Nigerians cry out over Multichoice’s sustained tariff hikes….

 …We deserve fair pricing – Hapless Nigerians

Multichoice Nigeria last week announced an increase in the prices of its DStv and GOtv packages in Nigeria four months after its last increment. BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report speaks with a cross-section of Nigerians on incessant price adjustments by the pay-tv company.

Again, the pay-tv company last week reviewed prices in its packages across the board. According to text messages sent to customers, the new prices took effect from May 1, 2024.

With the latest price hike, the DStv Premium package was increased from N29, 500 to N37, 000 which is a 20.27% increase, and DStv Compact+ went up from N19, 800 to N25, 000, which is a 20.8% increase, while the Compact package increased from N12, 500 to N15, 700 which is a 20.38% increase.

Comfam package was increased from N7, 400 to N9, 300 which is a 20.4% increase, as the Yanga package moved up from N4, 200 to N5, 100 which is a 17.6% increase, while the Padi package increased from N2, 950 to N3, 600 which is an 18.05% increase. HDPVR was increased from N4, 000 to N5, 000 which is a 20% increase, the Access Fees package from N4, 000 to N5, 000 which is a 20% increase, and XtraView moved from N4, 000 to N5, 000 which is also a 20% increase.

Meanwhile, the Gotv Supa+ package moved from N12, 500 to N15, 700 which is a 20.38% increase, the Supa package from N7, 600 to N9, 600 which is a 20.8% increase, and the Max package from N5, 700 to N7, 200 which is a 20.8% increase.

While the Jolli package was jacked up from N3, 950 to N4, 850 which is an 18.6% increase, the Jinja package moved from N2, 700 to N3, 300 which is an 18.2% increase and the Smallie package from N1, 300 to N1, 575 which is a 17.5% increase.

Incessant increments 

Blueprint Weekend’s findings showed that this recent increase in the prices of its packages will make it the fourth time the Pay-tv company will do so in three years.

In March 2022, Multichoice announced an increase in the prices of its DStv and GOtv packages. Again, in April 2023, the broadcasting company announced an upward review of prices on its DStv and GOtv packages by 17 per cent.

Also, the company announced an upward review of prices of its DStv and GOtv packages in December 2023.

Nigerian consumers’ angst 

A cross-section of Nigerians who spoke with this reporter lamented the incessant price adjustments.

 A civil servant, Simon Gwapna, said the Pay-tv company keeps exploiting their customers because they have no competition. 

 “I believe the prices are high because there is no serious competition. Take Air Peace and other foreign airlines as examples; immediately Air peace came with a cheaper alternative and other airlines dropped their prices.”

Sunday Ajaka, who operates a football viewing center at Ado, Karu local government area of Nasarawa state, in his lamentation, said, “It’s disheartening to see DStv’s pricing shift without apparent justification. With limited alternatives, exploring IPTV sounds promising. Consumers deserve fair pricing and more choices for quality entertainment. It is not their fault. It is the fault of the government which allows foreigners to rip Nigerians off.”

Another civil servant, Justina Dogo, blamed the incessant hikes in price on the “rot in the Nigerian system.”

“I don’t blame them; rather I blame the weak system we have. The worst of it is that sometimes you hardly watch television for a good one hour in a day due to poor power supply and high cost of petrol, yet they keep on increasing the tariff.

Alternatives 

While some Nigerians are still lamenting the increase, others on social media are looking for cheaper alternatives to DStv. Many suggested SLTv as an affordable alternative as it renders the same service as DStv.

SLTV is a premier satellite television company operated by Metro Digital Limited based in Nigeria.

Metro Digital SLTV has over 50 HD channels with 10 sports channels that show live football matches from the Premier League, Champions League, Laliga, Seria A, and UEL among others with a monthly subscription ranging from N5,000 and N2,500.

Titus tweeting @Titbeats1 said SLTV is the best alternative for DSTv, noting that it is cheaper and offers the same service as the DStv.

He said, “Well let me be sincere with you in my review on SLTV. If you are a football person then SLTV is for you. If you have kids that won’t allow you to watch TV shows except cartoons then SLTV is for you. If you are someone who has a wife that loves Telemundo and Zeeworld then SLTV is for you. If you are someone that loves local TV news stations then SLTV is for you. If you are someone that loves CNN and Al jazeera then SLTV is for you.

“If you are someone that loves Yoruba and English epic movies then you can manage it if they will improve on that in the future. If you are someone who loves American action movies then SLTV is not for you. If you are someone that loves crystal clear pictures then SLTV is not for you. If you are someone who can manage 80 per cent picture quality then SLTV is for you.

“If you are a music lover then SLTV is not for you. If you are someone that is very tired of DStv and you want to migrate then SLTV is the best answer for you. For football lovers note that SLTV football matches are a few seconds late to DStv, but as for me I don’t think that is an issue as I am saving like N25, 000 due to the few seconds’ lateness.”

