laan’s” (Seventh Avenue) position as the front-runner in the hard-fought primetime soap battle.

“Sewende Laan” airs opposite sister web SABC3’s “Isidingo,” paybox M-Net’s “Binnelanders,” and commercial free-to-air web e.tv’s “Rhythm City” in the competitive 6:30-7 p.m. slot Monday to Friday.

“Sewende Laan” is the clear leader, with more than 2 million viewers daily.

But the Afrikaans-language, English-subtitled soap, which has strong crossover appeal in drawing viewers of all languages and races, is not resting on its laurels.

Beginning Aug. 7, pubcaster SABC2 pushed “Sewende Laan” to 6:27 p.m., hoping viewers in a hurry to start watching their daily soap will find it too difficult to switch over to a rival once absorbed in the opening minutes.

Analysts speculate this is a response to the early success of e.tv’s “Rhythm City,” which on its July 9 debut drew nearly 1.38 million viewers, just short of second-place “Isidingo’s” 1.4 million.

Set against the backdrop of the South African music industry, “Rhythm City” replaced the seven-year-old “Backstage,” which became the first victim of the soap war when it was canned at the end of June.

“Rhythm City” has dropped back to around 1.1 million viewers daily, but this is more than double the numbers achieved by “Backstage.”

Rival channels are watching the 6:27 p.m. space carefully.

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