When news came in after the world cup that Hitv had lost the rights to the premiership to Dstv, there was a sense of satisfaction and joy amongst subscribers including me. The thought was that at last, rather than pay N15,000 (N9,000 plus NN6,000)monthly to enjoy both, we would just do away with HITV and face DSTV. Well, four months down the line, I still find myself stuck to both Pay TV stations albeit at a reduced cost of about N12,000. Still N3,000 higher than the pre HITV days.
So what’s going on? Why am I paying more for Pay TV? I thought the premiership held all the aces? Well this a classic example of competition with higher prices. With the two offering different and mostly quality channels, subscribers have no choice but to own both. This is because HiTv and DSTV have exclusive rights to an array of cable channels that leave the subscribers with no choice than to subscribe to both of them especially if you are out for quality programming. For example, While DSTV has CNN, Ceebeies, Sound City, HiTv has FOX,Nickleodeon and Nigezie. DSTV has rights to Premiership, La Liga, German League and the FA cup. HiTV on the other hand has rights to Seria A, Champions League, Europa Cup, Carling Cup and the Scottish League. Difficult to leave either of them stemming from the above. So rather than having to choose between them, you end up subscribing to both and offcourse meaning more money out of your pocket.
So whilst competition is evidently there, it has not reduced the price you pay monthly for Pay TV. Rather its the Pay TV stations that are benefitting from increased competition with reports actually showing that they had both had an increase in viewership over the period. Reports from Screen Digest indicate a combied PayTv subscriber base of 405,000 in Nigeria, with DSTV having 205,000 and HITV 200,000 (not sure how many is active) as at 2009.
I don’t know if there is any other country where subscribers have little or no choice but to settle for 2 Pay TV’s rather than one if they’re to enjoy quality programming. People have attributed the problem to the inability of the regulators to force both companies to enter into some kind of arrangement that we see them sharing their exclusive rights. I see no reason why they can’t be forced to apply the same kind of sharing that exist between telecom companies called CDR Reconciliation. For example if a call originates from Globacom and terminates with MTN, then MTN will have to pay Globacom some part of the cost of making that call. Similarly, DSTV can charge HITV a fee for every Premiership match watched by its subscribers and vice versa.
With this arrangment, both companies still stand to make some nice profit and concentrate more on widening their subscriber base which by all accounts is still very low. A subscriber base of just 405,000 when compared to a population of over 140million people leaves little to doubt as to how untapped the market is. The government has to do more to ensure the PAYTV operators relax their tight grip to exclusivity rights. They should offer some form of tax incentives, moral suasion and other Government sweetners that leave them with no choice than to loosen up.
Competition lacks its purpose if it means consumers will have to pay more. Rather than competition, what we have is a duopoly of supply. Enough with paying more for Pay TV, this has to stop.