Also, Maurice Otu, who tweets as @mrblaaast advised Nigerians to opt for SLTV, saying it is cheaper and that DStv dish can be used to operate it.

 “Guys, don’t stress about this. Just purchase only an SLTV decoder and still use your DStv dish and connect to SLTV and you won’t miss out on live matches from all the leagues. I have been wasting money on DStv while SLTV offered the same service at a cheaper rate,” he said.

 Defence 

However, a lawyer, Chibuzo Akpom, speaking with this reporter, said Nigerians are unfair to the Pay-tv company, adding that the company operates in a very difficult business environment.

He said, “Multichoice has always been singled out for criticisms over price adjustments where other companies are given a free pass. In the past, there were calls on the Senate, House of Representatives, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to regulate prices charged by Multichoice. Last year, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened to picket the company over price adjustments.

“These vicious attacks on the right of a private company to make sound business decisions in a very challenging economic environment call for interrogation, more so when other businesses are not equally harangued.

“Why will anybody be offended that Multichoice adjusted the prices of its services and products knowing full well how challenging and hostile the business environment has become since the sudden subsidy removal on May 29, 2029? As if that was not bad enough, recently, electricity tariff per kilowatt also went up from N66 to N255, a 300 per cent hike. The Naira has been devalued significantly with the attendant foreign exchange rate volatility.

“On March 26, the Central Bank of Nigeria further hiked the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR, also known as interest rate, from 22.75 per cent to 24.75 per cent. That was the second consecutive hike after February’s 400 basis point increase with asphyxiating impact on inflation, which according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) rose to 33.20 per cent in March from 31.70 per cent in February even as food inflation stands at an unprecedented 40.01 per cent.

“Expectedly, all businesses in Nigeria, without exception, are reacting accordingly. For three consecutive months (February, March, April), Nigerian Breweries upwardly reviewed the prices of 45 products attributing the move to ‘rising input costs and the need to mitigate the impact’. In March, streaming giants, Netflix, announced a review of its prices with effect from April 1. Earlier, International Breweries, bottlers of Hero and Trophy lager brands, citing escalating cost of doing business, increased prices across its product portfolio. Another brewing giant, Guinness Nigeria Plc., also announced a new price regime.

“Last year, cab service providers, Uber and Bolt, made significant adjustments in prices in response to the fuel subsidy removal. Airlines have tripled their fares in the last 10 months and are still counting. Healthcare is similarly impacted, with prices of medications shooting through the roof. School fees at all levels, including those of federal government-owned universities, have gone up. For instance, the University of Ibadan recently raised fees for new students to N230,000 and N412,000, depending on the course of study, from N64,000 and N69,000 paid last year. That was a 453 per cent and 750 per cent hike.

“Curiously, no other business concern has been called out like Multichoice. Why is it a crime for Multichoice to charge market-reflective rates for its products and services when it is not for others? Why would a National Assembly that does not see anything wrong in government arbitrarily removing petrol subsidy and hiking electricity tariff frown at a private business increasing prices of its products in order to survive?

“Multichoice Nigeria is a private business with the inalienable right, in a free market economy, to determine the prices of its services and government has no power to regulate prices.”

 Similarly, a public affairs analyst, Sikiru Ajala, in an interview with this reporter, said, “Let me say this, even at the risk of being subjudicate, if that applies in this case. Last time I checked, pay-tv was not a social service. The firm was not established with taxpayer money and is not operated with government funds, to the best of my knowledge. Therefore, issues regarding the pricing of their services should be managed by its management and shareholders while also being guided by the forces of demand and supply and fair play.

“That said, I think the bullying of Multichoice should stop forthwith unless I am missing something here. The firm operates under the same volatile economic conditions as others who have been hiking their prices.

“In trying to stay afloat, they increase subscription fees, and we cry foul when we are neither shareholders, share any part of their operating expenses, nor truly require their services in the real sense of the word as an essential service.

“By heckling them each time they try to stay afloat by increasing prices, we are attempting to reap where we did not sow.  The dollar hit N1, 400 last week, tripling the acquisition costs of those favourite programs and shows that draw us to them, and we expect the subscription rate to remain stable.

“Are there any government buffers, tax waivers, or incentives that can stabilise subscription rates? Are we a serious people? If DSTV sets its prices, why not just move on? It’s not a social or essential service, nor is it benefiting from any subsidy like fuel and power, which gives us the right to protest any hike.

“This is solely a private business concern with capital risks borne by a group of people and not the government. My people Multichoice is a private concern and must reserve the right to fix its prices within the bounds of pragmatic market forces and under the guidelines of fair play and equity. If we can no longer afford it, we leave it and move on; after all, we still have the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).”

Multichoice, NBC won’t react

Blueprint Weekend contacted a very senior staff at National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), who asked not to be named in print, but simply said “I don’t work for Multichoice.”

Also, attempts by this reporter to speak with the Head of Regulatory Affairs at Multichoice, Mr. Gozie, proved abortive as he neither picked calls put through to his phone nor responded to text messages.