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Published On: Sun, Jan 7th, 2018

Dead on arrival: The sad story of indigenous satellite TV provider, TSTv

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The expectations were so high. Many Nigerians, both in and outside government were hopeful about the benefits that would accrue to the nation when the newly launched satellite television,

Telcom Satellites TV (TSTv) eventually begins operation.

The satellite Tv firm, which announced its services on July 25, 2017, was well received by many who saw it as the messiah that would break the monopoly of DStv on satellite television in Nigeria.

It was therefore not surprising that no effort was spared in heralding the coming of the television outfit to expectant Nigerians. The launch was impressive. The Federal Government was fully represented at the televised unveiling since TSTv had positioned itself as a wholly Nigerian company. Government support was manifested in the announcement of a three-year tax break for the company.

TSTv promised to offer pay as you go services and lower rates for its programmes including the highly favoured football channels that air European League matches. This mouth-offering offer got a large number of Nigerians interested.

In their joy, many went on to mock other existing providers, taunting them that their “reign of exploitation” was over.That was in October 2017.

However, four months after, the hype that greeted the official inauguration of the satellite television firm has evaporated as many would-be subscribers continue to ponder on the fate of the new entrant.More Nigerians are now querying the seriousness of the promoters of the cable TV station.

Business Hallmark investigation showed that TSTv appears to be heading for failure. According to findings, the firm is less likely to thrive, talk less of challenging the dominance of Multichoice Nigeria, promoters of DSTV.

Checks revealed that TSTV devices are not available in sales outlets as promised by its promoters. Check at pay-TV dealers’ shops at Ikeja, Agege, Ogba, Lagos Island, Abule-Egba, Ijaiye and other places in Lagos show that the firm has not started business.

The manager of Best Connection, a pay-TV dealer at Ijaiye, Mr. Benjamin Orji, told our correspondent that he had not received any stock from TSTV.

“I am listed among the accredited dealers on TSTV Africa’s website. But up till now (Friday), they have yet to get back to me. The worst part is that I do not even have any clue on how soon they will be in touch.

“I don’t know how soon. Our business discussions had been on their website so I need to find out where their office is so I can go there physically and discuss,” he said.

Another dealer, Supo Ologunde, said that TSTV management should have done its homework well before it launch in October.

“They made a grievous mistake; they should have recruited their staff, install equipment and take possession of devices even before launching. Over hundred people have come to ask for TSTV products and left with nothing”, he lamented.

Nigerians, who commented on the unavailability of the firm’s decoders in the market, lamented that the company had reneged on many promises to begin sales of its decoders after its initial promise of going on air on October 1 failed.

“When are they (TSTV) starting operations? We are tired of the promises and excuses”, said a facebook respondent, Peju Olowe.

Signs of trouble

 The first sign of trouble came when TSTV disappointed anxious Nigerians by extending sales of its decoder to November 1, 2017, an action that didn’t seem to affect its fans that went about on social media and other platforms reaffirming their support for the new provider.

Also, an allegation of attempting to illegally air sports channels from beIN did not seem to shake the Nigerian supporters.

However, two months after its official launch and one month after its supposed commencement of sales, many Nigerians are beginning to ask, “Where is TSTV?”

Multichoice, owners of DSTv and GOTv platforms, probably the only company operating a successful satellite Tv in Nigeria for over two decades, had to change its marketing strategy in response to a threat by TSTV by unveiling its #GOTVMax, a bouquet with channels, such as Select Sports 4, CBS Reality, and Fox.

Reacting to BH’s story of December 6, 2017, that the firm is troubled and might not start business soon, the management of TSTV quickly dismissed fears of it not meeting the rescheduled date of introducing its services and promised that its decoders would be in the market from December 9, 2017.

It’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Ernest Essien, had insisted that the company had concluded arrangement to roll out its commercial decoders from December 9 after the successful test run of its promo decoders purportedly distributed before November 1. He said that the service provider was committed to making sure that all the intending customers should have their decoders before Christmas.

“We are almost done with our test transmission and we are just putting some finishing touches and hopefully by the grace of God, between now and next week the decoders will be out for sale.

“We are informing Nigerians that they must enjoy their Christmas with their decoders. So before Christmas, the decoders will be everywhere in the market.

“Everything is in place we have done everything we needed to do before coming out and I want to let you know that TStv is still on course.”

