By Tope Johnson
Began by Bianca Ojukwu, adopted by MultiChoice to slap its customers with an exorbitant price increase, and grown so rapidly to a global stage as Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on the Oscar stage, this cannot but be an era of slap.
But unlike the case of Bianca and Smith who were infuriated by the actions of the slapped, MultiChoice infuriated and slapped its customers same time.
A recap of the story. Last week, MultiChoice announced new rates for its offerings, the firm’s latest price increase that angered its customers.
The firm said from April 1, subscribers will pay more for all its bouquets and its premium package on DStv will cost N21,000, no longer N18,400. Compact Plus which cost N12,400 before will now go for N14,250, while Compact will cost N9,000 instead of N7,900. Confam will cost N5,300 and no longer N4,615, while Yanga subscribers will pay N2,950 and not N2,565. MultiChoice blamed “rising costs of inflation and business operations” for the increase which also affects GOtv.
The new prices for the GOtv package are GOtv Max for N4,150, GOtv Jolli for N2,800, GOtv Jinja for N1,900, GOtv Lite for N900.
The increase comes days after Nigeria’s consumer protection agency ordered MultiChoice to introduce features that allow the option of suspending their subscription at least four times a year.
The directives were the latest regulatory efforts by the Nigerian government to intervene in the South African company often accused of anti-competitive behavior and customer exploitation. Multichoice increased prices in 2020 and an attempt to further raise its rates last year stalled.
Still dazed from the slap of the new price regime starting April 1, MultiChoice’s helpless customers are provided with temporary pain relief – ‘Customers who renew their subscriptions before April 1 would enjoy the old price,’ MultiChoice said in a statement.
‘It’s your moment,’ according to DStv’s tagline. But this moment is all the more unreasonable given the present harsh living conditions.
Nigeria’s cost of living is hurting households, and it won’t be over soon. Power supply is epileptic. For weeks, families and businesses have been struggling to buy fuel and when they manage to buy it, it is very expensive.
At a time when Nigerians are struggling from poor governance, non-payment of salaries, the rising cost of food, and a host of others, the best a brand that cares is to understand the pain point of its customers. Certainly, not MultiChoice.
The news left customers groaning as they question the empathy of the company.
“I have been struggling to ensure my drinks are chilled for customers and now I have to pay more for television. The cost of operating this business alone is tiring as I spend virtually all my profits, and sometimes more just to stay in business,” Akpan, a GOtv customer lamented on Twitter.
“Before now I usually do the premium package on my DStv, but after incessant increment, I had to stop. Where will I even get 21k to do that now after the news of the latest increment?” another customer queried.
“We have not had light for two weeks and I subscribed, meaning that’s a waste for two weeks,” Laju lamented.
MultiChoice appears to have an annual tradition of hiking prices, after doing some sort of promotion to get in more customers. The new price which takes effect on April 1, 2022, will bring the price to a total of 132 percent price hike in 13 years, tracking from the hike in September 2009. DStv Premium, for instance, has gone from N9,000 in 2009 to N21,000 in 2022. Compact Plus which was N6800 has jumped to N14,250 in 2022.
But DStv and GOtv are not the only pay-TV brands in the market. Strong rival, StarTimes, is not known for incessantly increasing price.
The cost of doing business is equally high for StarTimes, but the brand chose to understand customers’ plight.
StarTimes has equally been heavily investing in Nollywood with productions like Ile Alayo, Okirika, and partnership with Africa Movie Academy Awards, etc. Yet, it’s not passing the brunt on to customers. What then is MultiChoice’s excuse?
If the slap by MultiChoice hurts you, it hurts me too. And I can’t just laugh it off. I am certainly not Chris Rock.
Tope Johnson is a social commentator and writes from Abuja