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Smart thinking from the people running the content business.

Buyers briefing: Yolisa Phahle, CEO of general entertainment and connected video, MultiChoice

LONDON SCREENINGS: As the screenings in the UK capital continue, C21 speaks to Yolisa Phahle, CEO of general entertainment and connected video at South Africa’s MultiChoice, to find out about her programming requirements for the company’s pay channels and streamer Showmax.

Yolisa Phahle

What UK programming has been successful for you over the past 12 months?
Showmax released a steady flow of great British series last year, including Cheaters, Industry, The Responder, Small Axe, Showtrial, This is Going to Hurt and Vigil, as well as the final season of A Discovery of Witches, which did particularly well for us. This year, we’ve already released This England and Harry: The Interview, for example, with The Capture S2 and Gangs of London S2 coming soon. For kids, the animated Mr Bean series and Peppa Pig are still favourites too.

Personally, I can’t wait to see the new season of Happy Valley. I also really enjoyed the latest season of The Crown and the latest Downton Abbey movie. When I’m not working, feelgood shows like Downton are perfect. Top Boy was a great series and I’m also a big fan of Man Like Mobeen. Having grown up at a time when you hardly ever saw black or Asian people on TV, it’s really good to see that not only is the reality of society being reflected more, but that increasingly it is in front of and behind the camera.

What kind of content will you be looking for at the London Screenings?
I won’t personally attend but we have content executives from Showmax who will be there. I wish I could go, as I love viewing new shows and chatting to the creators. We are always looking for a variety of shows to entertain, surprise and also challenge our viewers, who are incredibly open-minded – and are also experts, as we watch almost twice as much TV as you do in Europe.

A Discovery of Witches has performed ‘particularly well’ for MultiChoice

How is demand for international content changing in SA and elsewhere in Africa?
International content connects us to what’s happening beyond our continent, but we prefer stories told about us, in our languages – just like everyone else around the world does. That being said, a blockbuster romcom, action drama or animated movie always goes down well.

How is the growth of streaming changing your content strategy?
We have always been committed to local storytelling. Nothing has changed apart from we are more committed to it than ever and focused on taking our stories to the world, which is also loving what we produce in SA. We are seeing more and more demand from international players and our shows are winning awards, getting International Emmy nominations and receiving global and local critical acclaim.

The Real Housewives of Abuja, one of several Showmax versions of the NBCU franchise

How is your coproduction strategy evolving?
Showmax has made highly successful local versions of NBCUniversal’s The Real Housewives format in the cities of Abuja, Durban, Lagos and Nairobi. We’ve also worked with Banijay on Temptation Island South Africa and with Canal+ on dramas Blood Psalms, Crime & Justice, Pulse and Spinners, with more partnerships to come.

We are currently in post-production with Catch Me a Killer, a coproduction with Germany’s Night Train Media, starring Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius, South Africa’s first serial killer profiler. UK-based Abacus Media Rights is handling international sales.

We’re also in post-production on Spinners, a coproduction with Canal+ about a 17-year-old who finds a possible way out of the local gangs via spinning, an extreme sport where he can put his driving skills to better use. Jaco Bouwer, whose last film Gaia won the cinematography award at SXSW, is directing, with Benjamin Hoffman from French production company Empreinte Digitale as showrunner.

How is the economic situation impacting your content plans?
It’s a tough time for consumers and subscribers everywhere. At Showmax, we have the best local and international content and the best price. We are continually reducing the cost of data for our customers with our data-saving features, which allow you to view more for less than anyone else. We are also bringing a wide range of content for everyone, including kids, to ensure we have something for everyone when they need it. We provide a much-needed place to escape to; our stories will make you laugh, make you cry and give you hope for the future.

What is your biggest challenge or opportunity in 2023?
As always, we have to put our viewers first. They have choices but I believe we have what it takes and know that our incredible industry will continue to grow, which is good news all round.