By Bolaji Seweje
Predictably, MultiChoice Nigeria’s recent announcement, via text messages to subscribers, of price adjustments on its DStv and GOtv platforms, has kicked up a storm.
Two major reasons make the storm predictable. First, buyers of products or users of services do not rub their hands in glee when prices go up, however marginally. The second is the prevalent feeling that MultiChoice’s DStv service is some sort of government utility.
Government utilities in Nigeria are usually squalid because we are unwilling to pay at all or pay enough to make them efficient. To be clear, I am for low-priced items, but only if optimum value is deliverable at rock-bottom prices. However, I know, for a fact, that premium television content such as delivered by MultiChoice’s DStv, even if I desperately wish, is not something I will get at the type of price we like to pay for government utilities. It is also not difficult to see that government utilities are not what they are supposed to be because we are unwilling to pay what will make them sustainably efficient.
This, for me, makes the anger over
the recent price adjustments a bit difficult to understand. The new rates, which kick in on 1 May, will see subscribers on the premium bouquet paying N14,700 instead of N13,980 that they currently pay.Those on Compact Plus will pay N9,900 instead of the current N9,420, while Compact subscribers will pay N6,300 instead of N6,000. For the Family bouquet, the new subscription is N3,800 as opposed to the current rate of N3,600, while that of the Access bouquet will be N1,900 instead of N1,800.
The last time MultiChoice raised subscription, I am certain, was in 2015, when naira was devalued and exchanged at N167 to a dollar. The story of the naira since then, I believe, has sufficiently been told to require any retelling here. What has the dollar got to do with MultiChoice? Plenty. Even the garri seller blames the American currency for the astronomical jump in the prices of garri. In fact, almost everybody, including those who have never done a transaction in CFA Francs or Ghanaian Cedi, blames the jump in prices on the dollar. And they are right. The dollar (more accurately the dipping naira value) has affected the prices of most things we use because they are imported. And when the prices imported goods leap so high, those of locally ones made have no chance of staying the same. Back to DStv. DStv, like other pay-TV companies, does not own every content it broadcasts. In most cases, it is simply a vendor or aggregator to content owners, who sell to it for re-sale to subscribers. The nature of the pay-TV ecosystem is one of domination by content owners/creators. The steep dip in naira value and the attendant inflation in operational costs leaves DStv with no option other than to make price adjustments. Content production and content owners are at the mercy of domestic and international economic indices.
Local and international content is dollar-denominated because most pay-TV platforms operate across international borders.
Sellers of other goods and providers of service similarly affected by the slide in naira value have adjusted rates and prices. Curiously, they are not savaged by the public. DStv, like sellers and providers of service, is a business. I doubt if there is a business in Nigeria today that still charges what it charged in 2015. My neighbourhood pepper soup seller does not. Neither does my neighbourhood supermarket.
Only government utilities retain 2015 prices, the reason we do not enjoy them.
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By Bolaji Seweje