For customers of Multichoice, owners of DSTV and GOTV satellite and cable TV, the poor services rendered by the South Africa-based firm are unbecoming. Not long ago, customers had to put up with increment in subscription fees for various bouquets, defying a court order for the firm to put on hold the increment and glitches in system which failed to recognise subscription paid in advance.

Recently, some customers, subscriptions were also cut-off due to a failed system upgrade without compensation. Some aggrieved customers believe the poor services rendered are symptomatic of the low competition in the industry as Multichoice is the dominant satellite and cable TV operator in the country. “My GOTV was cut off for one week due to a failed system upgrade. On enquiry, I was told the system will get back soon and that was one week after without compensation,” says Paul Nwachukwu, a businessman.

Prior to its increment in subscription fees in April, Multichoice had in March offered customers the chance to pay for multiple subscriptions for the old rate by end of that month, after which the new rates come into effect. Customers trooped to its outlets across the country to take advantage of the offer. However, what they did not bargain for was that the old rate was not going to reflect in their payment and they were cut off. Miffed by what they saw as the nonchalant attitude of Multichoice, customers besieged outlets to complain only to be told that they had a technical glitch, which rendered their system unable to recognise the old rate. “It is sad that we can be treated this way. They should have anticipated this challenge and not put us through this experience. They just keep wasting our time,” says Timothy Adesegun, a banker.

Customers of GOTV have also complained of poor signals due to unfavourable weather; which compelled them to often turn the antenna to catch signals. Most of them believe the system can and should be improved upon to give them a truly memorable experience. Poor programming is also a challenge as most customers also complain of the old Nollywood films relayed on the African Magic channels, even as some customers called for their removal. “Multichoice is good at reminding customers to pay in advance, but it is often slow to respond to complaints. This is not good enough,” says Ehi Ituah, who operates a sports viewing centre in Festac Town, Lagos.

Lack of competition

The absence of keen competition in the satellite and cable TV industry has been blamed for the poor services rendered by Multichoice. Industry watchers believe the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ought to step up regulation to compel quality services. For example, as a dominant operator in the industry, critics have lambasted the NBC for allowing Multichoice the license to operate GOTV, a lower-end cable TV; which has muscled out other lesser operators such as Star Times which has lost customers. In other climes where there is proper regulation, ‘anti-trust’ policy will bar Multichoice from operating in the lower-end. This has led some operators to close shop due to high cost of operation, something that Multichoice can dispense with. In fact, Multichoice outlets serve both DSTV and GOTV customers, reducing per unit cost of transaction which other operators in the lower end of the cable TV spectrum cannot withstand.

Rip-off of customers

Multichoice has also been accused of ripping customers off by not operating a pay-per-view bouquet as it obtains in other countries where they operate. Indeed, Pay-per-view was one of the bones of contention in the class-action suit filed against Multichoice to stop it from increasing subscription fees. This arrangement, according to the plaintiff, means subscribers will only pay for programmes actually watched as it is done in South Africa. Multichoice has come under severe criticisms in the last few years following its near monopoly status in the industry and poor services. Critics believe it is abusing its status to the detriment of the well-being of the country. However, the management of Multichoice counters critics; saying the cost of operating in Nigeria is quite high.

By Osaze Omoragbon


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