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MNET 20TH BIRTHDAY (article first published : 2006-10-16)

Today, M-Net broadcasts an impressive array of channels to over 1,3 million subscribers in nearly 50 countries across Africa, defying newspaper headlines in July 1985, which warned that “Pay TV will not succeed in South Africa”.

Just over a year after these headlines, M-Net’s first test broadcast in September 1986 changed the face of South African television forever. Along the way the Home of Magic has celebrated many highlights – like the launch of Carte Blanche in 1988, and the introduction of South Africa’s first daily soap opera, Egoli in April 1992.

Over the past 18 years, Carte Blanche has covered 2,750 stories, interviewed 19,600 people, visited 55 countries and travelled over four million kilometres! Today Egoli boasts 791,000 loyal viewers per day and three members of the original cast are still there: “Louwna” (Brümilda van Rensburg), “Nora” (Christine Basson) and “Nenna” (Shaleen Surtie-Richards)!

In 1990 M-Net became the first TV channel to list on the JSE and in September 1995, the empowerment share scheme Phuthuma offered a total of 70 million M-Net shares to previously disadvantaged South Africans.

Over the years, M-Net was proud to mark a number of “firsts” for South African television. M-Net has always had a love affair with the magic of Hollywood and it was the first channel to premiere a new movie every Sunday night. Over the past 20 years M-Net has broadcast over 10,200 movies! It was also the first channel – and is still the only one – to screen movies uninterrupted by commercials. In 1995, Movie Magic became the first channel dedicated solely to screening movies 24 hours a day. Last year Movie Magic and Movie Magic 2 were re-launched as M-Net Movies 1 and 2.

M-Net was the first channel to recognise emerging local filmmaking talent. The Multichoice VUKA! Awards project, launched in 1999, is designed to offer a platform for emerging filmmakers, while also highlighting vital public services programmes. The New Directions short film initiative, launched in 1996, is regarded as only initiative of its kind in Africa established to develop and promote African screenwriters and directors. In the 11 years since inception, the initiative has grown to be recognised as the longest-running skills developing, filmmaking initiative in Africa. The EDiT programme (Emerging Dynamics in Television) was launched in March 2000 to offer final year film and television students the opportunity to produce a programme in any genre, with the chance to have it broadcast on M-Net.

Another important “first” was South Africa’s first dedicated sports channel, SuperSport, which was launched in 1989 as M-Net SuperSport and relaunched in 1992 as a stand-alone brand, “SuperSport – Channel of Champions”. Today there are 10 SuperSport channels on air, broadcasting more than 430 live rugby games, 780 live soccer matches, over 2,000 hours of live cricket, more than 300 hours of motor racing, 250 hours of cycling, 955 hours of tennis, over 850 hours of athletics and a massive 1 257 hours of live golf! And out of this cornucopia of sport, rugby is still the nation’s favourite sport to watch!

Over the years M-Net Local Productions has captured the imagination of the nation again and again, notably with local versions of international hit reality shows, like Idols, Big Brother and Survivor. The first season of Idols was broadcast in 2002 and was an instant sensation. Today our first Idol, Heinz Winkler, is still one of South Africa’s most beloved celebrities. Anke Pietrangeli was named the country’s second Idol in 2003 and the 2005 Idol, Karin Kortjé, has her first album due out before the end of the year. And in 2006 M-Net made history again with Idols Op kykNet, making 20-year-old Dewald Louw from Bloemfontein the world’s first Afrikaans Idol!

Right now the nation is gripped by Survivor South Africa: Panama. More than 18,000 hopefuls entered for the first South African version of the international hit series and the first episode, aired on September 3, drew more than 1,2 million viewers, making it the most-watched episode of a reality show ever broadcast on M-Net – including the finals of previous hits like Idols and Big Brother.

And that’s just the first 20 years – M-Net has barely begun to spread the Magic!




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