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TV Digitisation: There’s Need To Do Away With Content Restrictions!

Blessing Nwobodo  |

By June 2015, Nigerian TV viewers will mark an end to the era of analogue technology, meaning that TV viewers will no longer be able to access television channels without the aid of a recommended set top box.

Already, the country has recorded its first feat in the digitization plan with Jos, the capital city of Plateau State, being the first to switch from an analogue terrestrial television system to the digital, last month.

While a considerable number of Nigerians are already subscribed to pay TV service providers, it is anticipated that when digitization fully takes effect from next year, over 36 million television households in the country will be turning to pay TV service providers.

Good enough, the Nigerian pay TV market has begun to witness the emergence of quite a number of operators interested in the business of providing entertainment and media content. These operators see compelling growth prospects in Nigeria’s Television industry. Notable among the new entrants are Montage Cable Network – owned by an indigenous private media company, Digital Satellite Television Company and CONSAT – owned by Continental Satellite Limited, which also runs TVC (Television Continental).

With a population of about 170 million people, of which about 68 per cent are between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, an economy projected to grow at a 6 per cent or higher rate over the next decade and a growing consumer class that advertisers are eager to reach, the Nigerian pay TV market is a goldmine waiting for investors to tap into.

Aside the size of her population and strong demand base for TV content, Nigeria has capacity to generate film, music and other entertainment content that will appeal to the viewing pleasure of TV owners, both at home and across the globe.

But then, there are bottlenecks here that need to be addressed in other for incoming pay TV operators to fully maximize their investment in the industry.

One of the challenges is the issue of content restriction. We have seen how this challenge has brought down promising pay-TV platforms in the past.

A case in point is the ditch indigenous pay TV service provider, Entertainment Highway Limited (HiTV), fell into, after running into debts, all in the bid to acquire exclusive right to the English Premier League.

After running the show for several years as market leader in the pay TV industry, DSTV, in 2007, lost its grip on the market to HiTV, which had obtained exclusive right to the EPL for three seasons spanning 2007 to 2010.

CONSAT

HiTV operated as a wireless digital terrestrial platform that started with about 24 channels, including CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC World, LBC International, God Africa, MTV Base, Fox Sports and Nicke-lodeon. It also created channels such as Hi-Sports, Hi-Ovation, Hi-Nolly, Nigezie, Hi-KIDS, Hi-Mix and Hi-Biz.

While the platform offered movies and news channels, the owners of HiTV also had their eyes on the EPL which they believed was a cash cow. Their strategy was to provide subscribers with lower rates and to obtain EPL to drive that process.

It eventually acquired the EPL right at $28m (4.5bn) for the three seasons. But, after the period, it lost the right back to DSTV, after failing to meet up with an obligation of producing the sum of $100m, which it had bid for the right. Prior to that, HiTV had deposited an initial non-refundable sum of N40m to secure the right, but after failing to complete payment for the right, it lost the bid and the sum of N40m. The loss created an operational problem for HiTV, leading to its eventual collapse.

Perhaps, if there was no issue of content restriction, we would still have HiTV running now. More so, aside the fact that content restriction stifles business for pay TV operators, in a way, it cages the freedom of consumers who, out of desperation, subscribe to a particular pay TV operator because of a certain exclusive content, even though they are not satisfied with the service of the operator.

“I am on this network that I find annoying, but I can’t do without them because they offer a prime content you can’t find on other platforms. I guess that is why they don’t even bother to make adjustment to customer complaints. They are very comfortable, knowing they have what others don’t,” Onyekachi Itodo, a subscriber to one of the pay TVs operators, stated.

Speaking at the launch of CONSAT, the Chief Executive Officer, Mayokun Okunola, argued that restricting some content to certain providers would not allow new comers in the industry to fully maximize their investment, since they would not be able to air compelling and relevant contents that could endear them to subscribers.

“Content is key to this industry. Our investment cannot be fully maximized if new providers are not able to air compelling and relevant content. It would be an unfair start,” he stated.

 

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