When the news first hit the airwaves that TSTV Africa, a wholly-owned Nigerian pay TV operator will roll out operations on Sunday, October 1, 2017, to coincide with Nigeria’s 57th Independence Day celebration, Nigerians exploded into near ecstasy that a ‘saviour’ has finally arrived to ‘liberate’ Pay TV subscribers.
With the launch proper in Abuja on the fateful day, which was shown on major television networks, and at which the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced that the Federal Government had granted the company a three-year tax holiday, TSTV seemed to have ‘landed’ in a blaze of glory.
The Managing Director & CEO of TSTV Africa, Bright Echefu dazzled the audience, promising, “refined offerings of novel Pay As You View Subscription, Pause Subscription, Complimentary Internet service, video call and an array of amazing TV channels with premium entertainment, informative and educative programmes that cut across all genres”.
TSTV, Echefu said, offers over 70 rich blend of local and international channels and packages for entertainment, including news, sports, kids, and health. Some of the channels, as he disclosed, include Star Sports, Fox Sports, Euro Sports News, Euro Sports 2, bein Sports MAX 4HD, bein Sports 3HD, bein Sports Global, bein Sports MAX (bein Sports 1-10), TS Sports 4 HD, TS Sports 2, TS Sports 3 and Yolo Sports HD.
Others are Trace Urban/Africa, HITS TV, MTV Base, TLC (HD), BBC America, CNBC, Aljazeera,Riwa Ndu TV, TS Hausa, TS Igbo, TS Yoruba, TS Sports 1 HD, BBC Radio 2, TVC News, Sky News, Arewa24, and Nollywood TV.
Running on 4.5G network, every subscriber will also get 20G of data for N3, 000 monthly. The data can also be used for video calls conferences with camera and WiFi, even as the TStv decoder has 50GB hard disk to record TV programmes and a pause/play function.
Thus, expectations of Nigerians were high, especially as people don’t need much convincing to be excited at the arrival of a ‘cheap, affordable or flexible’ satellite TV. Viewers, especially at this post-recession season, could do with a much cheaper subscription.
However, no sooner had the brand launched when controversies began to dug its heels. TSTV was accused of content theft by Turner Broadcasting System, which warned TSTV not to broadcast CNN International that is on MultiChoice DSTV. Also, beIN sent TSTV a cease-and-desist letter; that none of the advertised beIN channels are allowed on TStv. TSTV said the letters were fake.
To make matters worse and like a badly intentioned prank, one whole week after TSTV’s launch, nobody could lay a hand on the pay TV’s decoder. The situation has made potential TSTV customers furious. The few dealers were forced to return customers’ subscriptions.
Were Nigerians, due to their long suffering in the hands of a monopoly, wrong to have failed to ask the tough questions, in their rush to embrace TSTV? Does it mean only dummies of TSTV decoders were displayed at the “symbolic” unveiling on October 1? Can the new Nigerian pay-tv operator, TSTV, be trusted over its brand promises? Can it provide the required high-quality content that Nigerians already get from DSTV? Is TSTV’s target of 1 million decoders in homes in the first quarter not unrealistic?
To worsen matters, TSTV hasn’t been responding to media enquiries to douse the flames of the many rumours and speculations making the rounds, one of which was that those online adverts for TSTV jobs were fake. Also, newsmen don’t seem to know its media or public relations managers.
In preference to addressing press conferences, it’s Managing Director, Echefu said last Saturday, one week after its launch, that TSTV Africa will now begin commercial operations onNovember 1, 2017, insisting that TSTV would launch its services with about one million decoders nationwide.
He promised that 5,000 decoders of TSTV would be released to the public next week (meaning this week) for free, adding that it would use the first set of decoders with one month free subscription to test-run its services. Said he, “TSTV begins operation on November 1. Commercialization of our decoders will resume officially on Nov. 1 and by that time, every part of Nigeria would have TSTV decoders for people to buy”.
With this announcement by Echefu, operators and players in the integrated marketing communications sector said this was what TSTV ought to have done in the first place.
A brand strategist, Annie Udoh said that TSTV had put the cart before the horse by launching, even when it had no infrastructure on the ground to satisfy millions of potential customers.
Echefu explained that the delay in releasing the decoders to the public was to ensure that dealers were properly scrutinized so that the decoders do not fall into wrong hands. He explained that the decoder would be sold to Nigerians at a subsidized rate.
According to him, the landing cost of the decoder is N28, 000. “We don’t want a situation where someone would pick our decoders and dump them somewhere. “That is why we are very careful because of competition.
“We have received well over 6,000 applications and it has been overwhelming processing these people; but so far, we have been able to accredit more than 748 dealers.
“That is why we have not commercialized our services even though we are the ones losing because we have enough decoders to cover the whole of Nigeria.
“But it will be unfair with all the money put in for us to give decoders out and those decoders don’t get to the end users,” Echefu added.
The TSTV boss disclosed that the organisation currently has 250 staff on direct employment, while it expects about 10000 to be engaged indirectly at take off and that the firm has improved on its transmission facilities to overcome weather challenges.
On the alleged copyright infringement by two international content providers, Turner Broadcasting System and beIN sports, Echefu said the company entered into partnership agreement with every concerned organisation. According to him, TSTV will air CNN and beIN sport channels.
Whether Nigerians are convinced by Echefu’s promises remain to be seen for now as it doesn’t take long for Nigerians to become skeptical over any new brand, this time, the new pay-TV bride.
With HiTv’s case still fresh in their memory, Udoh said TSTV’s gaffe is reminding Nigerians of the saying: “we’ve been down that road before.” For TSTV, the hard work is just beginning.