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How stuff works in Pay TV
By Yemi Layoonu
I am a user of social networking platforms, avid fan of newspapers-physical and digital. I spend a lot of time on comment sections, where you sometimes find very brilliant responses to any topic up for discussion. Most times, however, interventions pedestrian, with so many coming across as a convergence of ignorance and arrogance. Others are downright toxic. These are, of course, interspersed with irrelevancies from fraudsters offering Dangote Cement at N500 per bag, phony Customs officers offering to sell a Toyota Venza at N650, 000 or some trickster offering testimony of how banished diabetes, hypertension and “stolen destiny” with a syrup made from okra, ginger and watermelon seeds.
Every comment category teaches you something, especially how much rigour or otherwise preceded the intervention. A sizable percentage, I have observed, are products of utter ignorance presented with magisterial authority. They are often prefabricated opinions (dressed up as facts) and are unoriginal. To be ignorant is not half as bad as being unwilling to learn or rejecting evidence that sticks a pin in the balloon of presumed knowledge. Those in this category never bother to read or listen to any position contrary to the prefabricated view they hold.
One subject I see this displayed prominently is pay television. A typical discussion around pay television service in Nigeria starts with the assumption that access is an alienable human right before moving to one that projects pay television as akin to a public utility (something we are loathe to pay for while expecting optimal services) and onto extravagant claims of how pay television works not just here but in the UK, USA, Mexico, Papua New Guinea et al.
Earlier in the week, I read an article inflected with a wish (the author’s) to be viewed as knowledgeable about pay television and some sort of consumer rights activist. The article, widely published online, and by a major print medium, gushed with ignorance and fizzed. The author apparently views himself/herself as having the final word on the subject in addition to giving an impression that he is agenda-driven, as he wrote only about MultiChoice.
I have issues with MultiChoice, promoters of DStv and GOtv, notably reconnection after subscription renewal. I have found a way to make it quicker when confronted with that situation by simply sending them a direct message on Twitter. It has worked well. The response takes all of 10 minutes. But I’d prefer it to be automatic.
Now, back to the article. The writer claimed that MultiChoice holds “subscribers to ransom” by implementing a monthly billing model rather than a “pay-as-you-go” model “as obtains abroad”. He followed this up with other allegations such as replacement of certain channels with others, change of hardware to more modern ones and the time it takes the decoder to load, porgramme repetition, signal degeneration in adverse weather and, wait for it, failure to compensate subscribers when there is power outage.
First, the claim that the pay-as-you-go (PAYSG) model is the global standard is false. PAYSG is often used interchangeably with Pay-Per-View (PPV), which is used in the broadcast of one-off, big-ticket events such as feature films, live sporting and entertainment events. PPV is far more expensive and paid for in addition to your regular subscription, not in lieu of.
The recent heavyweight boxing title rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, for example, was available on PPV in the US at $79.99 (approximately N28, 876 using interbank rates). That was the cost of that bout, not a monthly subscription fee! Last week on Facebook, I had to educate a friend, who claimed that MultiChoice operates PPV is South Africa. Admirably, he went online to check and returned to post that he had misled friends on his timeline.
To repeat broadcasts. I never get tired of laughing at people who think fresh shows and programmes everyday are possibilities. They simply are not and repeats are not exactly bad or connote cheating. One man’s repeat is another man’s first viewing. We do not watch television at the same time because of our different work and social schedules. That said, television content creation is time-consuming and money guzzling that it is impossible to have a new one every now and then. Pay television companies, most times, buy from content owners, who insert in their contracts the number of times they want their content exposed.
Buying television content is not the same as buying cucumber from a wheelbarrow-pushing chap.
For new episodes of programmes to be televised daily, then somebody must bear the cost of production, which include the cost of the on-air talent and production crew as well as equipment and facilities. In a 24-hour broadcasting cycle, repeats are inevitable.
I fail to see sense in the complaint that channels are removed and replaced. The contractual document a subscriber signs states that the operator reserves the right to remove or replace the channels on a bouquet list. The reason for this is not difficult to understand. All channels (aside those owned by operator) are purchased for a fixed period of time and content providers can decide to renew or terminate redistribution agreement with an operator.
Signal degeneration in adverse atmospheric conditions such as heavy rainfall, sleet, snow or hurricane is not exclusive to DStv or Nigerian broadcasters. It is something common in satellite communications around the world. It is called “rain fade” or “rain attenuation” and is marked by the absorption by weather elements of point-to-point communication signals, leading to a drop in quality or outright loss of signall
An article on dish-cable.com, an American website focused on the television industry, states that it takes very heavy rain to affect signal reception of a properly aimed and wired satellite home system, but it can happen.
“Still, it can and will happen. It normally lasts for only a short period of time, during the worst downpour. It is likely to occur more often in the regions with significant annual rainfall. This puts Eastern US in the most favorable position. Somewhat less so the Central and North-East US, with the South-East being the region where this kind of service interference or interruption is more likely,” the article stated. This is a clear indication that the issue is not Nigerian or exclusive to DStv.
As for compensation during power outage, I would think it is fairly basic to understand that the operator is equally affected by epileptic power supply. Who compensates it? Generators, as undesirable as they are, exist for a reason. So are inverters. The responsibility for the provision of electricity should be borne by players in the power supply chain, including the government. Demand for compensation, I believe, should be channeled to them, not another victim of power outage.
Layoonu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan
How stuff works in Pay TV