With the television broadcast industry undergoing a transition from analogue television to the initial test-running of digital television (DTT) in 1998, there was a huge expectation globally that a more refined digital television would be within the reach of all and sundry. Pay television service-via satellite- had, a few years before, debuted in Nigeria and had introduced to the public a new television viewing experience marked by top-class programming and considerably better audio-visual quality than what they were used to.
However, access to satellite television service was restricted, as many found it less than affordable, forcing them to depend on public broadcasters to provide television service, which was routinely susceptible to variations from either the amplitude or frequency of the analogue signals transmitted, thereby making viewing largely unpleasant for many.
But all that changed in 2011 with the launch of GOtv in Ibadan, the birthplace of television in Africa. The introduction of GOtv, a digital terrestrial television (DTT) service, immediately widened access to digital television broadcasting that Nigerians had wished for since being exposed to satellite television.
GOtv arrived the market, with the stated intention of providing quality digital television programming at an affordable rate and was an immediate hit among Nigerians in the lower and middle-income categories. The marker laid down by the operator went beyond affordability, as GOtv also announced an objective of assisting the Federal Government in its efforts to ensure quick transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
This objective was implemented right from launch, as GOtv began transmission in digital broadcasting format four years before the June 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for television broadcasters and operators to switch from analogue to digital broadcast signal.
GOtv has now taken its pioneering status further with the expansion of its local content offering across the country. It recently added nine local channels for subscribers across six cities in the North-West, North-Central, South-East and South-South geo-political zones of the country. The channels rolled out on the GOtv MAX and GOtv Plus packages are Spice TV, MiTV, WAP TV, ITV Benin, BISCON, Liberty TV, Tiwan Tiwan, R2TV and Rave TV
The implementation of the expansion occurred in phases, starting with Jos (Plateau State) on 7 April, Kaduna (Kaduna State) on 11 April and Asaba (Delta State) on 14 April. It continued in Onitsha (Anambra State) on 16 April, Enugu (Enugu State) on 21 April and Aba (Abia State) on April 26.
With the inclusion of the new channels, GOtv subscribers in those six cities and their environs now have access to more local content offered in digital format.
According to John Ugbe, Chief Executive Officer of MultiChoice Nigeria, the nine stations rolled out provide an uncomplicated indication of the company’s commitment to the promotion of the country’s heritage by making locally created content available to Nigerians.
“One of our value propositions is to ensure that we have a varied range of local channels that cut across different genres for a more wholesome viewing experience for our customers. These channels offer originally produced programmes that cater to the different tastes and preferences of our customers,” he explained.
Subscribers in those six cities and their environs can, therefore, enjoy the luxury of choosing the best of indigenous movies, music, sports, lifestyle and other general entertainment programming they desire to watch from a host of local stations. The addition of the channels will also allow Nigerians to be constantly updated about happenings in the country via several news bulletins.
Furthermore, the expansion of the local channels has also demonstrated GOtv’s commitment as a technological-compliant operator bolstering the digital switchover (DSO) process, as advocated and implemented by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Being part of the global community, the government earnestly wants Nigeria to be counted among the comity of nations that has honoured the 2006 Geneva agreement to migrate from analogue broadcasting technology to digital technology.
Upon its launch in 2011, GOtv introduced a new broadcast technology, the DVB-T2 decoders, making Nigeria the first country where it was deployed. The DVB-T2 is a major upgrade from the DVB-T1 technology, which the first digital broadcasters deployed.
The expansion of GOtv’s local content offering has, therefore, broadened the reach of this pioneering technology across the country. More Nigerians in different parts of the country now have access to quality programming on terrestrial television in digital format, in line with the policy directive of the government. Currently, GOtv’s service is available in over 50 cities across 26 states, thereby making it the widest DTT network coverage in the country. Such a large scope of coverage also augments the Federal Government’s DSO process, which continues to be implemented in phases across the country.
Investment for such a massive accomplishment has been gargantuan. Between 2014 and 2018, a total of N8.17 billion was been expended on the maintenance of GOtv transmitter sites. Broadcast industry experts have acknowledged that the financial outlay for the digitization project could be a hurdle towards its successful implementation. But as Ugbe explained, Nigeria is on the path to achieving the DSO and GOtv, as a major industry player, will play its part to ensure its successful attainment.
“We are also excited to offer these channels as part of our efforts in enabling Nigeria achieve a speedy digital switchover,” the MultiChoice Nigeria CEO, Ugbe said.
More importantly, a successful switchover from analogue to digital broadcast signals will make Nigeria the largest digital television market in Africa. It will also have a significant impact on the country’s economy as more jobs will be created and more persons employed, just as GOtv has achieved through its expansion. GOtv, which prides itself as a proudly Nigerian company, has expressed its commitment to support the Federal Government’s objective of ensuring Nigerians have access to high-definition digital television without breaking the bank. Millions of Nigerians are already connected to the operator’s platform, and it is expected that GOtv would continue to work towards the expansion of its offerings and operations across Nigeria to ensure more accessibility.
––Ogundipe, a creative content creator, writes from Lagos