The conversation that preceded the launch of new pay-tv company, TSTV on October 1, 2017 was one of the heaviest in the Nigerian market . From a consumer point of view, what generated the conversation was not so much of how well the company orchestrated it as it was about the hopes and expectations of Nigerians that at last competition has eventually come to dilute what has been perceived to be a near monopolistic hold of Multichoice Nigeria on the pay-tv business in the country.
Across market segments, it has been widely, sometimes wildly, held that Multichoice has not been fair to the country, especially with its pricing. Many ordinary Nigerians believe that DSTV could costs a lot less than Multichoice is charging. Those who hold this view also believe that with competition, there will be an opportunity to extract greater value from Multichoice Nigeria.
Conversations around this issue have been on for many years and each time, Multichoice would come out with facts to suggest that the price regime in the country was the lowest in Africa.
But this story is essentially not about the Multichoice. On the contrary, it is about the new comer, its launch and what it should have done differently. Below are 10 things we believe TSTV could have approached differently before announcing its entry into the pay-tv fray:
1. Going to market with nothing to sell. If you are not a buyer of products or services, your trip to the market, the only reason you go to a market, would be because you have something you are selling. There is this other category of widow-shoppers and, you may add, thieves. But these are not factors we should take seriously as constituting the critical population of a market.
It is either you are buying or you are selling. In the pay-tv business, TSTV is a seller. Therefore, when news was going around the digital and Social Media spaces about the new comer, everyone thought that on the day of launch, there’d be decoders and technical staff on ground.
The promise was huge: N5,000 decoders, free 20 gigabytes of data, sports (Nigerians love football!). But as people gathered in Abuja, with government officials present and granting tax holidays, it became clear that there was nothing on the shelf for people to pick up. No decoders. No dishes. No nothing! To make the whole thing sound funny, TSTV announced that service would become available one month later, on November 1. This is a major marketing crime, the consequence of which is marketshare loss – marketshare the company does not have yet.
When you say that you are launching a product or service, the very first thing that must be done is to ensure the product is ready along with all service platforms. This is usually done long before preparing for the press conference and event activations. I said this same thing on a post I made on Facebook: You cannot organize a party, invite guests and when they are singing, dancing and in various degrees of delirious revelry, you pick the microphone and announce that food and drinks would be served the next day. People will walk away and next time you stage a show, I am not sure any one of these will return.
2. The name, TSTV is too close to competition. People often loosely ask, What is in a name? In marketing, where differentiation might just mean everything, a name is a whole lot. Except you are selling a commodity, the name is as important, if not even more important than all the value propositions you are putting forward.
Have you tried mentioning “TSTV” to someone of late? Except those very familiar with the conversations, once you mention TSTV, you are 90 percent of the time likely to get a retort like, “You mean DSTV?” This is phonetically explainable. TSTV sounds very much like DSTV when pronounced. What this does is that at any point this new comer is mentioned, chances are that people will immediately begin to first think DSTV before they process it and tune their brains to recognize it is another brand that is being talked about.
Implication: TSTV will continue to reinforce the brand identity of DSTV in all oral communications around its brand. This means that it must work hard to either kill DSTV and usurp its identity completely or continue to walk under the shadow of competition with over 20 years of experience and equity under its belt.
3. Announcing channels it cannot realistically and legitimately offer: There are rules guiding the global pay-tv market. For any channel you are adding to your bouquet of offering, there are licenses required to make them happen. As it were, these licenses are granted on regional and national jurisdictions.
I speak about the announcement by TSTV that it was going to broadcast an endless stream of sports, especially football channels to its Nigerian audience. It claimed, so I read, that it was going to take its feed from the beIN platform.
Now, how is this possible? beIN Sports, according to Wikipedia, is a global network of sports channels owned and operated by beIN Media Group, a spinoff of Al Jazeera Media Network. It has no operations in Europe. It is licensed to broadcast the Premier League and some other European football leagues only for Middle East countries where its feed comes in the Arabic language. It is not licensed for the West African market.
Question is: How will this partnership with TSTV legally work? If this new brand wants to occupy the space DSTV presently occupies in Nigeria, the only way it can serve the football loving public of Nigeria would be to send in EPL or La Liga matches with commentaries in Arabic. A few other grey market operators are already doing that with very limited success in upcountry markets. So where is the value?
4. Attacking Multichoice: I have followed the conversations around the entry of TSTV in the market and the major takeout have been pebbles hauled at DSTV and Multichoice Nigeria. In its “Proudly Nigerian” positioning, TSTV has somehow struggled; let me say, with relative success; in reinforcing the “South Africanness” of DSTV. It has gone a bit further by blaming Multichoice for certain attacks on its Twitter handle. I have also read where it was stated that DSTV may have compelled content partners to recant on pre-agreed licensing agreements.
I am not certain this is possible in a globalized market. Multichoice and DSTV cannot be as powerful as would make channels like FOX, CNN and a few others to renege on agreements. That FOX and others have come out to ask TSTV not to continue to use their names and logos on promotional material suggests there was no firm contract between the parties.
