- bemoan poor quality, high fees and lost signals
By Princewill Ekwujuru
Nigerians who subscribe to pay TV are now at the receiving end. Most of the time, they say they pay for services that are not delivered. Severally, the management of pay TV companies has called press briefings and customers’ fora to address some of these biting issues concerning their operations, particularly, with off time lost signals by subscribers which lasts for days before signals are restored.
As of today, subscribers are at a loss as to who pays for the lost days. Chikaodili Igwe, a United Kingdom-based Nigerian who came back to the country recently, was at a Multichoice agent office, and said that rendering good services to Nigerians was far from the official policy of the company in the country. “You will lose the chances of enjoying what you paid for while Multi-Choice smiles to Johannesburg, South Africa, with your cash,” he said. Yusuf Kale, who said he has been a regular customer of DStv since 2004 noted that at the initial stage, services of Multichoice to Nigerians were satisfactory, but that as time went on, it appeared to lose focus, “perhaps as patronage increased.”
He said like many of his friends, he has started seeking other cheaper pay TV providers. He explained that the only thing that still keeps him with the company is the European League matches, but confessed that he was prepared to start watching such games at viewing centres.
“I think DStv is forgetting it is now a competitive market, although those other pay TV companies are not as big but Nigerians are beginning to rate them to be more effective. They even have more entertaining programmes,” he stated. Jide Makanjuola, another DStv subscriber, said the cost of subscribing to the company was equivalent to financial suicide. Like Kale, he said Nigerians were becoming more enlightened and that most young users now prefer viewing sites to recharging their decoders. “It pays far better to pay a peanut at the viewing centre and save your money. The man that owns the viewing centre will make his money but you that subscribe at home will lose in the end,” he said.
A subscriber who identified himself as Alhaji Bello queried the pay TV for being disconnected before the expiration date. Others also complained of similar problem but not taking into cognisance the fact that they did not enjoy the services as they should due to the fact that weather conditions and several other factors beyond their control, cut short the times they enjoyed their subscription.
Other affected subscribers are also complaining that they are cut off sometimes two to three days before the expiration date of subscription. “This is an action the company is not even apologetic about,” Simon Irete said. “What is annoying to many is that they are surcharged for late renewal while lost time is not paid for by the service provider.” A staff at Multichoice office said that the surcharge is as a result of a computer programme that the company has put in place
“For example, where a customer fails to pay subscription fee on or before due date, it takes DSTV hours, if not days, to come back to transmission, but for StarTimes, it is immediate, even after two weeks off air,” Mr. Obinna Nwokennaya, a subscriber to both pay TV owners explained.
The activities of DSTV management bring to mind the story of MTN when they came into Nigeria. They told Nigerians that per second billing was not achievable until after about 10 years, but when Glo launched the per second billing system, MTN had to adjust to per second billing, a feat they claimed was not achievable. Are these South African companies out to drain Nigerians?” Mrs. Uju Amanjo queried.
Amanjo said that DSTV increases tariff over time. “Having launched pseudo promo few months ago, they (DSTV) hit back with a new tariff regime for premium subscribers.
For three years, I have been DSTV subscriber and premium subscriber. I have to delay my subscription this month to show my anger. They have only added Telemundo and a few channels that are not viewer-friendly.”
Despite having moved from W4 to W7 as promised at a forum, subscribers still experience poor picture quality during and after rainfall, and sometimes still pictures, even when customer’s subscription is still running. For the days wasted, who compensates and who extends the days lost? All these complaints DSTV management has not been able to address despite subscribers’ constant complaints at various customer fora,” she said.
Ms. Juliana Nnamdi, who said her husband is a yearly subscriber, said that the husband is in love with the DSTV brand, but is disappointed with the way he’s been treated by the brand, while pointing out that sometimes, he is cut off before the subscription expires.
She said that her husband is considering dropping the idea of the yearly subscription or rather look for an alternative. “We have not enjoyed anything from the DSTV brand since we have been subscribing to their platform. We hear about all manner of promotions and wonder how the winners emerge. The promos look like a ruse.”
The near monopolistic nature of the pay TV market spearheaded by DSTV has been a thorn in the flesh of Nigerians, says Mr. Avuru Adunaka, who said that Nigerians are being milked every day and nothing is done.
A subscriber who does not want his name in print lost signal for two weeks, even though apologies were sent, he was not happy with the situation but queried whether Multichoice will make refunds for the weeks lost.
Accusing the Pay TV provider of insensitivity to consumer complaints and unreasonable deduction from subscribers, Olu Olajuwon explained how he was migrated to a platform he did not subscribe for and yet was made to pay for the service.
When contacted on subscribers’ complaints regarding the length of the scanning period of the DSTV decoder, Segun Fayose, Head, Public Relations, Multichoice Nigeria, said that subscribers have been advised severally to buy an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) to support their decoder so that when there is power outage or fluctuation, the decoder will pick up immediately, “this is the only way subscribers will not lose important part of a programme.”
On scrambled pictures after or during rain, he said that the problem is peculiar with the technology used, but that the company is still working on that.
Speaking about lost days, Fayose advised that the best way to avoid this situation is for subscribers to make payment before the expiration date and that subscribers should put on their decoder before making payment, as this is the only way not to lose viewership.
He said that some subscribers remove their smartcard when they want to go and make payment, an idea he frowned at.
He that said when payment is made, instead of calling the customer care, the subscribers should send an SMS to a code, he advised.
Complaints trailed GOtv, also owned by Multichoice. The complaints started pouring some months after it was launched and before Nigerians hardly enjoyed its services.
In defense of GOtv, the Public Relations Manager for GOtv, Efe Obioma, agreed that during the mentioned days, the company had serious challenge with transmission glitch, but said: “The loss of some channels in Lagos has been as a result of conflict in signal distribution which was caused by third party interference. We are urgently working on a technical solution to remedy this problem. Some GOtv channels are still available; however, it is dependent on where the subscribers are located.”
Exset, pioneers of TV ecosystems for emerging markets, revealed that its unique digital broadcast ecosystem – Digital Monetization System -DMS, will provide the ideal solution to sub-Saharan Africa ‘s digital broadcasting growth among those who cannot afford premium subscription services.
While speaking at the Digital Broadcasting Summit and Expo in Arusha, Tanzania hosted by the Southern African Broadcasting Association and BSP Media Group, Andrew Pons, Exset’s Director of Marketing, said the company will be exploring DMS and the multi-faceted benefits that it brings to emerging markets.
“Exset understands that pay-TV needs a new monetisation model for emerging markets in order to succeed. That is why it created DMS, a unique business and technology model that makes pay-TV self-financing without spending exclusively on subscriber fees for revenue,” Pons said. According to him, DMS bridges the gap between technology supply and value-added service creation, facilitating digital television platforms that can be monetised where previously virtually impossible.
He went on to say that this allows subscribers to benefit from new information and entertainment services. “Partnering with Exset, monetised digital switchover will assist in bringing about social transformation”, he said. By deploying DMS, a very low subscription model of a few dollars a month can be charged for the digital television service, with additional operator income gained through selling the interactive TV space to governments (for health and education information dissemination), magazines, local service providers, teleshopping – the list goes on.
Rahul Nehra, Global Head of Sales and Marketing at Exset, said, “There’s a combination of issues in sub-Saharan Africa countries that have held up the roll out of digital TV services to vast swathes of the population. The digital divide is therefore increasing with governments coming under pressure from a variety of international bodies to tackle this. The TV set is the ideal way to allow people to access new, exciting services at a cost they can afford via digital broadcast infrastructure that are practical to deploy.”