Feature

Cable TV War: Technology expands viewers options, ending monopoly

•On-demand subscribers hit 2.61m in 3 years time

With the momentum being gained by video-on-demand (VoD) and social media platforms like Netflix and Facebook, it is very likely that 10 years from now, one will no longer care if cable TV provider changed subscription models to pay-per-view, or wrest top European Leagues from current franchise holders. You will basically control what you watch. It’s happening already. PAUL OGBUOKIRI reports

 

 

Future of Cable TV in Nigeria

 

It has been projected by Digital TV Research that in three years’ time, on-demand platforms will have about 2.61 million subscribers in Nigeria — a figure that took Cable TV more than a decade to record — while the number of social media users in Nigeria is expected to climb close to 40 million, in a country of over 100 million internet users.

 

This came as in 2020, the streaming giant, Netflix officially launched its presence in Nigeria, the first from the league of streaming platforms like Hulu and HBO. Genevieve Nnaji, whose directorial debut Lionheart was acquired by Netflix in 2018, led the cast of the video.

 

“Africans taking charge of African stories” was the message emphasised by Netflix, which sees Netflix Naija feature more Nigerian movies and TV series. Nollywood – as the industry is more widely known – is vital to this mandate because of its output, producing about 1,000 movies a year, surpassing Hollywood and only second to Bollywood.

 

On paper, the Netflix-Nollywood partnership was a dream come true – empowering local storytellers to create original content at a time when people were sequestered inside their homes, desperate for new ways to distract themselves.

 

Over the course of the pandemic, many Nollywood titles have already been uploaded onto the platform through this licensing deal, turning Netflix into a postcinema haven for Nigerian cinema fans. Netflix comes with three affordable monthly plans Basic, Standard and Premium which cost Nigerians N2, 900.25 for the Netflix Basic Plan, N4,400.25 for the Netflix Standard Plan N6,000.00 respectively, and you can watch Netflix on your smartphone, tablet, Smart TV, laptop, or streaming device

 

At the launching of Netflix Naija, it promised unlimited movies, TV shows, and more to be watched anywhere and can cancel anytime. Netflix Inc. also launched a mobile-only subscription plan in Nigeria in a bid to step up its growth in Africa. Sunday Telegraph learnt that the streaming company will charge N1,200 monthly for the mobile-only offer, lower than the basic service’s cost of N2,900.

 

This comes amid the company’s struggle to expand beyond the wealthiest of Africa’s population. Netflix has 1.4 million subscribers in the continent, according to data from Digital TV Research. This is lower than the almost 20 million customers of pay TV Company MultiChoice Group Ltd. Netflix reportedly aims to expand the mobile-only offers permanently if the trials, which started in South Africa and Egypt, succeed. The streamer also launched mobilefocused subscription plans in South Africa with monthly costs of 39 South African rand and 59 rand respectively, according to a Sept. 14 MyBroadband report.

 

DSTV monopoly (control of major sporting events airing right)

 

Effort to end the DSTV monopoly in Nigeria has been on over the years but has not succeeded as the cable television services provider has maintained it’s on airing of the English Premier League (EPL).

 

“In the broad national interest, exclusivity of sporting rights in Nigeria is prohibited,” is section 6.2.8 of amendments to the sixth edition of Nigeria’s broadcasting code (PDF). The code goes ahead to state in 6.2.5 that “rights owner to live foreign sporting events shall offer the rights to Broadcasters on the different platforms stated.” This aspect of the regulation, will pry exclusive content from the companies that pay millions of dollars for them.

The regulator further spelt out how sublicencing these rights will work and also determined pricing as seen in section 9.1.1.2 (PDF). It also sets a fine of ₦10 million for broadcasters that “prevent competition in Nigeria.” Only DStv currently broadcasts major football competitions in Nigeria, especially the English Premier League. Subscribers say government pronouncement on ending monopoly should not stop at mere rhetoric. “Rather, it should be taken as a self-imposed marching order.

 

The task of creating the environment for proper private sector participation is the government’s. That means the infrastructure and policy framework that would enable the new licensee to attain and possibly surpass DSTV’s achievements should be put in place. And for the local business community, this is one opportunity to justify the EPL management’s confidence in Nigeria’s capacity to perform,”

 

 

Theo MacAnthony Okoroji, a Lagos based electronics dealer in Lagos said. Meanwhile, DStv subscribers said in Lagos said that they remained hooked to DStv because of the premiership.

 

According to the subscriber, Moses Akigwe, a Manchester United fan, there is no alternatives, as a result whatever is the tariff of DStv, he said that he will continue to pay it month watch his club and Premiership clubs play every week. Another subscriber, a Chelsea Football Club fan, nothing can stop him from watching his club play week in week out.

 

“What the government can do for us is to bring in another cable television provider that can air the premiership at a lesser tariff and DStv monopoly will be over. Meanwhile, the Federal Government has revealed plans to end the monopoly enjoyed by cable television service providers, especially DStv, owned by MultiChoice, a South Africa-based company.

 

The plan is said to include ending exclusive rights to sporting events. The government said it had amended Nigeria’s broadcasting code to prevent DStv and others from monopolising their channels and contents.

 

The House has been probing DStv for allegedly cheating its Nigerian subscribers by restricting them to prepaid plans and increasing its subscription rates on June 1, 2020, despite the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on the people.

 

At the continuation of the investigative hearings organised by an ad hoc committee of the House on the matter in Abuja recently, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had dismissed claims by DStv that pay-per-view was not proper for the Nigerian market. Mohammed noted that StarTimes, the cable arm of the Nigerian Television Authority, was already operating for some years.

 

The minister said, “On the issue of increase in price for subscribers, with the onset of COVID- 19, one of the first things we did in the ministry with the NBC (National Broadcasting Commission) was to provide succour to broadcasters.

 

“We suspended payment for the initial two months to all broadcasters so that they would be able to absorb the impact of COVID- 19. Therefore, it will be unfair for those for whom we have suspended payment to also at the same time increase their own fees. And I’m sure that the DG of NBC will take up this matte

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