YOLISA PHAHLE

ON M-NET’S ART OF STO­RY­TELLING

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

What is your man­age­ment style?

I think some of the most im­por­tant ad­vice my pre­vi­ous boss gave me was to em­ploy peo­ple that are a lot smarter than you are. And when you’ve ac­tu­ally em­ployed those peo­ple, take the time to lis­ten to them and what they have to say.

I am by na­ture a bit of a risk taker and I do en­cour­age peo­ple to take risks, and I try re­ally hard to sup­port the team when those risks don’t pay off or don’t turn out as ex­pected.

How do you main­tain a work/life bal­ance?

When you’ve got chil­dren you are sort of forced to take hol­i­days. I have two, so I do make sure we take three hol­i­days a year in line with the school hol­i­days. When you are pro­duc­ing and those are the kinds of shows you can take your chil­dren to. Even though you are work­ing over a week­end, they en­joy be­ing on those sets. And, luck­ily, my par­ents have been very sup­port­ive when I have to travel.

With all your work-re­lated trav­el­ling, what’s your favourite des­ti­na­tion?

Cape Town is one of the most beau­ti­ful places in the world. I have been lucky enough to go to in­cred­i­ble places, but I still find that South Africa, in par­tic­u­lar Cape Town and parts of the KwaZulu-Natal coast and the East­ern Cape, are some of the most beau­ti­ful places in the world as far as I’m con­cerned. I quite like to take my hol­i­days in SA.

Whose minds in­spire you?

I am ac­tu­ally get­ting ready for my hol­i­day now and I’ve got the Elon Musk bi­og­ra­phy, which I re­ally want to read. He is an amaz­ing South African, who is do­ing all sorts of things that impact the world in a pos­i­tive way.

I think that Michelle and Barack Obama are in­cred­i­ble, in­spi­ra­tional peo­ple who have been the ex­cep­tion to the rule al­most ev­ery sin­gle time.

Trevor Noah is an amaz­ing tal­ent. What he’s man­aged to achieve and how he has sin­gle-mind­edly built his ca­reer is hugely in­spi­ra­tional. He’s very brave – tak­ing off to Amer­ica, tak­ing chances and re­ally start­ing at the bot­tom in the US be­fore he got his big break on Com­edy Cen­tral.

Which artist would you have liked to per­form with, but didn’t get the chance to?

I think Bob Mar­ley is time­less, and when you lis­ten to his mu­sic to­day, it was ahead of its time in so many ways and his mes­sages are still in­cred­i­bly rel­e­vant. It would have been amaz­ing to work with some­body like that.

If you weren’t the CEO of M-Net, what would you be do­ing?

I would maybe teach, and I also think that I would prob­a­bly look to mu­sic again in terms of com­pos­ing, ar­rang­ing and per­form­ing. she is the per­fect fit for fur­ther­ing M-Net’s vi­sion of bring­ing sto­ries to South African au­di­ences. So how did she go from be­ing on stage to run­ning the show?

“As a mu­si­cian I was quite lucky be­cause I played for some very suc­cess­ful bands. We spent a lot of time at ra­dio sta­tions and in tele­vi­sion stu­dios get­ting in­ter­viewed. Then I be­came even more in­fat­u­ated with the me­dia and re­alised that me­dia has a huge role to play. Back then (it’s all changed now, of course), they re­ally were the pri­mary cu­ra­tors of what peo­ple could see and hear about.”

Phahle has been with M-Net since 2005 and be­came CEO in 2015.

Com­pet­ing in an on-de­mand en­vi­ron­ment

The mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion is how com­pa­nies like Mul­tiChoice, and a chan­nel like M-Net, are adapt­ing to the chang­ing me­dia land­scape.

“To­day, ev­ery­thing has changed. When I was a child and you wanted to watch the news you had to do so on a tele­vi­sion, and that was it. To­day you can read or watch the news on your phone, tablet, or cre­ate news your­self.” This power shift, whereby con­sumers now have a larger voice and more choice is very in­ter­est­ing and pos­i­tive in many ways, be­lieves Phahle.

“As broad­cast­ers it forces us to be­come more con­sumer-cen­tric and, ul­ti­mately, we have to make sure that the sto­ries we are telling are com­pelling, rel­e­vant and res­o­nant.”

So how has M-Net risen to the chal­lenge of the Net­flix era, where con­sumers are spoilt for choice?

For Phahle, the M-Net vi­sion has not re­ally changed. They still want to en­sure that they tell the best lo­cal sto­ries and bring peo­ple the most an­tic­i­pated, crit­i­cally ac­claimed and talked about in­ter­na­tional con­tent.

“So for me ev­ery­thing to a de­gree still starts and ends with the story. Ob­vi­ously that story needs to be dis­sem­i­nated, and that’s where tech­nol­ogy plays a part. We don’t know what the de­liv­ery mech­a­nisms will be in the future, but the trend sug­gests that peo­ple have an

M-Net founder, Koos Bekker, with leg­endary film­maker Jamie Uys, and Naspers MD at the time Ton Vosloo

pre­sen­ter Derek Watts with ac­tress Char­l­ize Theron when she ap­peared on the pro­gram af­ter win­ning her 2004 Os­car.

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