April 30, 2017

We are offering our viewers enriched viewing options — StarTimes CEO

By Princewill Ekwujuru

Pay TV network, StarTimes Nigeria says it has continued to grow stronger and expand its footprint across the African markets owing to its dogged commitment to innovation, superior technology and rich entertainment program for viewers.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Tunde Aina, who disclosed this in a recent chat, emphasized that the company strives to be an international media giant with global influence.

“We have continued to grow stronger and cover more grounds across Africa starting with two countries and now in over thirty countries and very active in over 15. Our success story is fuelled by a strong belief and investment in cutting edge technology, life-enriching innovations and quality television entertainment content for our viewing families and households. As a viewer’s driven business, we have consistently churned out different exciting products and offerings to afford our viewers more flexibility and enriched viewing options.

Beyond providing very interesting and affordable TV experience, StarTimes provides many ground-breaking and innovative products like the 2-in-1 combo decoder, Digital TV (with inbuilt decoder), projector TV which have largely enhance pleasurable viewing and boost the industry.

“In just seven years, more people can now afford to enjoy digital television that would otherwise have been impossible. We have given opportunities to many local channels to start broadcasting localised content at minimal cost, we have created more than 2000 direct jobs and more than 20,000 indirect jobs. We have enabled new opportunities for our actors, actresses and musicians to showcase their talents on many more television platforms and earn more revenue.

We have stimulated competition in the pay-tv industry thereby making the viewers now spoilt for choice. Before StarTimes came to Nigeria, clean crisp clear signals could only be enjoyed by the elites as the masses had to make do with grainy pictures provided by the few existing analogue television stations. We have changed this narrative and we intend to continue to provide our services to many more people at an affordable cost. As a platform, we offer local producers and stations opportunities to showcase their offerings to viewers without interference as long as the rules set by the regulators are being adhered to.”

The StarTimes boss added that as the pioneer digital terrestrial television operator in Nigeria, StarTimes has made pay-tv much more accessible and affordable to the low and middle income class which comprise a greater part of the Nigerian population. Digital television, delivered either through terrestrial or satellite in now available in every inch of Nigerian territory, people can now afford to enjoy a variety of entertaining programmes sometimes in their native languages. Information is now much more available to many more people, as you may know, information is power.

On growth and network spread, Aina said the digital TV network currently have digital terrestrial signals in more than 80 towns spread across 34 states of the federation. “Our next target is to cover the 2nd tier and 3rd tier towns and then possibly to the community level. We recently rolled out signals in Daura Katsina State in December 2016 and we intend to roll out in many smaller towns before the end of 2017. Rolling out services in the rural areas is very challenging as even accessibility is a big issue, another issue is that because rural areas are inhabited by people with relatively lower purchasing power, there is less chance of being able to recoup investments. However, because our partnership with the Nigerian Television Authority recognize the need to balance running a business and providing social services, we will continue to extend our services to every nook and cranny of Nigeria. “

Addressing challenges of broadcast business, he explained that it is capital intensive and takes a relatively long time to recoup investments while stable policies and regulation on the part of government can give investors the confidence to continue to invest in this industry. The private sector is in a better position to develop the broadcast industry if government can only come up with policies that are acceptable to all players in the broadcast industry.

Businesses that require a relatively longer time to be profitable require long term funds at relatively low interest rates, Government need to enable businesses to have access to this type of funds either through local financial institutions if they have the capacity or from foreign financial institutions. Broadcasting infrastructure is almost 100 percent imported into Nigeria, the current economic policies have made it difficult to meet up our foreign monetary obligations and it’s been very challenging to continue to provide our services at the same cost to our customers.

Because we deliver our Digital Terrestrial Television signals via terrestrial, we are also affected by the shortcomings of any terrestrial signals which rely on line of sight between transmitter and receiver. We are continuously working to improve our signals within the big cities by building more transmitter sites in order to improve signals in identified areas. In Abuja for example, we are currently building two sites, one in Kuje and the other in Kubwa.

We are continually optimizing our coverage in areas where we already operate and are building new sites to cover areas not previously served. We recognized that it is almost impossible to cover every inch of Nigerian territory using terrestrial signals, we have therefore provided the Direct to Home (DTH) platform which relies on satellite and covers the entire sub-Saharan African territory.

StarTimes is the leading digital-TV operator in Africa, covering 80% of the continent’s population with a massive distribution network of over 200 brand halls, 3,000 convenience stores and 5,000 distributors. StarTimes owns a featured content platform, with 440 authorized channels consisting of news, movies, series, sports, entertainment, children’s programs, fashion, and religion.