As a DStv subscriber in Nigeria, I have followed the uproar over the MultiChoice price increase with keen interest. I am curious to see how it will end, and more importantly, if I will continue to pay the previous subscription rate. As a consumer, I naturally welcome reduced rates everywhere possible. Who doesn’t?
In all of this though, the vehemence with which the uproar has gone on suggests to me that it is orchestrated.
The court injunction ordering MultiChoice to revert to its old rates was celebrated the way barbarians did when they beheaded rivals in those battles of yore. It has left with the feeling that there is actually a hatred for MultiChoice and I have been compelled to locate the sources of irritation with the company.
Why, I have asked myself, is there this amount of ill-will towards MultiChoice? A few of the obvious reasons are listed here. Are they justified? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
- It towers above all other competitors.
Everyone, especially competing brands, love to hate the market leader. This hatred stems from the perception that it is a monopoly and has grabbed all the advantages for itself. As MultiChoice was the first of its kind in the Nigeria market, it has first arrival advantage and has made quite a name for itself.
It cornered the juiciest sport and entertainment content, which is the major driver of pay-TV. It also brought in two of the biggest reality shows: Idols West Africa and Big Brother Africa (both of which I am no fan of).
- High Expectations From A Company You Have Come To Rely On:
I don’t know about you, but sometimes the constant calls and text messages from companies trying to sell me a product, or in the case of MultiChoice, reminding me to pay my subscription, really irritate me.
It is true that I don’t always remember when my subscription is due and even when I see that intrusive flashing envelope, I experience fear, knowing that a fresh subscription is due any day. Even at that, I simply press escape and hide the annoying reminder.
Sometimes, I get the phone call or text message reminding me of my due date, which although even more intrusive than the envelope on the top left corner of my TV screen, eventually prompts me to pay. That being said, I get even more annoyed when I don’t get the call that normally reminds me and my service goes off. At that moment, I never recall that just the day before, I had ranted about their intrusive style.
Someone shared a similar experience with me recently. His subscription expired and he scooted to the DStv office, hoping to renew as soon as possible. He got there at about 7:30pm, expecting the office to still be open to customers. He found it had closed and he all but lost it.
His mother-in-law was visiting and he desperately needed DStv to keep her entertained. This reliance on their service is what really upsets us. We love to hate them, but rely so much on their content. I feel his pain and although I know that they encourage customers to employ their self-service options and other payment platforms, I simply never remember to use them. They could do some more in terms of further educating their customers on the convenience of these self-help options.
- Remaining Afloat:
I suppose another reason MultiChoice is so hated is because it has dared to remain afloat. Who doesn’t trawl the papers and social media for details when there is a rumour that a corporate giant is in danger of collapsing?
Things like this bring great, often malicious pleasure at the trouble of the successful. This brings to mind General Motors’ Chapter 11 Reorganisation in 2009. General Motors actually filed for bankruptcy and the world watched with rapt attention, expecting the very worst.
It got a bail out in billions of dollars from the US government. It eventually regained profitability and resumed full operations, but not after its competitors had seized a sizeable chunk of the market.
A similar scenario was the emergence of HiTv and the perceived shift in the balance of power from MultiChoice to HiTv, when the latter won the rights to broadcast the Barclays Premier League. There was great jubilation at the time.
This precious commodity had been snatched from MultiChoice, a huge cause for celebration, indeed. Feeding our obsessions became that much more affordable. Alas, the celebration was short-lived, as all too soon, HiTv went under. We were so pained as we had been backing the underdog in this fight. Why? Because we were paying less to watch football. Imagine the disappointment when the rights were re-won by MultiChoice.
This made us even more suspicious of MultiChoice, as we assumed it had done something sinister to wrest the rights from the competitor. Hopefully, those who ran HiTV will someday tell us why they failed when we were solidly rooting for their success. But I suspect they failed because they failed to charge appropriately for the service they were providing. Anyway, I digress.
- Repetition of movies:
This one really irks and I know I am not alone in this! Despite the number of movies that are produced annually, I find that I still see the same movie repeated more than once within a week.
The explanation is that it is a universal programming strategy to ensure that there are more viewing opportunities for the movie. This means if I miss the movie in the morning, I can catch it at another time and on another day. I will not deny that there have been times when this strategy has worked to my advantage.
Those are the times I caught the end of a movie that I had been hoping to watch and then wished it could be shown again the next day. That being said, just how many movies are produced annually? If a new movie is shown every hour or two, every single day, we might run out of entertainment by mid- year. And that is assuming we have absolutely nothing else to do but watch movies all day long.
- The Pay-Per-View Myth:
I lived in the United States for a few years before coming back to settle in Nigeria. It was while I was in the States that I first encountered pay per view. As a young Nigerian just getting to the US, I expected to be able to catch all the big boxing fights via satellite television, as I had been doing at home. That was not to be.
I waited and kept scanning the first time around, then I called to confirm, and very patiently, a representative calmly told me I had to subscribe separately for that. After telling me how much it would cost, she concluded by providing the various payment platforms available to me.
I immediately did the exchange rate math in my head. What I came up with was crippling expensive! I’d rather pay a subscription and get all the matches inclusive of that subscription than having to pay a huge sum on top of my monthly subscription to get one match every single time. The pay-per-view model is one I’d rather do without.
Pay-per-view is not exactly pay-as- you-watch. It is a model used in the broadcast of high-ticket, one-off events. It is not a model that delivers a cheap television buffet from which you take what you want and leave out what you don’t. It is actually far more expensive.
- The origins of the company:
The fact that MultiChoice Nigeria owes its origins to a South African group of companies has also not added to its likeability. Why the hatred for fellow Africans anyway? MultiChoice Nigeria is no more South African than Coca-Cola is American or Airtel Nigeria is Indian or Startimes Nigeria is Chinese. Coscharis Nigeria, well, is German.
From my observation, companies establish operations in other countries and continents to remain ahead of the competition in their countries of origin, and also to improve profitability. They enter into a market because they see potential. They enter a market, knowing there could be risks, and a lot of times they enter knowing they could break even or get their calculations all wrong and flop drastically. It has never been about exploitation, but business.
These companies also tailor-make business models that are operable in the countries they have entered into. A good example is Diageo, which also has Guinness Nigeria to manage the beer brands; or Coca-Cola International, which has stakes in the Nigerian Bottling Company. However, the NBC runs its own business model and not Coca-Cola International’s.
Even when companies perceived to be South African or American or Italian enter into a market, they partner (often equally) with local shareholders. This facilitates acceptance. There is no way a South African business model can work in Nigeria. It is a Nigerian market, with its unique people, needs and peculiarities.
Akingbade, a tax administrator, wrote this article