Telenovella, the television saviour

A scene from Wild At Heart

A scene from Wild At Heart

Adabraka based Citi FM celebrated its 9th anniversary two days ago. I have been in a dilemma of whether to do a critical piece on the station’s performance over the period that it has been here or wait to do that when the station chalks 10 years next year if we are all here and this column is still functioning.

I decided on putting a stay of execution on it and doing it when they are 10. I think 10 is more a perfect number than nine and therefore better to do what I intend doing when that happens instead.

Yeah, I know, not much will change between now and then and yeah, that’s what I choose to do regardless of the fact that I ate their anniversary breakfast yesterday although Godfred Akoto Boafo forgot to add salt to the omelette he prepared.

However, it would not be out of place to congratulate Samuel Atta Mensah and his different teams for the hard work they put in to make Citi FM what it is today from the beginning till now.

I know how Citi FM started and also know some of the challenges the station went through and therefore know they deserve to be congratulated all round.

The subject of my piece today has to do with the state of television and the muscle hold that Mexican soap operas or Telenovella has on it.

Muscle hold because it seems without it, many stations would not survive in the market. Or maybe they would in a different way.

Let me draw a football analogy to tell my story. Currently in the Barclays Premier League in England, the conventional wisdom is to have a Spanish player or a player of Spanish extraction to add to a player their team so they can benefit from their technical abilities.

Chelsea has benefited from Juan Mata, Arsenal is benefiting from Santi Carzola and Arteta, before he went to Arsenal, Everton had benefited from the services of the latter.

Liverpool has Luiz Suarez, Swansea has Michu, Manchester City has a host of them including David Silva, Kun Aguerro, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas and on.

Indeed, the exception is not to have a gifted Spanish player in your squad such as it happens at Manchester United except even they benefit from the services of a Spanish goalkeeper.

In a similar manner, it is almost impossible to find a television station operating in Ghana today that has no one or two or even three Mexican soaps in their repertoire of programmes. It seems to be the easier way to get your audience on your side.

But it is not only a matter of getting the Mexican soap as part of your content but let that be the leader of your content and choose the proper time to show it when people are likely to be watching the most or make it such that people will watch it the most.

There are stations which have survived because they had a very popular soap in their portfolio and when people got caught on to it they would hardly stop to do anything else, they spend a lot of time to watch and continue to watch.

UTV has been around for little over a year now and it has been vilified and praised in equal measure for the fact that they show very latest Hollywood blockbuster movies which they may not have the rights to, but at the moment it seems the eyeballs for Telenovella has shifted to their screens with the introduction of Wild at Heart popularly known as Corazon Indomable.

I have seen and heard many people say they are going to watch UTV because they are showing this new Mexican soap. To be honest, I have never been caught in the web of Telenovellas and so I do not know what exactly is the addictive ingredient in dramas such as Wild at Heart, but we shall attempt to find out in due course.

This seems to be the lynchpin on which UTV’s programming would rest and that over many months to come, they will still be showing it. It seems that once people get caught by a Telenovella, they hardly stop watching until it’s over.

Before UTV would get into the television business and even think about showing their widely received and viewed Telenovella Wild At HeartViasat1 had been there already with Storm Over Paradise. This was the programme that defined Viasat1.

It brought the station its highest ratings and that time belt of 3pm to 4pm which also aired subsequent Mexican soaps garnered the highest ratings on all television stations.

Before Viasat1 would even contemplate starting a broadcast unit in Ghana, Net 2 was claiming all the eyeballs onto their new television station when they introduced the blockbuster Mexican soap,  Second Chance.

That series produced by Telemundo was a huge one that got Net 2 all the necessary viewership it could get. It was struggling at the start and apart from showing movies they didn’t have rights to, they did not have other much content to compete and therefore latching on Second Chance was a big one and one that would work hugely in their favour.

Before Net 2 would even be thought of, Metro TV has successfully milked different Telenovella series to its advantage and had grown their audience base with that.Cuando Sias Mia and other ones stood the station in the right stead for many years.

When it launched, TV3 had the privilege of Acapulco Bay to get many viewers although is not a Telenovella in the true sense of the word.

However, the likes of Esmeralda came through and gave the station a lot of viewers.

Over the years, many other Telenovellas have been shown by the station and the public has accepted all of them. When Viasat1 was giving all the stations a good beating with Storm Over Paradise and others, TV3 had to find some other Mexican soaps to rescue them around that time of the day.

TV Africa had claimed when it started that it would only show content of African origin and won’t be swayed by the prevailing circumstance to show content that adds no value to the culture of the African, which many accuse the Mexican soaps to be.

However, along the way, the station got converted and joined the Telenovella bandwagon and they have shown many of these drama series on their channel over the years.

As it is now, every single station in the country has one, two, three or more Telenovellas running at different times daily. It has become the mainstay of some of the stations and we obviously, and sadly, cannot do away with them.

I am sure you know that Telemundo channel was recently launched on DStv that only shows Telenovella drama and it has achieved tremendous success over a short period of time. Viewers have accepted the channel as fast as they could.

The question has been asked why Mexican, Brazilian and other Latin American soaps have taken over not only Ghana but the entire continent in the manner that it has especially when many conservative and well-meaning citizens think it destroys the values of the African. So why do we condemn them and yet keep watching them?

The television stations have realised that these soaps cost much less than content from the west and also content produced locally and so it is like a sitting duck for them. It comes relatively cheaper and therefore good on their overheads.

Secondly, the viewers have connected to it and since television stations are there to satisfy their viewers and therefore their advertisers, we can be assured that so long as people continue to watch these soaps, they will continue to show them.

Thus we may be worried that the Mexican soaps are diluting our culture, but they are satisfying a certain need and so long as the craving doesn’t go away, it will also not go away.

We may just have to accept that we are stuck with the Telenovellas.

@TheGHMediaGuy

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