ON M-NET’S ART OF STORYTELLING
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.