Digital statellite services have a bright future in Nigeria –John Ugbe, MD, Multi-choice Nigeria

By Ayo Alonge

DIGITAL satellite services delivery in Ni­geria has a bright future and this, the Man­aging Director of Multichoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, confidently disclosed to a group of journalists in the company’s head office in Lagos, recently.
Multichoice Nigeria, the DSTV and GOTV service provider Boss, opined that the company is ready to engage the Sen­ate and even their teeming subscribers in a round-table discussion over any complaint relating to their service delivery.
Ugbe also commented on the servic­es of the company as well as some of the company’s pet projects.
What’s your impression of digital satellite services in Nigeria compared to what obtains in developed nations of the world?
I think that’s the beauty of satellite and it’s about the availability of satellite in the world. For us, availability is the same. I think where you have the variance is in service de­livery. In Europe, where you have Intel, it’s a different case. One thing we always try to get people to do is to always check their dishes for the quality of signals they get.
Was the recent price slash effect­ed by the company based on pres­sure from the Consumer Protection Council?
We have always loved to deliver value and that means adding a lot of content. The price slash and your Premiership or Laliga are just all about giving value. This is some­thing that other regions implement without any pressure on them. For us, it’s something we have been trying to develop and we con­stantly look out for how to give value. Your money can buy you a lot more than you can afford. Many would even wonder what we are doing with the Nigerian League which is coming to light. We will love to see our league get bigger than the English Premier­ship League that people talk about. MFM team is now on top of the league, as we can see, and this is a new team. We need people to buy the jerseys and all that.
Aside your investment in sports, in what other areas have you invested and what is the scale of the invest­ment?
We are not just interested in throwing money out. Just a while ago, we went for boxing as a pet project and that was at the National Stadium. A lot of people don’t even know their boxers in this country. It took a lot from us fixing the hall for the game. With boxing, we now have boxers winning N1m, N1.5m and we can say there is hope. We also have coaching clinics, football clinics and ensure we take boxing to a stage where other people begin to invest in the system. It’s a destination for us and we are very patient. We continue to invest money and more than money as it has opened an avenue for others to come in. The main thing for us is not just to sponsor but put it on TV. We are also into the movie industry where we have practitio­ners coming in from every part of Africa and at a huge cost to us.
Why do you hold most of these events here in Nigeria? Why not in some other countries?
Yes, we host most of these projects here in Nigeria because Nigeria is the main hub for movies in Africa. If it moves in the fu­ture, it’s the decision of the company. In the last few years, we have invested over N20b in that industry. You can imagine how many people would be employed when we do these projects.
Some years back, this same com­pany attempted to sponsor produc­tions which have not materialized. How soon would Multichoice be sponsoring productions?
In Africa Magic, that has happened and there have been quite a lot of movies that have been launched on Africa Magic which is doing a lot at the moment investing in productions. We are investing a lot in that sector too. Africa Magic Igbo was launched last year and before then, I don’t think there were too many films in Igbo, but there are a lot more now.
Are there other areas you give back to your customers and the soci­ety generally as corporate social re­sponsibility?
We continuously work with stakehold­ers. In the last few months, we have been partnering with schools and even the Min­istry of Education in some states for audio-visual learning. We try to use this to change the mode of learning. We have had over 60, 000 student graduates from the Multichoice Resource Centre and we recently spoke with some of them in Nigerian universities, particularly medical students. We also work closely with the Nigerian Sickle Cell Foun­dation. You should know that one of the big­gest things about that is awareness. Next is the management process. We are also into what we call Adopt a School Project, and it’s something we intend to focus on. There is also a research project for students where we get them to write more on technology.
Is it feasible to have a toll free cus­tomer care line?
Definitely, it’s possible and it’s one of the things we are working on with the CPC. We are not a telecoms company and in putting that together, we are going to be billed by a telecoms company. I must emphasize that because people tend to take us for a telecoms company. It’s a service we have to manage in a very sensible way so that the burden doesn’t fall on the customers in the end. Our position is that we don’t want subscribers to keep calling us and that is why we have an SMS scheme which allows customers to do virtually everything they want to do with us through a short code. You don’t even have to pick up your phone to call an agent.
What’s the future of digital satel­lite services in this country?
We have always tried to give the best and our service is not bench-marked against Af­rica. After the US, it may shock you to know that we are the second in service delivery in the world. What we see is a lot of innovation and a bright future. On your phone now, you can download a DSTV application and that means you can watch DSTV on the go.
Can you tell us something about yourself and what you have been able to achieve for the company, in your capacity as the Managing Direc­tor?
Well, it’s pretty difficult to talk about myself. I am from Cross River State. I have a wonderful wife who takes care of my two boys because I am always traveling due to the nature of the job. The boys are teenagers and at that age they have a lot crossing their minds and I just have to be there to always guide, them.
For me, for the two years, we have intro­duced the GOTV and we have taken DSTV subscription all the way to N1,000. We have even added more local and international channels.
It may interest you to know that we show more EPL games in Nigeria than they do in the UK. We have tried to ensure Nigeria stays ahead and that’s where we are expected to be. In 5-10 years, we want to see most of our athletes signing multi- million Naira deals in our local leagues. Nothing stops us from having a fifty million pounds deal sign­ing in Nigeria.
The Senate has indicated interest in conducting investigation into your services and this is coming on the heels of a similar thing done by the CPC. What’s your reaction to this?
We are a Nigerian company and regu­lated in Nigeria. If there is a complaint about our services, we will appear, explain and en­gage with the Senate and it’s the most im­portant thing for us to explain the principles of the business.
It’s a business that is very structured and we welcome the opportunity to engage people and clear the misconceptions of some people about us. We are not into a monopo­listic business and we cannot be ashamed when we do things well. If in the process of doing things well, we beat our competitors, I don’t think there is any reason for us to be ashamed.

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