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NBCs directive on Pay TV opens opportunities for operators


August 23, 2006/punch




Although many persons were taken by surprise by the recent directive issued by the National Broadcasting Commission concerning direct-to-home broadcasting in Nigeria, close watchers of the industry anticipated it.

The directive issued by the Public Affairs Manager, NBC, Mr. Ladan Salihu, read, No licensee shall acquire rights for broadcasting for the territory of Nigeria together with any other territory which pre-supposes the exclusion of any other Nigerian operator from having opportunity to acquire same;

Where existing contractual agreements obtain, upon their lapse, subsequent rights acquisition agreements must designate Nigeria as a stand-alone territory;

For the avoidance of doubt, where such rights exist, the holder shall not be allowed to exploit them except other licensees are given the opportunity to exploit or access them.”

At a public hearing organised by the National Assembly in 2005, various positions were canvassed by the NBC and other operators, including MultiChoice.

The consensus then was that MultiChoice, which has its roots in South Africa, had an unfair advantage in the Nigerian market, as other players could not access what they termed premium programmes/channels such as CNN, English Premier League, Spanish League, Hollywood Studio Movies, BBC Prime, Discovery, among others, which were paraded on the MultiChoice bouquet.

The local operators were irked that while MultiChoice was declaring huge profits, they were not able to break even, despite making huge investments.

The anger of stakeholders was further stoked by MultiChoices submission to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa in 2005, where it highlighted the merits of exclusivity.

These issues, our correspondent learnt, informed the NBCs directive, which has multifaceted implications for the broadcast industry, as well as the economy.

Speaking with our correspondent on Tuesday, the Chairman, Trumpet Internet Television, Mr. Steve Akoni, commended the Federal Governments directive, which he said, showed that it was responsive to the demands of the business community.

He added that the abolition of exclusive rights had opened the opportunity for Nigerian companies interested in offering direct-to-home channels to thrive.

He described what subsisted in the past, as an insult to Nigeria, noting, For 12 years, MultiChoice enjoyed a field day in Nigeria, and we maintained that the monopoly had to be broken.”

He promised that Nigerian operators would offer the same kind of quality comparable with what MultiChoice had provided, adding that MultiChoice blocked efforts by entrants to access the premium channels.

On whether broadcasters like CNN, Super Sports and others rights owners would be willing to do business with Nigerian companies, Akoni, said many of those broadcasters were not happy with the original set up, but could do nothing about it.

MultiChoice Nigeria, in its reaction made available to our correspondent on Thursday, said, Any channel that is on DStv is always the most lucrative. If it is on other pay TV platforms, it is considered unattractive and non-lucrative. MultiChoice expends considerable resources, time and effort in marketing and building the brands of the channels on the DStv bouquets.”

The statement, quoted the companys Public Relations Officer, Mr. Segun Fayose, as saying, In 2004, there were already in excess of 12,000 pay television channels worldwide of which MultiChoice or DStv has less than a 100. More than 11,000 channels are available for any operator in Nigeria to access. The acquisition of the other available channels would benefit consumers by ensuring that there is both diversity and pluralism in what is at offer by pay television operators.”

However, checks by our correspondent revealed that exclusivity for premium channels was being broken around the world.

Satellite broadcaster, Sky, holds an exclusive deal with the Premier League to show live matches via Sky Sports and Sky PremPlus, but the European Commission wants the market opened to at least two broadcasters when the current deals expire in 2007.

In August 2003, when the Premier League awarded all four of its rights packages to Sky in a deal worth 1.024bn, the commission said the deal was anti-competitive.

The Premier League will be tendering TV rights packages for the 2007-09 season from Spring 2006 and it would be bound by the commitment it made that as from 2007, no single buyer would be able to acquire exclusively all of the centrally marketed live rights packages.

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