by Richard Lord (@rlord182) January has come and gone, and I’m sure we’ve all hit the ground running with our December holidays a long and distant memory! The question is, now that 2020 is back in full swing, have consumers settled into their normal viewing behaviour on TV?

We saw how December 2019 audiences took a fairly large knock due to the holidays, with audiences across all major programmes and all TV channels being down roughly 20% over the November 2019 figures. What, then, did January 2020 look like?

Here are the top ten shows (averaged data) against the main market (LSM 4-7):

Top 10 TV shows January 2020


LSM 4–7

Uzalo SABC 1 9 555 313
Generations: The Legacy SABC 1 7 949 566
Skeem Saam SABC 1 5 220 890
Scandal 4 403 907
Muvhango SABC 2 4 304 626
Full View SABC 1 3 682 299
Sgud’snaysi — R SABC 1 3 639 546
Imbewu: The Seed 3 455 806
Sgud’snaysi SABC 1 3 413 652
Xhosa News SABC 1 3 361 267

The good news is that numbers are up but not back to their preholiday levels.

When comparing the last three months’ audience figures, how do the January numbers stack up?

Top 10 LSM 4–7 Nov vs Dec

Nov 2019

Dec 2019

Jan 2020

Jan vs Nov

Uzalo (SABC 1) 10 606 852 8 535 240 9 555 313 -9.9%
Generations: The Legacy (SABC 1) 9 331 778 7 217 946 7 949 566 -14.8%
Skeem Saam (SABC 1) 5 819 989 4 713 827 5 220 890 -10.3%
Scandal ( 5 079 616 4 047 442 4 403 907 -13.3%
Muvhango (SABC 2) 4 803 688 4 218 781 4 304 626 -10.4%

Uzalo has come the closest to regaining its preholiday audience, whereas Generations seems to be struggling a little more compared to the rest.

All in all, for January, the top five programmes remain consistent, with the only change over December being Scandal, which reclaimed the fourth spot ahead of Muvhango.


We did see the entrance of Skud’snaysi into the top 10. This is an old SABC sitcom starring the late Joe Mafela, Gloria Mudau and Thembi Mtshali. This show appeared twice on the list for January, the main broadcast, and the repeat — which actually had a better audience than the prime-time transmission, and no doubt at a better advertising rate, too. This shows us that we should never underestimate repeats when buying our TV spots, as they often offer better value for advertisers.

Moving on to the top 10 shows watched by high-income earners:

Top 10 TV shows January 2020


LSM 8–10

Uzalo SABC 1 1 211 166
Generations: The Legacy SABC 1 914 811
Skeem Saam SABC 1 873 814
Scandal 678 329
The Queen Mzansi Magic 670 043
Full View SABC 1 645 174
Imbewu: The Seed 561 314
Run All Night 515 289
Our Perfect Wedding South Africa Mzansi Magic 498 256
Zootropolis 492 462

There’s very little movement in the top five programmes, although (as with the main market) we did see an upswing in audience when compared to the December numbers… about a 10% increase on average. has a strong showing in January with four of the top 10 programmes: two soaps and two movies. Movies are a powerful genre for, consistently performing well among both the main market and high-income earners.

Once again, Mzansi Magic was the only DStv channel to crack the top ten. Outside of The Queen and Our Perfect Wedding (OPW) on Mzansi Magic, the next best-performing programme on DStv was Isibaya, also on Mzansi Magic. The best-performing non-Mzansi Magic programme on DStv was the EPL match between log leaders Liverpool and Manchester United on SuperSport 3. That match pulled an LSM 8–10 audience of 356 000 viewers.

Carte Blanche

And what of that old, perennial favourite of the c-suite and marketers, Carte Blanche? Its best-performing episode last month aired on Sunday 26 January and pulled an LSM 8–10 audience of 183 000 viewers. However, Carte Blanche was not the top-performing show on M-Net in January. That honour belonged to a Sunday Night Movie that aired on 12 January, called Hunter Killer, a 2018 action movie about American submarines and Navy Seals, starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman.

So, those are your numbers for January. In short, we saw an upswing in both the main market and high-income audiences but not to the levels we saw before the December holidays. It will be interesting to see what February has in store for us!

Note: While loadshedding has occurred since November 2019, its effects on TV viewership is difficult to determine. As from 20 January, however, viewership software has started measuring this and these results will be reflected in future articles.


Richard LordRichard Lord (@rlord182) is media and operations director at Meta Media, South Africa’s newest media agency and part of the IPG global network and Nahana Communications Group of specialist agencies. With over 20 years’ experience in the media industry and having worked for FCB, UM in London, and The MediaShop, he’s spent most of his career with IPG. Richard contributes the monthly “Watched” column, which analyses monthly TV audience viewership figures in South Africa, to

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