Demystifying the Pay-TV Market


Mary Ekah

The Pay-TV market was hitherto exclusive for the rich until in 2010 when a Chinese firm – StarTimes Group, indicated its interest to explore the Nigeria market and break the jinx. With its arrival in the market, the brand didn’t only bring entertainment to viewers at affordable price; it also put competitions on their toes and gave rival brands a run for their money.

Like a magic wand, the decision of the management of the company to target low income earners, changed the story. The strategy has not only helped the brand to hold the largest subscriber base in Nigeria, but it has forced a major operator of the pay-TV in Nigeria to review its operation and unveil a new platform to enable it compete the mass market with StarTimes. This major operator hitherto became the only dominant player in the pay TV market while it became a luxury brand that could not be afforded by many Nigerians until StarTimes hit the market. And today, StarTimes probably, still maintains the lead of the low income earners segment of the market.
At the launch of the StarTimes brand in 2010, the Chairman of the company, Mr. Pang Xin Xing, didn’t mince words on his mission in the country. “With StarTimes, pay TV is no longer a luxury in Nigeria,” Xing had announced to a crop of journalists who spoke to him on the mission of the brand in the market.

At its official launch in Abuja early 2010, the management of the technology company, which also pioneered pay television industry in China, promised Nigerians greater access to pay television services at an unbelievably affordable price. Truly, StarTimes Television Network Limited, then, provided its customers with over 35 cable television channels for just N1,000 monthly subscription. Unlike other cable television services already operating in the country, StarTimes uses Digital Video Broadcast on Terrestrial (DVB-T), a technology, which does not require a dish. It then came with just a decoder, which was sold for N9,000. The technology has now been upgraded to DVB T2.

This technology, which requires no dish, couple with minimal effect on the pocket, made many subscribers to see StarTimes as an alternative. The pay TV didn’t just stopped at providing entertainment at affordable price to Nigerians but went further.

Consequently, in line with its Corporate Social Responsibilities and fulfilment of its promise to ensure its products and service is accessible across locals and national frontiers, StarTimes in collaboration with the Chinese Government kicked off with the launch of a pilot satellite TV project held in Hulumi Village in the suburbs of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, on Thursday August 10, 2017

The project is a fruit of one of the resolutions of the 2015 Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which the Chinese Government pledged to provide satellite TV to 10,000 African villages.

In Hulumi, the Chinese firm presented the community with sets of direct-to-home decoders for 20 households each, together with free installation of two sets of digital TV projector with solar panels as well as voluntary renovation works at the local primary school and donations of educational and recreational materials to the pupils.

Every evening, locals who had no television or lacked electricity supply gathered at the village square to watch their favorite channels on a large projection screen provided by StarTimes.
As a pioneer digital terrestrial TV provider in Nigeria, StarTimes has been able to disseminate digital terrestrial television in at least 80 cities across the West African countries in seven years. With its simple-to-install decoders coupled with its affordable tariffs, StarTimes, in partnership with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), has brought digital TV within the reach of many Nigerians since 2010. The satellite TV provides the opportunity for locals to watch digital TV programmes of both local and international contents

The Vice President of StarTimes, Ms. Guo Zi Qi while speaking at the satellite pilot in Hulumi Village said the aim was to translate the situation that only the top class could enjoy and have access to digital TV. She revealed that StarTimes presently runs its operations in more ‎than 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa with almost 10 million subscribers. Zi Qi explained that in Nigeria, StarTimes and NTA started a joint venture seven years ago, stressing that StarTimes has been insisting to leverage local strategies to operate, which has not only helped to boost television industry in Nigeria but also created employment opportunities.

In 2011, StarTimes hosted the First African Digital TV Development Seminar. The seminar, which has since been held for seven years, is an important platform for African countries to discuss how to realise the digital migration in Africa. At the last edition held in May 2017, over 400 delegates from 46 African and Asian countries were present at the seminar, including more than 30 ministers of Information and Communication from African countries, like Nigeria, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Zambia, DRC Congo and Ethiopia.