Essien reiterated that the price of TStv decoder would remain at the initial N5,000 with all the packages promised, adding that there would be additional surprise packages for its customers.

He said that the management had decided to keep the packages secret until the decoders were rolled out.

Again, exactly a month after the promise, TStv equipment and channels are nowhere to be found, and might not be in the market soon, according to information available to BH.

Findings show that TStv troubles are many. It was reliably gathered that some stations TStv already signed contracts with have cancel airing contracts with the firm. Already, more than fifteen TV stations have cancelled their contracts with TStv, a reliable source at the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) told BH.

TStv is also accused of content piracy and property infringement by many content owners like FOX Network Group (FNG), CNN and BeIN.

In one of such accusations, FOX Network Group (FNG), owners of the FOX television channels, denied that it has any agreement with TStv to carry its channels in Nigeria.

The position of FNG was made known in a statement signed by Jeremy Griesel of Jeremy Griesel Communications on behalf of FOX Network Group Africa, TStv’s advertisement of FOX channels on its platform is inappropriate.

“Despite advertised claims regarding FOX channels, FOX does not have any agreement with TSTV regarding distribution of channels, but remains confident that TStv will normalise the situation prior to the launch of its service to ensure the consistency between platform content claims and subscriber expectation,” FOX had said.

Despite several denials by the management of TStv, other contents owners had come up to alleged intellectual theft by the firm.

A concerned Nigeria, Mr. Bolaji Onadeko, said, “TStv has been forced to move the commencement of its commercial operations several times after it promised to roll out in October 2017. Its hardware also seems to have been suspended. This calls for question. These developments have no doubt left Nigerians in a doubt on whether TStv was indeed prepared to provide the needed competition in the Nigerian market”.

Apart from overselling its capacities, the firm (TsTv) seems also to be disorganized. Calls to the company’s sales lines show that it takes eternity to get a reply. A lot of what is being circulated about the company is actually not from their official communication and not verifiable. For instance, there are over seven fake TStv handles on twitter posting information on the firm with deceived Nigerian following and retweeting those as official.

Also, some information on the firm’s site about its decoders is completely different from what people have been saying. For example, the hard drive support, according to its website, is external, and not in-built as claimed by some of its supporters on social media.

Another challenge confronting TStv is the strategy by many of its stronger competitors like DStv, StarTimes and Kwese to make adjustments to counter its emergence. Brands like DSTv and Kwese have introduced innovations such as pay as you go billing system to woo more subscribers as well as ensuring that old ones stayed connected.

Apart from its head office in Abuja, there are no other noticeable TStv-owned offices and outlets in states across the country. However, the company daily update the list of accredited dealers who can’t give reliable information about it.

Though, young and ambitious, the brain behind TStv, Dr. Bright Echefu, seems to lack what it takes to stay in the industry, in the face of strong competitors like DSTv and StarTimes.

A native of Obowo in Imo State, Echefu is the MD/CEO of Bricke and Athens limited, owners of AHTV-Health Television, a relatively unknown entity which he founded in November 2014.

Apart from the health television station and a radio station, Bright FM, he does not have strong strength in the communications industry.

It was reliably gathered that apart from unsecured promises and assurances from some people in government, he did not have major backers or financiers. It was also learnt that many banks he approached did not buy into the project, given past failed endeavours.

“The case of the HITV fiasco where GTBank got its hands burnt had stuck in the memory of many banks. Despite Toyin Subair’s stature, he ended up losing the outfit his financiers’ investments going down the drain.

“Without any verifiable collateral to secure a loan from banks, none will be willing to stick out their necks for him”, said a former banker, Biodun Ogunlaja.

For many Nigerians, TStv has done nothing but five months of failed promises and expectations.

“First of all, it is important Nigerians realize that – as a rule – you don’t start off a marathon by sprinting; and when a claim sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

“So, we are calling on the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, to as a matter of urgency, tell Nigerians what they need to know as far as the TStv if concerned. Let Nigerians know exactly what they have come to offer. There is a lot of confusion and we should not wait until things get too late before the right thing is done” declared Peju Ogunmodede.

Though, some observers argue that all is not lost yet for the company, by disappointing Nigerians with failed promises, TStv is starting with a huge integrity and trust deficit that could kill its business.

 

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