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Telcos Pocketed Majority of Profit from SMS Votes on BBNaija- Ugbe, Multichoice Boss

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John Ugbe, managing director, Multichoice Nigeria

John Ugbe, managing director, Multichoice Nigeria, in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of Digital Dialogue conference in Dubai, talked about the recently-concluded Big Brother Naija, DStv’s charges, the pay-TV model, social responsibility programmes, rain fade which is caused by bad weather, among other issues.

What is your reaction to the assertion that 170 million votes from BBNaija came exclusively from SMS, thereby yielding profit in the billions?

Ugbe: There has been a lot of focus on the figure 170million, but to set the record straight; 170million votes came from 49 African countries, and more than 90% came from online voting. Under 2% of the entire votes came from SMS voting.

Nigeria is the only country that was enabled to vote via SMS. The actual revenue generated from SMS voting could not be further from the much-touted purported figure. Over and above, the administration and platform set up costs, the majority of the profit went directly to the GSM and data service providers.

 

Is there a way to ensure BBNaiija is domiciled in Nigeria so that all the economics of the hosting and its associated benefits come to Nigeria?

Ugbe: Tinsel is domiciled in Nigeria and shown all over Africa. We just premiered a new epic series in Lagos. For this, we built an entire village from scratch to portray the realities of a village setting.

Our group of channels are called Africa Magic to reflect our African heritage. Nigeria has the biggest movie industry that is why our productions are domiciled in Nigeria.

For Hotel Majestic, we had to take over a hotel in Nigeria for two years as a set. It’s a lot of investment. Big Brother demands a lot of complexities and outfitting a house.

For the Big Brother shows, we set up one facility for Nigeria, Angolan and other editions. It makes sense from a production perspective. It is impractical to replicate sets across our operations in 49 African countries.

We choose the best location for each specific production. Big Brother Naija’s production team is made up of 90% Nigerians even though it wasn’t set in Nigeria – so a good deal of skills transfer occurs. Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) comes to Nigeria every year. Speaking as a Nigerian and an advocate of Nigeria, we keep looking at what it will entail to run it locally.

 

Have you considered implementing a ‘pay as you consume’ model considering that work and life schedules make it difficult to catch shows without steady power?

Ugbe: From a producer’s perspective – we have to buy the movie in full and we have to buy enough content to fill the channel and put it on air.

That’s what the pay-TV model prescribes anywhere in the world. We have to aggregate content for our different packages, this means ensuring there is something for everyone on the package depending on your interest and pocket strength. But there is a good spread of a variety of content across all packages. Everyone thinks of today.

From day one, you have to buy enough movies to make up the channel and sell that package to one person. It’s a risk as you cannot determine if after buying content, only one or ten people will subscribe.

If only one person does, you cut your losses and move on, but you continue to invest in content with the hope that more people will be interested in watching.

Regarding breaking off viewing according to your availability, the challenge is in the model of the business. We don’t know when your decoder is on or off. That makes it impossible to say I want to start billing because this customer has started viewing.

Pay as you go is a mobile network term. The mobile operators have the technical resources to measure what is being used. For pay-Tv on the other hand, it is not the same thing.

Last August, the Mayweather vs. McGregor Boxing match was delayed for close to 3 hours. The reason it was delayed is because of the technicalities of pay-per-view in the US. Pay-per-view for a fight like that would be $99 – that is more than your one-month subscription on Premium – about double.

However, we buy the fight and aggregate it for our Premium subscribers, who were able to record it, even when the live event did not happen on schedule. What we encourage our subscribers to do is download DStv Now, and you can watch all the content on your current subscription on the go, on your phone or tablet. You do not have to be bound by availability of power. Catch Up is there… Get it before the World Cup so it’s right there on your phone and your iPad and your laptop. Those are the innovations we’ll continue to make.

 

What social responsibility programmes do you invest in as an organisation?

Ugbe: We focus on education, health and youth and economic empowerment. Our MultiChoice Resource Centre project is our

education initiative that we have been active with for over 14 years. What we do here is work with the governments in each state to select beneficiary schools. We then provide audio-visual equipment (which include a dish, decoder with educational channels, TV, generating set, tables, chairs, UPS), to bring learning and the school’s curriculum to life.

We set up our education package in the chosen schools, train the teachers on how to select relevant programs intended to illuminate and animate information that would otherwise have remained theoretical or textbook based.

The MRCs are present in over 400 schools across 33 states in Nigeria, tens of thousands of students have benefitted from these centres since inception. The feedback has been astounding.

The rate of passing school leaving exams has improved. Several beneficiary students have gone on to become medical doctors, lawyers, and a good number are working in several other professions, as a result of this foundation that changed how they learn and retain information.

I have experienced how this centre is used and saw how students responded when they saw how a tsunami actually happens. They saw it happen on our platform and this made it easier for them to imagine how destructive a tsunami could be.

Also in terms of education, we have partnered with Eutelsat for many years to roll out DStv-Eutelsat Star Awards, a satellite-based competition for secondary school students across Africa.

