Fans of TV shows like Date My Family, Utatakho and Yobe have Sphumelele Sibeko to thank for helping to develop and bring these much-loved productions to life on M-Net.
Sibeko is the head of Reality & Entertainment at M-Net, and it’s her job to source and develop local content for channels like Mzansi Magic, 1 Magic and Channel O, working alongside her team of commissioning editors. “This environment is so much fun,” she says. “Every day we work with producers and talent across the country to create and source the best entertainment for our audiences. What’s been important for me is that we give our people a voice. A voice that’s varied, that’s dynamic, that is funny, that is heartbreaking, that is full of learnings, that has character. A voice that moves people,” she says.
Sibeko initially studied marketing, attaining a marketing degree from Wits University then working at Unilever for three years. But itchy feet and bigger ambitions took her to New York to pursue her love of entertainment. She enrolled at the New York Film Academy and studied a diploma in producing for film and television. It was a life-changing experience. “It made this world that I had dreamt of for so many years so real, and allowed me to start figuring out the business of the arts which I was always very interested in.”
After New York she moved to Cape Town and worked at Penguin Films in various capacities. “I would do anything, from being an assistant director on set to developing concepts to directing documentaries to pitching to broadcasters. It was a challenging and amazing time and it gave me a really great foundation in the local TV and film world,” she says.
Her marketing experience gave her an understanding of audiences, which served her well for a move to M-Net’s Mzansi Magic in 2014 as a commissioning editor. She was promoted to head of Reality & Entertainment for local channels in 2015.
“In the future I want to tell more stories, in more ways, to more people. I want to share our great stories with the world,” she says.
Sibeko also wants to build the industry more directly by focusing on upskilling and transforming the sector to include more people able to create and run South Africa’s entertainment business. — Lesley Stones