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Tuesday, 7 August 2018


Image by quora.com

By Akindele Oyinola

This is not a good time for the Nigerian pay-TV consumer; who earns in a hard way and spends in a hard way. The current brouhaha over what it costs to enjoy the services of some Pay TV operators in Nigeria has only reminded Nigerians of two lines in Kofi Awonor’s ‘Songs of Sorrow’.

“If I turn here, the rain beats me…If I turn there the sun burns me”.

The poem is about the poet portraying his emotion in a depressing and melancholy manner as a result of the calamities that befell him. This also aptly captures the problem with Nigerians, where consumers are suffering a complete rip off on the part of some service providers.

In the last one month, various news portals and newspapers have been bombarded with a weak attempt to justify the recent increase in tariff by MultiChoice. Needless to say, that most of the stories and press statements issued by the company insulted the sensibilities of Nigeria and Nigerians alike. Like some others, they made an attempt to ride on our institutions to force the new tariff down our throat, like a child being forced to swallow a bitter medicine.

MultiChoice communicated the price adjustments, on its DStv platform to its customers directly by text message, which stated that they would take effect from 1 August. Before we agree to this new tariff, we shouldn’t forget in a hurry that it is almost becoming a tradition of the company to hike tariffs annually, as we witnessed this in 2013, 2015 and even last year.

Under the new arrangement, the DStv Premium package now attracts N15, 800 as against the previous rate of N14, 700. DStv Compact Plus customers, now pay N10, 650 instead of N9, 900, While Compact subscribers, who until this month paid N6, 500,would now be paying N6, 800. In the same way, prices on its DStv Family and Access packages have been raised to N4, 000 and N2, 000 respectively as opposed to N3, 800 and N1, 900 that were initially being paid.

The revelation is sickening and I know it does so for many other people. My anger personally increased for two reasons. One, the way it is being justified in comparison with what is obtainable in other countries. Another reason is the fact that our people are being taken for granted yet pitch their tent only with the service provider, when we have other operators in the market that can match them content for content or even providing better content at cheaper, pocket friendly rates such as StarTimes.

Like some commentators, I also believe that if truly Multichoice is consumer friendly, the company wouldn’t have gone ahead to increase tariff at this time, considering the harsh economic reality and the fact that over the years, it has hoodwinked Nigerian patrons so much because of our enthusiasm and commitment to grow the nation’s entertainment sector.

While I’m not trying to argue for, or against whether pay TV rates in Nigeria are the highest in the world, we must strongly dismiss the argument by the promoters of such bad news that Nigerians must show understanding and abide by the new payment regime simply because the increment was a blanket one.

I take this position because of the varying capital income in countries. For instance, if DStv Premium subscribers in South Africa are paying N15, 000 and the company decides to peg it down to N15, 000 in Nigeria, it is an unfair treatment. First, there may be an urgent need for the company to compare the ability for Nigerians to pay that amount. Critically speaking, between South Africa and Nigeria, per capital income is around ratio 10-1. This implies that capital income is higher in South Africa than Nigeria.

Coming home, if there is anything we enjoy in this part of the world, it is how relatively affordable some services are, compared to other countries. That is why it is easy for people to come to Nigeria with foreign currencies and get more value that they normally would with the same amount abroad. The implication of this is that service providers and manufacturers of goods must align their prices with the local economic realities or face a boycott. Some companies are doing so, while others are not, thereby getting away with harsh and unfriendly decisions towards Nigerians.

In Nigeria of today, the options of the average pay TV subscriber are growing by the day and aspirational Nigerians who want to up their content consumption would get more value for their money.

Nigerian companies offering pay TV series have access to an ever-growing subscriber base which offers pay-television companies a huge potential for lucrative business, there are millions of households within the various economic strata that have huge appetites for programmes, giving viewers alternatives to monotonous, limited programmes on the country's free-to-air television.

On the surface, the country represents a pay-television investor’s paradise. However, somewhat curiously, the sector is also notorious for its high mortality rate, leaving its cemetery with institutional corpses such as those of CTL, FSTV, DAARSAT, HiTV and lately, Play TV and ACtv.
The most notable escapee of the fate that befell these players is StarTimes. StarTimes, also a down market offering, launched in 2010. Only 8 years down the line, this very affordable pay TV company is serving more than 4 million homes in Nigeria, offering content ranging from sports, blockbuster Movies, kiddie’s entertainment, local and international news, music and many more for as little as N900 monthly subscription fee on its lowest bouquet, while its highest bouquet, packed with more than 80 channels costs only about N2,600.

Indeed, we can turn to StarTimes to put Multichoice on its toes. Just recently, StarTimes added 4 new channels to their bouquet; Ebony life, Fox, Nollywood Plus and ST Kids. In addition to this, StarTimes, constantly appears conscious of the economic realities of Nigeria, having pledged to reduce subscription prices of their bouquet in these hard times as part of their core values to make entertainment affordable for every home. Perhaps, as an opportunity for would-be subscribers to jump on their platform.

Only last week the company announced an open month offer for all subscribers, stating that from 1st to August 31st, all subscribers (Active or not) will have access to all the new StarTimes channels without paying a dime.

From any angle one chooses to look at it, Nigerians are suffering in silence over the recent Pay-TV price hike. Perhaps, it is time for a rethink on the need to seek credible alternatives which will satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians for great contents at pocket friendly rates.

Akindele Oyinola is a public affair analyst. He writes from Lagos.

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