This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: GoTV, StarTimes in Battle for Consumer Loyalty

As promoters of GoTV and StarTimes evolve strategies to increase market share, Raheem Akingbolu traces the genesis of the competition

For the first time since it came to the country years ago, MultiChoice, owners of South Africa-owned pay television service provider, DSTV, felt that its monopoly was threatened in late 2006 when the rights for the broadcast of the highly lucrative English Premier League was lost to Entertainment Highways Limited, owners of HiTV. The Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Mr. Silas Yisa, had told MultiChoice that Nigeria be separated from the larger African broadcasting basket. In other words, Nigeria should be a separate rights acquisition rather than being lumped together with the rest of the African continent.

NBC argued was that Nigeria was a big market that dwarfs the whole of English West Africa put together and even English East Africa. It also argued that such a big market should be classified as a separate basket when bidding for international television rights.

The rights won by HiTV started with the 2007/2008 season of the English Premier League and it was to last for three seasons. With that development, the rights were up for renewal for the 2010/2011 season. New Entrant

At a time stakeholders had thought the new comer had finally stabilised, the unexpected happened when HiTV was taken into administration by its financier, a situation that eventually ended its transmission rights. But for the handlers of the Multichoice brand, the honeymoon was short lived, as StarTimes, another cable operator, emerged to take over the mass market, which caters to lower income earners.

But rather than allow the StarTimes have unbridled penetration, Multichoice Group responded with the introduction of GoTV. According to its promoters, the GOtv brand was specially created to make affordable digital television available to all.

"Television viewers in sub-Saharan Africa are now set to benefit from easy access to an increased number of channels, with enhanced picture and sound quality synonymous with digital television," the company stated in a press statement.

Some of GOtv channels include: Africa Magic Movies, Africa Magic World, AfricaMagic Yoruba, AfricaMagic Hausa, E! Entertainment, Discovery World, eTV Africa, Select Sports, amongst others.

GOtv was first launched in Zambia in June 2011, and ever since has also been opened up shop in Uganda and Kenya. Though primarily an entertainment platform but for those who love sports, there might be something for them as well since live sport events are often shown on the SuperSport Select.

On the other hands, StarTimes has among others channels: Eurosports News, NTA Sport 24, BBC World, Aljazeera, Orisun, NG Gold and local and international news channels. Recently, the General Manager of StarTimes, Mr. Idoko, in conjunction with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) announced that the company's subscriber base in the country has hit one million mark. It was also stated that has made significant in-roads to Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Service Offering

Looking at the bouquets of the two pay television service providers, StarTimes has news channels like BBC World and Aljazeera while GOtv can also boast of Al Jazeera and CNN. Startimes equally have sports channels that screen live matches from South American leagues as well as some selected matches of the Italian Serie A. It is instructive that DSTV equally have rights to select Series A matches. It has rights to screen a minimum of four out of ten matches. Star Times also features some Nigerian channels, especially with its arrangement with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA. GOtv has news channels as well as Nigerian television channels as other bouquets on DSTV like Family; Compact and Premium. These Nigerian channels include; Africa Independent Television, AIT, Channels Television, the Silverbird TV, the Lagos State Television, LTV, as well as the NTA.

Unique Selling Points

Speaking with THISDAY on the uniqueness of GOtv in the market, Corporate Affairs Manager of Multichoice, parent company of GOtv, Mr. Segun Fayose, said the platform came with world class channel at affordable rate and simple technology.

"What we have in GOtv are unique channels at cheaper price with a 'do it yourself' technology. With GOtv, you don't need a dish or smart card. Therefore, the problem of losing signal during heavy rainfall is totally out of it," he said.

In the same way, StarTimes had stated that its terrestrial platform had both the basic classic and unique bouquet. Among other things its N1000 subscription cost has been the brand's major tool of connecting the market.

A look at the market has however revealed that both brands have different strengths and challenges. Observers believe that GOtv can easily ride on the influence of Multichoice and a reach content to win consumers' loyalty. In the other hands, there are analysts who also believe that the fact that Startimes pioneered the DTT platform might help its spread. It is also believed in some quarters that the relationship between the brand and NTA would help it win the war.

Direct Competitors

Despite the feelings that the two brands are out to slug it out with each other, MultiChoice has continued to debunk the claim that it came out with GOtv to tackle Startimes. Its handlers are arguing that they are not in direct competition with Star Times since the two platforms do not have the same bouquets.

Analysts believe, however, that GoTV is actually for those who want to enjoy pay television but could not afford the cost of acquiring any of the platforms. For those who love movies, especially African movies, handlers of GoTV say the pay television platform might be their best bet. And for those who want news and information, Startimes will be ideal.

Beyond all these, however, is what the competition between Star Times and GoTV portends for pay television viewers. Though the question remains: are they direct competitors? Yes, they are. And it a reflection of how uncomfortable DSTV might be when it comes to competition, whether that competition poses any threat to them or not.

"DSTV has always competed against any new pay TV that is coming into the market," a media analyst told THISDAY during the week. "First, you have to ask yourself if the emergence of Star Times posed any threat to the dominance of DSTV. To me, it did not. Yet, they went ahead to introduce GoTV which, to me, was meant to directly compete with Star Times since they too are targeting the same audience that Star Times targets."

A Lagos Lawyer, Mr. Tajudeen Adeyemi, who claimed he was not a patron of the two brands condemned the relationship between StarTimes and NTA, arguing that it has turned Nigerians to slave in their own country.

"I don't know if they are out to fight each other all I know is that whoever that advised Nigeria to buy into StarTimes didn't mean well. As I talk to you, the sharing formula is a 70/30 ratio in favour of the foreigners. Again a visit to NTA offices where the two operate side by side will also convince you of how we make ourselves look inferior to the owner of Startimes. NTA staff cannot enter their carved apartment but they are free to do anything inside the NTA building." Adeyemi said.

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