The students are required to answer questions on how satellites can be used to improve processes, the advantages of satellite and so on.

These questions need to be answered through an essay or a poster. Last year, a Nigerian; Emmanuel Ochenjele emerged overall winner from the poster category. He met a real life astronaut – Claudie Haignere, right here in Nigeria, and not long ago, he returned from Paris, as part of his winning prize, where he went to the Eutelsat headquarters to witness how rockets are assembled. This has changed his perspective forever.

We implement our health responsibility by supporting the Sickle Cell Foundation. We have been partners for many years. We support them because the statistics of how sickle cell anaemia affects Nigerians paints a dire picture.

The foundation seeks funds to carry out research, treat and inform sufferers. Their key objective is creating awareness on how to minimize its effects, research on how to avoid and ultimately cure the ailment. On our part, we offer support through creating awareness, which we do on an ongoing basis through educational videos, community outreach programs, fundraising and other initiatives to support them in what they do.

Our GOtv Boxing Next Gen clinics support the growth of boxing, which we brought out of near extinction in Nigeria.

Over and above the boxing matches which provide an avenue for the boxers to earn a living, the clinics provide tips on welfare, training and psychological support to these young ones.

Some of the young boxers were picked from our Next Generation Search (for talented and passionate amateurs), they have now proven themselves in mainstream boxing and have won millions over the years. Ultimately, we train them to go professional, so that one of our boxers can proudly fly the Nigerian flag internationally.

 

Is it possible to put my subscription on hold when I travel for a month?

Ugbe: Yes we have made it possible for you to do that. You can put your subscription on hold when you travel for up to two weeks each time, twice a year.

One of the things we thrive on is technology. The dual view decoder was first introduced in the world by MultiChoice. Digital Satellite TV (DStv) was only second after the US. When we build the DTT network we had Russians coming to study it. We look to the future for what is possible to do.

 

Recently, MultiChoice ran a promo asking subscribers to pay for two months and get one month free, but there were complaints from customers who didn’t get the promised month. What is your response to this?

 

Ugbe: It is true that we ran a retention offer late last year. When we received feedback that some customers did not get the free month on schedule, we identified those customers that were affected and we fixed it. We introduced a new process which helps to identify those who received the offer, and ensure that get the benefit immediately.

Additionally, in terms of improving on technology, we upgrade our decoder software from time to time to improve customer viewing experience. We ran a free swop campaign where we asked customers to bring in obsolete decoders for a free swop.

It’s all in line with always striving to improve our offers to our customers. We also introduced tollfree lines a few years ago. These numbers are available on our website and social media care platforms. On Twitter, the address is @DStvNgCare.

 

Is the call centre 24 hours? DStv should have a 24-hour call centre.

Ugbe: This is good feedback and something we tested in December. However, there are a few challenges with labour laws. So we’ve been looking at how best our customers can reach us at any time of the day. We will communicate changes and updates in due course.

 

The strength of your signal is still a problem, especially when it rains. Why is that the case?

Ugbe: To shed some light on that, it is called rainfade. Satellite signal from the KU Band is susceptible to weather.

I have taken pictures of my TV screen when I’ve been in New York or other parts of the world and I experienced interruption as a result of bad weather. It’s not a Nigerian problem. Your DSTV will work even with 40% signal.

There is a need to boost the signal to have less interruption. We also make available quality cables to reduce interference. If rain comes in it will affect the quality.

We recommend getting a certified installer to conduct regular checks to verify signal strength. Also, some dishes have not been checked in up to five years. Regular checks ensure that your dish works optimally, thereby reducing rainfade.

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Star Trek inspired a lot of Americans to go into science and to the moon. What does Big Brother inspire among Nigerians?

Ugbe: We are in pay TV, we are in entertainment. Entertainment is a mix of fun, inspiration and education. Remember, reality TV is reality.

This is what happens. The fact that they are on TV doesn’t change it. Entertainment can inspire in a variety of ways. A lot of people have come out of Big Brother and have grown into entertainment powerhouses. It’s a platform for exposure and advancement.

Furthermore, we have a lot of educational and kids content. We ask our viewers to set up parental guidance so you can control what your child views.

The parents have and have always had the control. Kids, these days, have smartphones and can download anything, but the blame is often put on TV. You can opt out of a channel or block it completely at any time. We put the power into your hands. And back to Big Brother, we can learn from their interaction in the house. They have tasks that promote nationalism, patriotism. You see those contestants singing the national anthem proudly. When they talk about malaria day, we use it as an opportunity to educate. A lot of the tasks are subtle but meant to inspire and lead.

 

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Reps Seek Amendment of NBC Act for Radio/TV Assisted Learning

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A bill seeking to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act, to provide for radio and television contents targeted at improved education among Nigerian pupils, on Thursday passed second reading in the House of Representatives.

 

Tagged “National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill, 2018,” the amendment seeks to mandate every private and public radio and television stations in Nigeria to provide dedicated education programmes that will cover all subjects in the school curriculum.

