by Richard Lord (@rlord182) With more of the economy open and more people back at work in June 2020, we saw even further declines in television audiences and time spent viewing. It seemed that the ‘days of plenty’ that the TV broadcasters had experienced were now a thing of the past, and the numbers seemed to have returned to pre-covid-19 levels.

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Nielsen South Africa covid-19 daily tv viewing continues to decline
Source: Nielsen iPort

As we saw daily time spent viewing dropping, there was also a correlating drop in audiences as well… and quite a big drop, too. Let’s dig a little deeper…

Top 10: Main market

LSM 4–7 top 10 shows for Jun 2020



Uzalo SABC 1 9 590 008
Generations: The Legacy SABC 1 8 473 225
Skeem Saam SABC 1 8 128 294
Scandal 5 313 093
isiZulu News SABC 1 5 220 489
isiXhosa News SABC 1 4 860 113
S’gud S’naysi SABC 1 4 595 378
Nyan Nyan SABC 1 4 586 425
Rhythm City 4 362 764
Makoti SABC 1 4 332 547

Three observations: SABC 1 remained dominant; regained some lost ground; and the nation’s obsession with news content began abating.

  1. SABC 1 dominance: Eight of the top 10 shows were on SABC 1. There wasn’t a single SABC 2, SABC 3, or DStv programme to be found in the top 10.
  2. regaining lost ground: Scandal in April dropped from its usual fourth place spot down to sixth. It recovered in June. The other firm favourite, Rhythm City, had dropped out of the top 10 but was is now back.
  3. News: The isiZulu and isiXhosa News bulletins on SABC 1 had climbed up to position four and five in April and May and had seen audience spikes of 30-40%. In June, they were back to their pre-pandemic levels.

But the biggest thing that the numbers have shown us — and we saw this in the daily time spent viewing data, too — is that, since people were back at work under level 3 restrictions, they didn’t have the time to watch TV like they had in the previous three months, and there was a big drop in audiences. Let’s consider the top 3…

Mar 2020

Apr 2020

May 2020

Jun 2020

% diff Jun on May

Uzalo 9 486 146 11 382 535 11 302 538 9 590 008 -15%
Generations 7 829 601 9 671 777 9 148 977 8 473 225 -7%
Skeem Saam 5 784 067 8 788 444 8 914 540 8 128 294 -9%

The average audience of the top 10 show in June was 5.9m viewers. The average of the top 10 in May was 6.6m. That’s an average 10% decrease in audience across the top 10 in just one month, since the introduction of level 3 restrictions at the beginning of June.

Top 10: High-income

But let’s not forget about the high-income earners. The last few months saw a shakeup among the top end. We saw the SABC 3 broadcast of the movie Contagion take the top spot in April; we saw the president’s various addresses sitting firmly in the top 10; and we saw programming fall out of the top 10 while local content on Mzansi Magic challenged SABC 1’s dominance.

But June brought with it a similar mix of programming, broadcasters and audiences that we saw back in March, before the major impact of covid-19 made itself felt.

LSM 8–10 top 10 shows for Jun 2020



Uzalo SABC 1 1 268 365
Skeem Saam SABC 1 1 231 012
Generations SABC 1 932 049
The Queen Mzansi Magic 791 494
San Andreas (movie) 771 299
Scandal 732 612
isiZulu News SABC 1 702 895
Gomora Mzansi Magic 645 500
isiXhosa News SABC 1 630 666
Nyan Nyan SABC 1 581 265 was back with two programmes in the top 10. Mzansi Magic, which had four programmes in the top 10 in April, dropped to two, and SABC 1 rounded out the remaining six programmes. This, once again, highlights the misconception that many marketers have about what TV content the top end is actually consuming. We see very little DStv in the top 10, and no M-Net whatsoever. It’s very evident that high income consumers love local content.

We saw an equally large decrease in audiences as we saw among the main market, as evidenced below:

May 2020

Jun 2020

% diff Jun on May

Uzalo 1 511 289 1 268 365 -16%
Generations 1 359 156 1 231 012 -9%
Skeem Saam 1 087 749 932 049 -14%

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in July with the reintroduction of an overnight curfew (and the alcohol ban).

See also


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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