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COVID-19: The virus, MultiChoice and everything in between



There is little or no chance that we can find a service subscriber, who does not have one issue or the other with the service provider.

Telephone, pay television and internet service providers, to give just three examples, almost always are in our gunsights for a variety of reasons: Spotty service, tariffs presumed to be too high, slow speed and lousy customer service are my main peeves. You can add yours.

These often leave me close to tearing my hair out. I do not get to do it because my hair is never of the volume to grab let alone tear out. But I believe I have communicated the frustration I feel when I do not get the service I expect from a provider. Before I veer off irredeemably, the subject of this piece is my pay television service of provider of choice, MultiChoice Nigeria, without doubt the dominant one in the market. As a subscriber on MultiChoice’s DStv platform, I have had occasions on which I was red-eyed with rage when I sniff a degeneration in the quality of service.

Notably, I got into this mood in the days I was reluctant to use the provider’s self-service options and chose to stay on the phone, hoping to reach a customer service agent to provide a solution to whatever technical issues I was experiencing. Back then and 90 per cent of the time, it had to do with reconnection after subscription renewal. That is in the past. I have since found their Twitter handle a speedier platform for issues resolution. Half of the other 10 per cent arose from my unfamiliarity with the pay television architecture, a state of affairs that made me believe that pay television service is metered like telephone service and for which a pay-as-you-go model, rather than a fixed monthly subscription model, should be applicable.

I doubt if anyone can claim not to have believed-at one time or the other-what I did. And it was not long ago that I got cured of my ignorance, credit for which should go to Dr Babatunde Irukera, CEO of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC). It was him who explained, in an interview with Channels TV last year, that he has been around the world and did not find one place where the pay-as-you-go model is used. He explained that television content is not metered like telephone service. He should know a thing or two about that ecosystem, I believe.

That said, MultiChoice’s service is not perfect and despite the fact that I have seen that pay television services are pricier around the world -contrary to the oft-repeated claim-than in Nigeria, a part of me still says we should be paying lower rates. Everybody loves a bargain!

I hope that is possible someday soon. But in the meantime, despite my issue (s) with MultiChoice, I have been mightily impressed by the company’s sensitivity to its customers’ situation since the outbreak of COVID-19, which has ripped through everybody’s, including MultiChoice’s, finances in the last one year. A few weeks ago, for example, the company announced huge discounts on its DStv and GOtv decoders as part of its efforts to lessen the economic impact of COVID-19 on Nigerians and widen the access to entertainment available on the two platforms. The discounts took the form of lowering the entry point to the Confam bouquet on DStv and Jolli bouquet on GOtv, meaning that customers are required to pay N9900 for a decoder plus a free one-month DStv Confam subscription which was previously N18,900 or N6900 plus a free one-month GOtvJolli subscription which was N8,400

I would happily take one of the two offers if I was not yet a subscriber.

Those generous discounts were preceded by similar shows of sensitivity, which came in the shape of a campaign tagged “We’ve Got You”. The campaign, which ran from 20 April to 30 June, 2020, offered active and disconnected DStv and GOtv customers the opportunity to get upgraded to the next viewing package when they renewed subscription on the packages they were on.

In similar vein, customers were granted access to Free-to-Air news, kiddies and sporting channels. To cater to customers’ spiritual needs, the Hallelujah pop-up channel was launched to provide a church-at-home experience for subscribers during the closure of worship places, with the African Easter pop-up channel, in partnership with TBN Africa, becoming available during the month of Easter on both DStv and GOtv platforms.

For Muslim faithfuls, Sunna TV was launched on both platforms to provide wholesome Islamic content beginning from the holy month of Ramadan.

To lessen the gloom imposed by the lockdown, subscribers on both platforms were also offered access to the hugely popular party-themed Turnup Friday and Owambe Saturday as well as COVID-19 Hope for Africa Concert, in partnership with One Africa Global Foundation.

Alongside these relief initiatives to the consumer, ran others for the general public. At the onset of the pandemic last year, with the government shopping for money to finance the pandemic response efforts, MultiChoice was one of the major supporters from corporate sector, making cash donations of N200 million and N50 million to Federal and Lagos State governments respectively.

It similarly assisted with public education on the pandemic, carrying Educational Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in partnerships with the UN and the U.S Embassy. Another N400m was committed to safeguarding income of cast and crew of its various productions. It is instructive to note that this was at a time that productions were at an all-time low. It’s efforts at contributing to Nigeria’s war against the virus also saw the company highlighting the helplines of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on more than 10 channels across the DStv and GOtv channels, the cost of which was estimated at over N550 million.

Reputedly the country’s major investor in TV and film, a sector pulverised by COVID-19’s disruption of productions and its army of professionals facing a bleak future, MultiChoice committed up to N400 million to ensure that professionals impacted, were paid during the lockdown when they could not work.

Equally tangible support by the company came in the form of donation of 60, 000 units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospitals and Non-Governmental Organisations, 10,0000 face masks to dealers and other components of its value chain as well as a staff care initiative that saw it provide PPEs, sanitizers and multivitamins to employees.

Such substantial contributions are important, and it is necessary that every organization takes a cue from MultiChoice’s commendable efforts.

  • Boluwaji, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos

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