 

Leading debates on the desirability of the amendment, its sponsors, Segun Odebunmi (APC, Oyo) and James Faleke (APC, Lagos), argued that every radio and television station in Nigeria would provide for such contents to cater for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examinations Council (NECO) syllabuses.

 

“If amended, all radio and TV stations in Nigeria, including DSTV, Star Times, etc, will be legally compelled to dedicate channels and airtime to teaching students in line with approved school curricula.

 

“It is expected that qualified instructors will be engaged by the service provider to teach the pupils via online visuals to encourage learning and enhance standard of education in Nigeria,” the sponsors submitted.

 

Such innovation, the lawmakers further argued, would be more effective than books in teaching and learning.

 

According to them, the two-legged amendment, which covers Sections 1, 2, 5, 9, 11, 12 13, 14, 19 and 26 of the Third Schedule and Principal Act, also seeks to establish Digital Access Fund (DAF) in line with global best practices.

 

The overall aim, they noted, is to strengthen the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as an effective regulator of broadcasting in Nigeria.

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NCC Drags COSON, Okoroji, Others to Court for Operating Without Approval

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The Nigerian Copyright Commission has filed a criminal charge against Copyright Society of Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji, Mrs Bernice Eremieghe and Miss Anne Okomi for carrying out the duties of a collecting society without the approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

In Charge No FHC/L/338C/18, filed on 8th October 2018 at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, the accused persons were alleged to have performed the duties of a collecting Society by demanding and collecting royalties from Noah’s Ark of 9 Sowemimo Street, GRA, Ikeja Lagos and carrying on the business of negotiating and granting licenses on behalf of Copyright owners without the approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under sections 39 (4), (5) and (6) of the Copyright Act Cap C 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigerian 2004.

It will be recalled that the Nigerian Copyright Commission had on 30th April 2018, pursuant to relevant provisions of the Copyright Act and the Copyright (Collective Management Organisation) Regulation 2007, suspended the license it granted to COSON to operate as a collecting society following the refusal of the management of COSON to comply with directives of the Commission issued after an investigations into a lingering dispute in the governing board of COSON which led to conflicting claims by two groups as the legitimate governing board of the society.

The Management of COSON has continued to disregard the directive of the Commission, and also acted in violation of the Order of suspension of its operating license as a collective management Organization.

The provisions of Section 39 the Copyright Act requires any person wishing to operate as a collective management Organization to obtain prior approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

In May 2010, COSON was granted approval to operate as a Collective Management Organization for Music and Sound recording, Pursuant to the said   provision, and the provisions of the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007.

The Nigerian Copyright Commission is empowered to sanction a collective management organization for failing to comply with the regulatory provisions regarding its operations or refusing to comply with the directive of the Commission. Such sanctions may include suspension of the operating license of a Collecting society and in appropriate cases, revocation of the License.

Furthermore, it is an offence under the Copyright Act to operate as a collecting Society or otherwise carry out the functions of a collective management Society without a valid licence of the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

The criminal charge filed against COSON and some members of its management team, followed an investigation by the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the outcome of which showed that COSON has acted in violation of the relevant provisions of the Law.

The Director General of the Commission has continued to reassure copyright owners in the music and sound recording industries of the commitment of the Commission to entrench a transparent and accountable system of Collective management, to enable right owners receive duly earned royalties without being short-changed.

Users of musical works are also encouraged to obtain appropriate copyright licenses from only approved collective management organizations.

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GOtv Marks 7th anniversary, Begins Open Week for Subscribers

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GOtv a digital pay television offering on the digital terrestrial television platform has announced the commencement of its open week for their subscribers in celebration of its seventh year anniversary.

 

GOtv Open Week will start from, Friday 19 October to Friday, 26 October, 2018. Customers on GOtv Plus bouquet will be treated to a special offering of a week-long access to over 65 channels on GOtv MAX bouquet.

 

GOtv Plus customers will be treated to GOtv MAX’s wide variety of sports and entertainment content such as La Liga on SS Select 4, Fox Entertainment, Sony MAX, CBS Reality and more during the open week period.

 

All these come just before the El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, La Liga’s top game, on October 28, and will be broadcast live exclusively on GOtv MAX.

 

Speaking on the anniversary and open week activities, John Ugbe, managing director, MultiChoice Nigeria said: “We are glad to celebrate this milestone with our customers, who have always been the core of our business. This celebration is indeed a testimony to our commitment to put our customers at the heart of everything we do.  As we continue to grow, we will continue to make improvements and add more value to our GOtv customers”.

 

Ugbe explained that GOtv MAX was introduced as a continuation of the GOtv’s desire to keep widening entertainment options for subscribers.

 

GOtv has four bouquets; GOtv MAX for N3200 monthly with over 65 channels, GOtv Plus bouquet which goes for N1900 monthly with over 50 channels, GOtv Value for N1350 with over 30 channels and GOtv Lite for N400 with 21 channels.

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