Nigerian subscribers to the Digital Satellite Television (DStv) service, owned by South Africa’s multinational company, MultiChoice, have persuaded the Federal government to compel the firm to introduce a Pay As You Go service in the country.
That comes on the heels of a directive last week by the House of Representatives compelling MultiChoice to immediately suspend the recent tariff hike on all its bouquets. The tariff hike has however remained in force despite the directive. MultiChoice had increased tariffs across board earlier in June. The Pay TV firm had announced via text message to its subscribers, that effective June 1, 2020, it would implement 7.5 per cent VAT on all DStv services.
Clearly, that was an indication that prepared to shoulder the 2.5 per cent increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), from five to 7.5 per cent, which was legalized by the signing of the 2019 Finance Act by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In 2018, Naspers, a multinational Internet group, headquartered in South Africa, claimed that MultiChoice had a total subscriber base of 13.5 million viewers, with Nigeria accounting for 40 per cent of that figure. However, as at November 2019, during the presentation of its maiden financial results after listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the report showed that MultiChoice subscriber base across Africa was 15.1million. South Africa was credited with 7.4 million, while the rest of Africa had 7.7 million.
But Nigeria subscribers are prevailing on the Federal government to compel MultiChoice, owners of DStv and GOtv, to introduce the Pay As You Go service.
‘‘Most Nigerians are paying for services that they are not using. I have been a Premium subscriber for many years, but I have not benefitted anything from the company. The worst is that, most times, I am on the road, which means my subscription is just burning off because the people at home too are out. When the message for tariff hike came last month, from N15, 800 to N16, 200, I downgraded to Compact Plus; enough of the exploitation!” said a Lagos-based subscriber.
For Benedicta Agom in Abuja: “As much as we don’t want tariff hike, we also want Pay As You Go. MultiChoice should know that there is no disposable income again in this country. We subscribe to the service because of the children. It is no more sustainable to keep increasing tariff, when Nigeria remains the largest market.’’
Agom said the services are poor, “any slight thunderstorm, the signal will disappear. On GOtv, if an aeroplane is flying, the service will go off, and we are still paying for bad services. The Nigerian authorities should look into this.”
The National President, Association of Telephone, Cable TV and Internet Subscribers (ATCIS), Sina Bilesanmi, said that Nigerians are generally being exploited by MultiChoice and other players in the PayTV market.
Bilesanmi argued that the fact that they were stuck with monthly prepaid subscription model against the peoples’ will means that the company is exploitative.
‘‘For instance, when you do your subscription today, and you travel for the next 30 days, such that you have not enjoyed your subscription, it will have expired before your return, and when you come back, you’ll have to do another subscription to have access to their services.
“This is why ATCIS, as the only subscriber advocacy body in the country, has been canvassing that these PayTV operators should introduce another model known as, Pay-As-You-Go or Pay Per View,” he stated.
According to him, ACTIS has spent years advocating this, but the operators have refused to budge.
“A similar analysis of this is the way we buy recharge cards or data from telcos. If you do not use the airtime on your phone, you have no reason to buy another. This is justice!”
But the Chief Customer Officer of MultiChoice, Mr. Martin Mabutho, ruled out possibility of Pay-As-You-Go.
“We are not going to introduce pay as you view system. Our contract with our suppliers is on a month-to-month basis.
“The issues of not introducing pay as you view remains. Nothing will change it. The channels do not belong to MultiChoice. What we do is to slash our prices in half to make our customers enjoy our services,” Mabutho said.