M-Net announced the fifth season of Idols in early November 2008 and promised a summer vibe and new rules.
For Season 5 the show did away with the strict ‘a capella’ rule, which meant auditionees had to sing without backing musical accompaniment.
Even though auditionees are still judged on their vocal abilities, prospective Idols were able to take musical instruments to the auditions.
Instead of the search happening in autumn/winter as with previous seasons, the auditions began in mid-December and ran through the 2008/2009 holiday season.
Auditions began in Cape Town on 17 December 2008 and continued in Durban early in 2009. The show then moved inland to Johannesburg. All South African citizens between the ages of 16 and 30 as of 17 December 2008 were eligible to enter the show.
Auditions took place on the following dates:
Cape Town: 17-19 December, 2008
Durban: 6-8 January, 2009
Johannesburg: 10-12 January, 2009
In between the Durban and Joburg auditions, Algoa FM ran a competition in which hopefuls from the Eastern Cape could enter to win the chance to audition in Joburg. The competition yielded five winners who flew up for the day - four of them made it to the Top 100.
The Top 100 finalists were represented as follows:
Cape Town: 25
Port Elizabeth: 4
The Top 100 subsequently went to Johannesburg to go through the "theatre" phase of the competition - singing solo, singing in groups, harmonising and singing with and without accompaniment.
They were whittled down to a Top 24, when the show began in earnest.
The four judges who did duty since Season 2 - Dave Thompson, Randall Abrahams, Mara Louw and Gareth Cliff - returned for Season 5.
Season 5 Times
Idols 5 premiered on M-Net on Sunday 1 February, 2009 at 17h30 and kicked off with coverage of the Cape Town auditions. On Monday, 2 February at 19h00 it continued with the Durban auditions.
The Monday night show - which traditionally begins later in the season for the announcement of Results once the voting begins - was a regular weekly fixture from the start of the season.
Before the show got to the performance stage and results, it showcased further auditions as well as extra footage filmed on location in each city.
There was also a 24-hour channel on DStv. After Sunday's premiere the Idols Extra 24/7 channel launched on DStv Channel 198 and featured all the audition footage filmed from auditions everywhere - every single person who auditioned was featured.
The channel was updated week-to-week so that every audition got shown.