By Prince Osuagwu
For Entertainment Highway Limited, owners of HiTV cable station, it is not all over, after the loss of European Premier League, EPL, broadcast right some few weeks back.
Not with the encouragement from Nigerians including a 5 year old who called to intimate the cable operator that even without the EPL, his parents must always recharge the HiTV cable to enable him access to his Cartoon channel.
Instead, the company has looked inwards to see how it would aggregate its services and provide a front that would be irresistible even without the EPL.
Interestingly the company has not lost hope of having the league back on its sports channels, as it plans to enter into negotiations with the new winners, DSTV for a possible 50-50 deal in the broadcast rights, to complement the Carling cup, Europa cup and Championship rights which are still intact in its kitty.
However, in a press conference at its Ikeja office, Monday, Chief Executive Officer of the company Mr Toyin Subair, said that HiTV was banking on the good relationship between the two companies to pull the deal through. After all, according to the company, DSTV also approached it last season for a fifty -fifty rights divide and it obliged before DSTV pulled out willingly.
â€œWe believe that DSTV would be excited at our offer because last season when we paid for the right, they approached us for a fifty-fifty deal and we obliged with the condition that as a young company we would also like to share fifty-fifty broadcast rights with some of their programmes which were not on our platform.
We believed that was a fair offer as a young company, but for reasons they know better, they pulled out. Otherwise we have never had any sour relationshipsâ€
At the moment, the company said it was concentrating on contents that would attract more subscribers against predictions that having lost the EPL rights, it would also lose customers. To that effect, it has added a music channel called One Music even as it plans to unveil another by September 1, 2010.
All these are in addition to slashing the price of its premium bouquet from N6000 to N3,500.
Subair noted that the price slash preceded the EPL right loss, adding that the price slash was a part of theÂ â€œthank youâ€ package he had for Nigerians who had lived the dream with the company since it started operations.
According to him, â€œwe had issued press releases of this price slash and some newspapers had carried the story long before we went for the EPL right bid. I am making this emphasis to express that we are not doing this because we lost the right, otherwise it was a way of thanking Nigerians who continue living the dreams with usâ€
Addressing newsmen on issues surrounding the EPL right loss and plans ahead, Subair made some revelations and urged the companyâ€™s teeming subscribers to keep faith, as serious plans were underway to ensure that the Nigerian spirit does not die.
Winning and losing the EPL
We have decided to let our friends and teeming subscribers to know the real issues behind the EPL broadcast rights which we lost.
We feel that this is the right time to do so because apart from having everything under control now, we also have all the broken pieces that you may want to know. The real issue is that we actually won the rights, made the initial deposit payment of $40 million and expected that our financial institution would provide the bank guarantee as is the practice.
But unfortunately, the bank could not do so before the given deadline. We all are aware of the economic situation in our country and particularly the state of the banking sector now.
When we could not make the deadline, the second preferred bidder which is DSTV rolled out one cheque and snapped the deal. At least this could show the difference between the two economies and why all of us must join hands to grow our own economy. This is the real story, any other thing outside this is just fabrication and full blown lies.
Our plans to beef up content
â€œWe see our business as a content platform. In two and half years we have become No1 channel provider of African content all over the world. Our business is not all about football, so we are going to beef up our content platform and throw up some new ones.
We are happy with the reviews we have received all over the world on our One Music which replaces Nigezie. We are also going to make our Hi-Nolly platform more attractive by showing more recent movies even though this gulps a lot of money. But the big bang is the package we are introducing by September1 2010. We are not going to let the cat out of the bag now but it is going to reflect the undying Nigerian spirit.
5m subscribers target by December 2010
â€œAgainst all speculations and rumours that I was in the hospital or that I was growing gray hairs over the loss, its unfortunate how people delight in seeing others weep.
I am healthy, never been to hospital over the issue and have even targeted that by December, we are going to increase our subscriber base from the present 300,000 to 500,000. This means an addition of about two hundred thousand subscribers in about four to five months ahead. This requires plans and actions which we have also mapped out.
My Nigerian Story
HiTV feels there is no better time to celebrate the dogged Nigerian spirit than this time that the country would be celebrating her golden age and so the company has flagged off a campaign it tagged I am a Nigerian . I am a Nigerian is meant for Nigerians to tell their struggles and success stories which would typify that every Nigerian merits what ever achievement he or she has made.
Besides the plans, Subair also expressed happiness with encouragements he was getting from both the government and different Nigerians, particularly a call from a certain 5 year old .
According to Subair, a certain call came into his phone one morning as the EPL right loss was making the rounds, and a woman said she wanted him to listen to her five year old son and when the phone was handed to the little boy he said: I am telling my mummy to go right now and renew our HiTV subscription so that I can continue watching my KidsCo. â€œPerhaps that is the womanâ€™s own way of consoling us and telling us that all is not lost.
Honestly that little boyâ€™s encouragement gives me a reassurance that the HiTV dream has come to stayâ€ he added.