5. Leveraging government support: It looks like TSTV is a public sector baby. That it launched in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, with Information Minister and other government officials present says this much. This provided immediate gains with the announcement of a tax holiday for the new entrant.
But I am not sure this will endure for two reasons. One, the government is not the consumer of pay television. It is the public. Hugging government when the budget should have been directed towards engaging the public is a short term strategy that will not endure. The second reason is the volatility of the Nigerian political environment. Any business that desires to be here for long is usually careful of the kind of public sector magic carpet it rides on as it enters the market. If for instance TSTV is profiled as a government baby, challenges that may hamper operations might arise if and when another government comes into power. In Nigeria, political acrimony endures. The business cemetery in Nigeria is littered with graves of portfolios that missed the “political correctness” of their raison d’etre.
6. Original content: One of the lessons Multichoice learned when HiTV took the SuperSports franchise from it was that investing in original content was the only way to stay relevant even as the now moribund platform danced in glee over the sports rights in its kitty at the time.
It was this bad season that gave birth to the African Magic multiple channels that are producing great programmes like The Johnsons, Tinsel, Hustle, Hush, Do Good, among others.
Rather than bask in the glory of the number of foreign content it was bringing to Nigerians, TSTV should have taken the lessons DSTV learnt during its sour days: create bespoke local programmes that can take on those of DSTV head on and probably win. The reason for this is the next point I am about to raise.
7. Football is not the cashcow for pay-tv in Nigeria: For those that have not properly interrogated the pay-tv business in the country, the thinking is that once you have all the sports channels in the world, especially football, you are in business.
This has been a wrong assumption that is based on the noise made on the social media about football. That a few of the Premier League clubs have strong fan bases in Nigeria does not translate to the fact that Nigerians subscribe to pay-tv because of football.
The average Nigerian watches his football in pubs, bars and other outdoor places. In the home, it is the kids and the wives that rule the remote control. In most homes, the channels you are likely to see when you visit are African Magic, Telemundo, Z World and all the cartoon channels.Offices will most likely be on CNN round the clock. Sports is a no no here.
Does this say something? Not even CNN in all its glory enjoys so much viewing time in most homes. Maybe at night. The key reason why many people subscribe to DSTV is not Sports. Football may rank number 5 on the log, if proper research is done.
What this means is that the people who are showing so much excitement about the entry of TSTV are people who watch their football games in bars. At home, they usually take permission from wives and kids (WAKs) before flipping channels to any of his favourites.
8. The 20 Giga “bite”: TSTV has promised free 20 gig data for subscribers monthly on opting in or renewal. This is a very thrilling offer and ordinarily should provide opportunity for quick adoption by Nigerians.
But this is business and the question one has to ask is, at what cost? At the moment, service providers in Nigeria sell 20 Gig from between N10,000 to N15,000. So if I am going to get this along with the channels I am going to watch, and I have to pay just N3,000, where is the business for TSTV?
Again, I do not know who is the typical Nigerian today is so righteous he will allow his conversations, especially on the Social Media to be viewable on his home television? Except the decoder comes with WiFi, folks would rather keep private things private.
If it comes with WiFi, fine and good. But at what cost? Paying so much for content is cost-heavy enough. Providing free and ridiculously cheap WiFi just may not be good business. But it is something I will enjoy should TSTV turn out that generous.
9. Announcing Channels it has not got the rights: To drive home this point, I will copiously quote from a story picked up on cknnigeria.com. In part, it reads thus:
“FOX Network Group (FNG), owners of the FOX television channels, has denied that it has any agreement with new pay-television service provider, TSTV, to carry its channels in Nigeria. The position of FNG was made known in a statement issued on Thursday. The statement, signed by Jeremy Griesel of Jeremy Griesel Communications on behalf of FOX Network Group Africa, TSTV’s advertisement of FOX channels on its platform is inappropriate. Despite advertised claims regarding FOX channels, FOX does not have any agreement with TSTV regarding distribution of channels, but remains confident that TSTV will normalise the situation prior to the launch of its service to ensure the consistency between platform content claims and subscriber expectation,” FOX said. TSTV had similarly been the subject of two disclaimers issued by Turner Broadcasting System Europe, which distributes American news channel CNN, and beIN, the Qatar-based entertainment and sports content owner. Both wrote to TSTV to desist from making claims it had agreements with them to redistribute their respective content and threatened legal action if it does not. They also warned against the use of their logos on any of TSTV’s promotional materials.”
If there has not been an agreement between TSTV and these companies, it may hurt, going forward, especially as expectations are already high.
10. No agent or partner in sight: Businesses like the one TSTV announced it has commenced is one that worked with layers of trained agents, partners and middlemen of all sorts. In its full bloom, TSTV may not employ up to 1,000 people directly. But it expects to be in millions of homes across Nigeria.
To make this happen, they will rely on licensed agents and partners who will earn agreed commissions and then ensure the decoders get into every home.
But TSTV has not announced any agent that will be working with it. It remains to be seen how this will work. With the low cost of decoders and monthly subscription, what attraction will they present to established agents to ensure prime merchandising and push of its decoders to homes?