Nigeria’s Pay-TV sector: Can TSTV Walk the Talk?

Nigeria’s Pay-TV sector: Can TSTV Walk the Talk?

By Cynthia Ogidi

In the middle of the excitement generated by the planned launch of TSTV, a cable TV provider whose unique selling point is pay-as-you view proposition, Nigerian subscribers have begun to sing discordant tunes. While some are excited about the promise of extra values that transcend the current realities in the sector, some are quite skeptical about the sustainability of the promises andchallenged the credibility of a company that came out of the blues, and is completely alien to Nigeria’s complex operating environment.

This development has further ignited various concerns such astrust issues, credibility of its promises, and sustainability of its proposition, among other issues. The new pay-TV bride, even before testing the stormy waters of Nigeria’s operating business environment has quickly gone to the media with the promises of enhanced services to subscribers at very affordable prices. But the question is, how well can we trust TStv especially with its superfluous brand promises? Will it be reliable and dependable, or is it another ploy to extort money from unsuspecting Nigerians? Does TSTV have arobust technical expertise as well as the financial wherewithal to compete with the existing pay TV providers? Can it also provide the required high quality content, comparable with global standards, that well-discerning Nigerians are already used to courtesy DStv?

Certainly, Nigerians would not easily forget the history of HiTV and the broadcast right of the English Premier League, which the company got but could not manage due to huge financial implications. Just like TStv is currently using the media to sell its promises, HiTV came with pricing strategy to compete with the dominant player in the sector. It offered its decoders at a competitive price so as to harness a larger market share. This development instantly made HiTV the go-to brand as millions of Nigerians are very passionate about football, especially the English Premier League. HiTV had a fulfilling experience as Soccer fans, bar owners, and viewing centres across the country, all jostled for the HiTV decoders. Surprisingly, like a firework, whose effect is short-lived, HiTV could not stand the test of time and it fell like a pack of cards shortly after it got the EPL broadcast right. A few years after, the CEO of HiTV, Toyin Subair, in an interview, shared his experience on the collapse of a once vibrant business that appealed to thousands of football loving Nigerians. Mr. Subair disclosed that HiTV essentially collapsed due to a mandatory clause in the company’s shareholders agreement, which prevented HiTV from raising the required capital to renew the broadcast rights of the English Premiers League (EPL). Then, the EPL was a major tool to acquire subscribers and it contributed to the company’s rapid growth. However, the lesson here is that procurement of rights, or content, especially from foreign markets, comes with huge financial implications. This largely explains why the company had to pull the plug on the deal, even when its subscriber base was growing.

It appears the scenario of yesteryears is at play as TSTV gets set to hit the Nigerian market with its highly hyped pay-as-you consume proposition. Enticing as this may seem, some of the industry key stakeholders have expressed their concern on the issue of the pay-as-you view, stating that this is not practiced anywhere.

In contrast to the above claim, a critical question that comes to mind is, are Nigerian subscribers ready for pay-per-view, even if it is practicable? Some schools of thoughts havecontinued to argue that this might have high-cost implications, not considering the fact that it limits the choices of programmes that subscribers can enjoy. The question which needs to be asked are whether Nigerians are ready to settle for pay-per view when other digital operators are offering variety of quality programmes at competitive prices especially when compared to what is obtainable in other climes around the world. Again, for those subscribers whose choices cut across entertainment, news, sports, among others, it means they may have to pay more to be able to access these programmes.

Another factor that needs to be considered is the credibility and integrity of the management of TSTV. The promise of free data and WIFI has got prospective subscribers excited. But how sustainable is this, will this be for the short or long-term? If it is long-term, will they be able to sustain this, given the peculiarities of Nigeria’s operating environment such as challenges of power, and other overhead costs? Not much is known about TSTV’s background and Nigerians should not be surprised when the promised incentives suddenly become missing.

Another factor that subscribers might find worrisome is the issue of sustainability. It is very easy to make promises, especially as a new entrant that yearns for publicity, actualizing this proposition indeed comes with its attendant challenges. Delivering on these promises in view of the peculiarities of the sector will invariably determine the viability of its services.  Most importantly, the issue of high-quality content is paramount. Can TSTV match DStv’s world class content delivered in High Definition, at competitive rates compared with rates available in other African markets where DStv is operating? For those that are in the pay-TV sector, high-quality content production comes with huge financial consequences and this is an area DStv has distinguished itself. High-quality programmes that compare with global benchmarks and delivered on HD are what DStv is reputed for. Will TSTV be able to wear this shoe by weathering the storms that hadsome its predecessors winding down their business shortly after they commenced? Time will tell.

Essentially, DStv and GOtv are broadly known for their world class content offerings that are at par with global standards and at competitive prices, mostly reputed for their significant contributions to the growth and development of the sector. Perhaps, that is why they are perceived as dominant pay-TV service providers. However, there are other players such as Kwese, Netflix, and StarTimes, among others. While competitive pay-TV market is desirable for Nigerian subscribers who want the luxury of choice, it is also important that hopes are not raisedonly to be dashed particularly at a time the country is gradually ridding itself of the increasing inflation that brought about economic recession.

In a recent report published by The Punch newspaper, Mr. Tunji Adegbenro, a marketing professional  earnestly cautioned Nigerian subscribers about their haste in patronizing the yet to be tested pay TV provider.

He said, “I am not ready to join the bandwagon of Nigerians who are eager to patronize a new product because there is this fear that it might not survive Nigeria’s operating environment, noting that, “I know that this is good news but I hope it won’t go the way of HiTV and Frontage Satellite TV that came with interesting packages but could not continue their operations for too long.” Adegbenro added, “I remember that I kept on subscribing to HiTV despite the regular increase in subscription fees because I was enjoying the sport stations. We don’t know how long the TSTV offers will last. I will stick to my DStv because it is now more reliable.”

On the other hand, some stakeholders feel a healthy competition is necessary for subscribers to get a great value. Godwin Ikechukwu, a sports enthusiast said this is a good development and he expressed confidence in the ability of TSTV to compete favourably with other satellite-based TV operators since it was offering internet services that are acceptable to Nigerians.

While we cannot completely exonerate DStv from the allegation of its dominance of Nigeria’s pay-TV sector, it is also necessary to recall that the foremost video entertainment company helped to develop what we see today as a vibrant pay-TV market, production sector, and technical support through knowledge transfer. TSTV should also tell Nigerians what their developmental plan for Nigeria is, unless if theirs is just another ploy to hastily make money from Nigeria in the short-term.They should not waste the time and resources of subscribers who are already anticipatory of cheaper decoders with inducements such as free data and free WIFI.

 

Ms Ogidi is a social analyst and a pay-TV customer

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