When Basetsana Kumalo's production company Connect TV came up with the Our Perfect Wedding reality show, they had no idea it would be a barnburner.
"The secret is love. The show seeks to celebrate love, which is perfect for all of us in our own different ways," Kumalo says.
"Whether we admit it or not, we are all suckers for happy endings."
The show has become Mzansi's favourite and displaced soapie drama Isibaya in December from the number one spot on the Mzansi Magic channel.
It was only knocked off its perch last month by Connie and Shona Ferguson's new drama series Igazi.
Early last year, Our Perfect Wedding occupied third spot on Mzansi Magic with a viewership of 757000 behind Rockville with 823000 and Isibaya holding top spot with 856000.
But by December, Our Perfect Wedding's viewership had shot up to a million viewers, while IsiBaya dropped to 632000 followed by Date My Familywith 538000.
Last month, Igazi's viewership came in at 1.28 million against Our Perfect Wedding's 1.22 million and IsiBaya at 1.02 million.
But Kumalo is not getting carried away, saying one is as good as one's last episode in the TV industry.
"The idea came about in collaboration between the channel and our content team at Connect TV," Kumalo says. "It was part of the strategy to bring more local programming to the pay TV environment through Mzansi Magic channels."
She says entertainment reality TV, as a genre, was always relegated to international formats adapted for local audiences. But Our Perfect Wedding and Bootcamp Mzansi (formerly Kabelo's Bootcamp) created a new space that saw the reality genre as an area to grow audiences.
"As with any new format, one has to go with one's 'TV gut' and create the best possible product," she says.
"We continuously evaluate this format and ensure that it has longevity."
The show has become a phenomenon within social media and TV ratings, and Kumalo says this is because viewers want to own the content and engage with it in a "very personal" way.
"Our key learnings from having created this format are priceless," Kumalo says.
"Things like cultural authenticity and a respect for the people's perspective are one of the many lessons we've learnt."
Kumalo says the show's winning formula is that it is a real reflection of current society, and because people are able to identify with the characters in a natural way.
"We have also come to realise that people love happy endings, especially ones where love is involved," Kumalo says.
"Often times, the journey leading up to the big day is never that smooth, but the mere fact that love wins in the end, that's what viewers relate to."
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