By LEKAN BILESANMI
The recent announcement of across-the-board price increases on its DStv platform by pay TV service provider, MultiChoice, predictably caused an uproar among its subscribers. In a text message sent to its subscribers, the company stated that from 1 August, subscription rates for all DStv bouquets will rise by some margin.
When they take effect, subscription on its biggest package, DStv Premium, will go from N14, 700 to N15, 800. Its Compact Plus customers, said the pay TV company, will begin to pay N10, 650 instead of the current rate of N9, 900, while the rate for Compact, which currently costs N6, 500, will rise to N6, 800. The DStv Family and Access, which currently cost N3, 800 and N1, 900, will, under the new price regime, cost N4, 000 and N2, 000 respectively.
An adjustment was also made on its Direct-to-Home platform, GOtv, slashing the rate for its topmost package, GOtv MAX, from N3, 800 to N3, 200. But the reduction has been drowned by the uproar trailing the upward review of DStv prices, with subscribers returning with the customary allegation that the company has, again, raised prices because it is a monopoly.
Angrier subscribers rebooted the old allegation that the company deliberately increases prices in Nigeria even when there is no need and called on government to compel a reversal. This position, in particular, is founded on the belief that Nigerians pay more for pay TV services than citizens of other countries where MultiChoice operates. A few stretched this claim, stating that pay TV rates in Nigeria are the highest in the world.
Evidence, however, declines to support the claims. Investigations revealed that MultiChoice increased prices in all the jurisdictions it operates. According to findings, the new price regime will see DStv Premium subscribers in Ghana paying GHµ 365 (N27, 360.75) and those on Compact plus GHµ 245, the equivalent of N18, 365.44. Compact subscribers in the West African nation will pay GHµ 149 (N11, 169.18), while those on the Family package (the lowest available in the country) will pay GHµ 85 (N6, 961.60).
In South Africa, the new rate for DStv Premium is R809 (N21, 728.47. Compact Plus will attract R509 (N13, 670), with Compact costing R385 (N10, 340.49). Prices for the Family and Access packages are to rise to R249 (N6, 687.75) and R99 (N2, 656.98) respectively.
A comparison of monthly rates paid by subscribers in non-African countries also shows that the pay TV ecosystem is one in which the most compelling content and services are not available on the cheap.
In the United Kingdom, Sky TV, the country’s leading pay TV operator, charges £79.95 (N38, 167.33) for its premium package and £47.50 (N22, 572.97) for the one below it. Next to that is the package, which attracts £40 (N19, 008.82) monthly. Sky TV’s three other packages cost £30 (N14, 256.61), £25 (N11, 731.54) and £20 (N9, 504.41) respectively.
Sky TV’s rates in Mexico, where it offers four packages, are within the same range. Its premium package costs MXN 1039 (N19, 798.52). The package just below it attracts MXN 829 (N15, 796. 52), while the last two packages cost MXN 649 (N12, 366.93) and MXN 569 (N10, 842.50) respectively.
Australia’s Foxtel also charges similar rates monthly.
The cost of its entry level package is Australian dollars or AUD 26 (N6, 961.60). The one above that costs AUD 46 (N12, 316. 67). Just above that is a package that costs AUD 55 (N14, 726. 45). The provider’s premium bouquet attracts AUD 75 Australian.
US operator, Direct TV, charges $35 (N12, 635) for its lowest package, Select. Its slightly higher package, Entertainment, costs $40 (N14, 440), while the one above that, Choice, goes for $45 (N16, 245). Its Xtra package attracts $55 (N19, 855). Direct TV’s biggest packages, cost $110 (N38, 710) and $60 (N21, 660) respectively.
Investigations show that globally, pay TV price increases draw impassioned subscriber debates, with the prevalent view being that operators are remorselessly exploitative. In most parts of the world, operators increase prices yearly, further inflaming subscriber anger.
According to its most recent report, the US Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau said Pay TV providers are adding the extra fees to cover their rising costs so they can continue to promote relatively attractive prices.
The industry’s ecosystem, findings show, is one that leaves operators at the mercy of content producers/TV networks, with the latter regularly charging more for programming content on which the former depends for viability. For years, Pay TV operators worldwide have battled, unsuccessfully, with hikes in programming costs, which erode their margins. Content owners have also continued to state that the rise in the fees operators pay to broadcast their content is largely a product of the jump in their own costs of producing such content.
In particular, the cost of sporting content, a hot Pay TV property, has continued to climb and very steeply, too. Broadcasters have continued to fork out more money to retain rights to content of sports leagues such as the English Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A and NBA), which fall into the category of must-have programming.
With the lion’s share of out-of-the-world salaries paid to sports stars coming from television revenue, for example, owners of sporting content a dealing with rising costs of their own and transferring such to pay TV companies, which have no option than to transfer a slice of such to their subscribers.
According to some analyst estimates, these costs have climbed between eight and 10 percent in each of the past four years.
In certain cases, analysts also said, the rise in pay TV subscription rates are also informed-to a lesser extent, though-by better consumer experience through frequent additions of new features and functions to services.
According to consumerreports.org, most US Pay TV operators hiked their prices in 2018, with some introducing hidden fees.
“The cable companies we contacted said the price hikes are mainly driven by the rising costs they face for carrying traditional broadcast networks, such as CBS and Fox, and regional sports channels,” wrote the site.