Grassroots Vol 20 No 3 | Page 30

NEWS “WildEarth has always been a decentralised company that has always operated 100% digitally, so moving to Zoom meetings and having everything in the cloud was not a challenge, as that is how we have always been,” says Wallington. As restrictions eased, WildEarth began adding more locations to their live streams - and in spite of the careful juggling act between presenters, camera operators and other staff, Wallington says they have successfully avoided any staff becoming infected with the coronavirus. “We are lucky in that our teams can quite easily isolate, as they are isolated in the wilderness anyway,” says Wallington. Massive increase in lockdown viewers South Africa’s hard lockdown has been good for WildEarth - during early lockdown Wallington says WildEarth’s viewership rose five-fold, with viewership from South Africa increasing fifteenfold. “While viewer numbers have dropped somewhat since the April peak, our global viewership is still more than double when compared with March, and South African viewership remains at well over seven times what it was before the lockdown,” says Wallington. “Expressed in hours viewed, this number for South Africa is currently still eleven times what it was before lockdown.” People are also starting to watch more of each safari than they did previously. Wallington says people are sticking around for 50% longer than they did before the lockdown, which means on average South African viewers are watching about 50 minutes per three-hour drive. Each live-streamed safari is currently viewed by about 40,000 people, and in the month of July, a total of about 1.5 million watched their safaris - down from a peak in April of about 2 million. The increased viewer numbers and interest around the world has led to interest from several new opportunities. In mid-lockdown they licensed shows to the BBC and Chinese conglomerate Tencent, and have recently agreed on a deal with CGTN to broadcast directly to China, complete with Chinese subtitles. Locally, WildEarth struck a deal with SABC 3, to broadcast the safaris live between 3 pm and 4 pm daily, which Wallington says reaches 200,000 viewers per show. And in late-August, WildEarth announced that it will be launching a brand new 24-hour safari channel on DStv Channel 183. The new DStv channel will initially feature seven hours of live safaris each day - with a vision to expand this offering to include live safaris around the clock, from various timezones. South African company WildEarth, which has been broadcasting live safaris for several years, has seen its viewer numbers skyrocket during lockdown. During the lockdown, WildEarth focused on broadcasting its twicedaily safaris from reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park, but quickly expanded to include both Phinda Private Game Reserve and Tswalu. From August, they will be broadcasting live from the Maasai Mara and launching a dedicated channel on DSTV. Figure 2: A screengrab from Youtube: 29 Grassroots Vol 20 No 3 September 2020