John Ugbe, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, explains the organisation's new subscription rates
The hike in MultiChoice's subscription rates has hit subscribers like lightning. The prevalent view is that MultiChoice has no justification for such and is just taking advantage of the lack of alternatives in the sector. How accurate is this view?
Price increases are always painful and we are very mindful of this. However, they are sometimes necessary for businesses to provide service to their consumers and also provide necessary returns to stakeholders. They ensure that we can continue to provide quality entertainment to our subscribers even with the rising costs and inflation. It is because of the prevailing economic situation and rising cost of content and our other inputs that we have had to increase the cost of subscriptions and this has affected all the other entities across the continent. If you look at a lot of goods and services you will see that there an increase in a lot of sectors as we are not isolated.
Many subscribers are calling on MultiChoice to institute a pay-as-you-watch regime, which some claim is available to MultiChoice subscribers in South Africa and some other countries. Are you looking in that direction?
As a leader in innovation, we consider all viable options to provide our subscribers with the best and most affordable way to consume entertainment. At the moment, we provide our services through a model that is in use around the world that allows us to take advantage of the economies of scale and provide an aggregate service that reduces the costs for all subscribers.
I can confirm that no other country under MultiChoice is providing its pay-TV services through a "pay as you watch" model. People often confuse "Pay as you watch" model with "Pay Per view", where essentially, subscribers pay specifically for big ticket events in addition to their monthly subscriptions. This effectively even makes the subscriptions more expensive.
We have opted for a more economic model where our subscribers have access to these big tickets events as part of their monthly subscriptions. We will always strive to bring the best entertainment in the most affordable way and also continue with our innovation. An example is our Catch up service which is our Video on demand service, that allows you to watch your best programs at your convenience and our Box office service which lets you download the latest blockbuster releases with your PVR decoder and online from your couch at home.
There are claims that the hike in subscription rates has been effected only in Nigeria. Is this the correct position?
This is not true, as subscription rates have been increased across the continent. However, as an independent entity, we ensure that we take the decisions based on the prevailing market conditions. For example, where other countries may have effected price increases last year, this is our first increase in two years notwithstanding the changes in inflation foreign exchange and other indices in our local market.
Price increases, when not steep, cause little or no irritation. Couldn't your new price regime, starting from 1 April, has been less steep?
If you look at the changes in the economic indices, you will see that we have gone to great lengths to absorb some of the impacts. If you also look at the content we offer in comparison to our competitors, you will see that we still provide a lot of value for the price of our product. We recently at no cost to the subscriber upgraded a lot of our subscribers who had the old DStv decoders with old technology to the newest HD decoders, and in many cases even upgraded subscribers to the cutting edge new Explora decoder, which is in high demand.
We also continue to increase our content line-up and in the 2014 alone, we added at least seven more channels to our bouquets. We also now bring you the best series on 'Express from the US' which means that you get to watch them on the Explora decoder just six hours after it is premiered in the US market. Our local content is not left behind, as we have continued to premiere some of the best local series and movies on our AfricaMagic channels. We also ensure that our subscribers have a choice as they can choose from our large array of bouquets which are available at varying price points, which allows them to tailor their entertainment line up to their lifestyle. Thus you can enjoy the best entertainment there is out there from just N1,200 per month.
Most MultiChoice subscribers in Nigeria believe the country is where the highest subscription rates are charged. Why is this so?
No, we do not have the highest subscription rates as many people believe and this is a fact. Subscription rates vary in Africa and the rest of the world according to several factors including the local costs of doing business. I am sure that you can independently verify that Multichoice Nigeria does not have the highest subscriptions in the world or the rest of Africa