Pay TV: Much Ado about Subscription Rate


Following the furore generated by the argument that Nigerians pay the highest rate for Pay TV services in the African market, Raheem Akingbolu digs into the records available in some countries and reckons that proponents of the argument might have missed the point

As a result of the immediate acceptability enjoyed by Pay TV platforms in Nigeria, it has consistently been in the news in the last two decades for various reasons. In many ways, the platform and its operators have redefined the entertainment industry.

However, its success has also been trailed by controversy, especially as a result of fallout from unhealthy competition among operators. Besides, the operators are also being criticised from time to time by some stakeholders for short-changing subscribers. This is so because it is believed in many quarters that Nigerians pay the highest subscription fees compared to some African markets.

Last week, reports emerged from a monitoring agency in Lagos that the fact that Nigerians pay more might not be true after all. The country- to-country comparisons carried out by the agency revealed that Nigeria pays the second lowest of $42 to $44, despite unabated rise in exchange rate. The $42 to $44 was based on N167 to N173 per $1 benchmark. A dollar at official market rate now goes for N315.25 and parallel market is about N460. Mozambique appears to pay lowest ($40 to $43) on its English bouquet because it is not an Anglophone country.

Uganda and Tanzania subscribers pay the highest rate of $80-$99. Findings also revealed that Ghana $80-$93, Kenya $76-$93, Zimbabwe $81 and Swaziland $43-$49 are some of the highest markets in terms of subscription fees.

Investigations also carried out on two bouquets-Compact Plus and Compact – shows that Nigerian subscribers pay between N9, 300($28 to $30) and N6,000 ($18 to $19) respectively for the bouquets.

Ghana pays $54 to $67 for Compact plus and ($32 to $41) for Compact, Kenya pays $52 to $63 and $30 to $37 respectively. Tanzania and Uganda pay between $54 to $67 and Zimbabwe $55 for the Compact plus.

However, the Nigerian market is robust with a growing number of key players in the pay-tv space. This is not only great for competition, but it also provides real choice for consumers.

DStv is in a healthy competition with StarTimes, a Chinese TV company that formed partnership with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Other competitors are ACtv, DaarSat, FStv, which, for now, are running far behind competition.

Facts and Figures

As at November last year, precisely November 17, 2015, Nigeria’s pay-TV market was rated as second largest in Africa with about 14.5 per cent domination according to the study done by telecom, TV and media business market research firm, Dataxis.

South Africa was rated number one in the continent pay-TV market with 35.8 per cent of the continent’s total market share dominated by a single, deep-rooted player, Multichoice, with its DStv offering.

The study showed that the total pay-TV subscriptions across Africa moved to 15.9 million as of Q2 2015, an increase of 18 per cent over the 13.4 million recorded in the same period in 2014.

Dataxis tracked all pay-tv operators in all markets worldwide and where information is not publicly available, the firm provided market analysis based on primary or secondary research of operators, national regulators, government agencies and equipment vendors.

The top five pay-TV markets account for 65.4 per cent of total African pay-tv subscriptions, according to Dataxis, and these five marketers are South Africa (35.8 per cent), Nigeria (14.5 per cent), Angola (6.5 per cent), Tanzania (4.4 per cent), and Kenya (4 per cent).

Providing insights into the research methodology, Research Director at Dataxis, Gavin Patterson, said: “We compiled subscription numbers based on publicly available information from listed operators, national regulators, government agencies and equipment vendors”.

According to Naspers’ financial results in March 2015, DStv had 5.4 million subscribers in South Africa, while Nigeria’s subscriber based, though, not yet made public, was believed to be within the range of 4 million active subscribers nationwide.

Apart from DStv, there are other players such as StarTimes, ConSat, DaarSat, ACtv and few other fringe players. However, DStv has constantly been on the receiving end over some ‘unwholesome’ business decisions mostly considered inimical to subscribers as a result of changing business environment and government’s policies.

In March 2015, Multichoice, owners of DStv and GOtv, announced a 20 per cent price increase for all its satellite pay TV bouquets in Nigeria, with effect from April 1, 2015.

The increase led to DStv premium rising to N13, 980 from N11, 650, a N2, 330 increase, while the DStv family bouquet rose from N3, 000 to N3, 600, a N600 increase. DStv compact plus subscribers pay N9, 420 instead of N7, 850, while DStv Compact users pay N6, 000 per month, up from N5, 000.

In the same vein, DStv access now costs N1,800 up from N1, 500, while DStv extra view subscribers no longer pay N1, 800 but N2, 100.

These have always resulted in customers’ lamentation, as people tend not to consider the prevailing business environment, which is enmeshed in local currency devaluation, inflation and other government policies, which impact negatively on overall operations. This notwithstanding, Multichoice has to continue in business, hence, the marginal increase.

Reacting to the controversy, a Pay TV promoter, Mr. Anietie Udoh, said some of the campaigns are being championed by some players, who thought a particular brand is taking a shine off them.

“To me, I think the issue can still be linked to ambush marketing being explored by some players to run others down. I have always been an advocate of healthy competition, rather than spreading rumours, operators, who feel they are not getting the needed attention in the market should re-strategise instead of de-marketing others. Nigerian consumers should also avail themselves with facts instead of accepting everything thrown at them, hook, line, and sinker,” he stated.