Monday, February 29, 2016

OPINION. Idiotic Nigerian lawmakers are dangerously playing with fire in their desire to break down MultiChoice, instead of creating competition for DStv.

The idiotic Nigerian senate as well as Nigeria's moronic Consumer Protection Council (CPC) are playing with fire with their belligerent and misguided assault this past week on MultiChoice in Nigeria - exposing their uninformed attacks as more uninformed witch-hunt than actual consumer protection.

Too inept and stupid to rather open Nigeria's pay-TV market up to more actual competition and better market conditions, the Nigerian senate and the CPC's clamp-down on MultiChoice is going to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for MultiChoice to continue to operate its DStv and GOtv services there.

And when MultiChoice in Nigeria no longer feels its worth its while - or possible to adhere to crazy Nigerian legislation, guess what?

MultiChoice will leave Nigeria or dramatically cut back its business, just like companies like Truworths, Woolworths, Tiger Brands, Brunel and Virgin Atlantic just  to name a few have done through ceasing their operations and disinvesting in the West African country in the past year.

Here's the bottom line: If Nigerians lose their DStv it won't be due to MultiChoice Africa CEO Tim Jacobs making such a fateful decision - it will be the fault of Nigeria's clueless lawmakers.

For Nigeria's CPC to order and force MultiChoice to offer "pay per view"  - terribly inept and erroneous language for "let individual subscribers pick only their channels" and forcing it to make "good channels" (meaning premium content channels) available on all (meaning cheaper) bouquets, reveals the mind-boggling stupidity of the CPC and how uninformed they are about how the satellite pay-TV model works.

Neither MultiChoice nor other pay-TV operators buy their/the content (or can buy the content) in that way, which makes it impossible to sell the content to the end-consumer in that way, and nowhere else in Africa - not even South Africa - does MultiChoice operate such a "pay-per-view" service.

Nigeria's consumer body and its senate are slamming MultiChoice for "incessant and unreasonable subscription hikes".

Guess what Nigeria? It's your weak and plummeting naira that's to blame due to Nigeria's weakened economy.

Pay-TV operators like MultiChoice are not charities, they're companies. And they have to buy their content in dollar. And companies are out to make profit, not chasing rainbows.

Nigeria's CPC ordered MultiChoice to allow DStv subscribers to "suspend their service" for between one to two weeks for at least two times a year.

Does the CPC and Nigerian lawmakers think MultiChoice buy their content and channels themselves for two weeks at a time? That MultiChoice is able to give "back [unused] chunks of content in short intervals as well?

The CPC and the Nigerian government won't order its Lagos airport to shut down over the weekend when nobody is using it, but has the audacity to order a company to shut down its service at the beck and call of individual subscribers.

If DStv subscribers get the right to effectively "cancel" their service for half a month, twice a year, will the CPC and the Nigerian legislature also force other like-for-like businesses to do the same?

Can the CPC order its commuter train service to please "put on hold" that already bought monthly train ticket if a commuter is suddenly not using it for a week or two weeks and give them another "extra" two weeks later?

Can the daycare centre where you leave your child please give you a "good-for" extension on your monthly payment if your didn't drop your child there for a week or two because of illness, or vacation?

Can the CPC please tell the milk you've already paid for in your fridge to remain at exactly the same level of freshness if you go away for a few days and are not home to drink it?

Some of the orders the CPC forced MultiChoice Nigeria to make this week are good and positive.

Instructing MultiChoice to make toll free customer care line telephone numbers available, for customer care service to be available for longer periods over weekends and public holidays, and for a DStv subscription billing cycle to only start once a person actually has an activated DStv subscription are great and positive sanctions.

Instead of going after MultiChoice like rabid dogs, Nigerian lawmakers and the CPC should work at opening up the Nigerian pay-TV market to more, and true, competition.

The moronic Nigerian senate president Bukola Saraki had the audacity in a motion entitled "Concern on unwholesome practices by MultiChoice Nigeria" entered on Wednesday in Nigeria's senate to say "we must play our role to ensure that we protect Nigerians and ensure that the best global practices are what is happening in our own country".

Well dear Bukola, protecting Nigerians and "ensuring best global practices" is actually not to go after individual companies [who simply does what companies does] but to open up markets and economies.

"Best global practices" are to foster bigger competition by allowing and supporting competition through policies that allow entrepreneurship, businesses and companies to operate and flourish and makes it easy(ier) for them to exist and to provide products and services.

The Nigerian legislature and the CPC wants MultiChoice to do things it cannot, and to be things it can't - not even as a perfect company in a perfect world - instead of allowing there to be more companies within the pay-TV sphere who will compete harder for consumers which will increase choice, quality, service and drive prices down.

The laughable imbeciles in the Nigerian government and the CPC are clueless when they say they want to "break DStv's monopoly" by attacking MultiChoice.

You "break" - ironically a bad word to use for a country that actually needs and should welcome more foreign investment and companies - a monopoly by opening up a market through licensing and allowing more companies and competition.

MultiChoice also hardly has a "monopoly" in Nigeria - something Nigeria's senators would know if they had even the faintest grasp on Economy 101 or look out the window.

MultiChoice is simply running the better or best pay-TV service in Nigeria, but China's StarTimes, African Cable Television (ACTV), CONSAT, MyTV and Montage Cable Network exist there. Even HiTV existed as a Nigerian pay-TV operator before it spectacularly imploded at the end of 2011.

This coming weekend M-Net and MultiChoice are ironically holding the 5th AfricaMagic Viewers' Choice Awards in Lagos, Nigeria, an awards initiative aimed at improving and growing Nigeria and Africa's film industry.

Without MultiChoice, and with a shackled MultiChoice, would Nigeria be fine if there is no further AfricaMagic Viewers' Choice Awards, or if its moved to another African country?

How about the other side benefits and corporate social investment (CSI) flowing into, and happening in Nigeria due to MultiChoice's existence there?

The unjust and myopic view of the CPC and Nigeria's lawmakers now risk forcing MultiChoice to be "more" - which will ironically force MultiChoice in that country to perhaps become, offer and be less.

If MultiChoice is forced to offer "good channels" across all of its DStv bouquets - channels that cost more to buy on which it can't make a return on lower-tiered packages - guess what? MultiChoice will likely shut down and decrease the number of available DStv packages its offering.

If MultiChoice is forced to allow DStv subscribers to "shut down their service" for at least 28 days per year, per DStv subscriber, guess what?

MultiChoice will raise the general price individual subscribers pay in Nigeria even more to make up for that loss - it will work in the estimated loss and tack it on to the overall annual money it needs to get per individual subscriber. It's basic economic principles.

If MultiChoice is forced to make free-to-air channels available to "subscribers" so they can watch it on DStv even after they're no longer DStv susbcribers, guess what? MultiChoice will over time stop carrying those free-to-air channels to begin with as existing carriage contracts expire, so that there's no free-to-air channels on its system anyway.

Are people allowed to go and sit at a restaurant and order just a glass of water for free with no intention of ordering anything and of being a customer there? Of course not. So why is the CPC ordering MultiChoice to accommodate people who are not its clients in such a way?

Nigeria's consumer "protection" council and that country's senate need to stop bitching about MultiChoice and start to allow and put in place more choice and to create pay-TV operators and more pay-TV operators to grow.

That is what will really serve Nigeria's pay-TV consumers - not attacking and wanting to diminish a successful company that wants to invest and try and operate and run a consumer-oriented business in West Africa.