African Cable Television (ACTV) is a Nigerian-owned multi-media company that offers a Direct to Home (DTH) pay-TV. The company entered the Nigerian broadcast industry with determination to push its way into the pay-TV market amidst fierce competition which the likes of Multichoice, owners of DSTV and GOTV, CONSAT, and STARTIMES are already getting their market share. In this interview, Godfrey Orkeh, CEO and MD of ACTV speaks on the need for federal government to create enabling environment for other operators in the pay TV industry to thrive.
Content is a major driver in the Pay TV industry, how do you therefore navigate through the challenge of creation of valuable content for the audience?
There are two types of content we buy in the industry, you either develop the raw content or you buy the linear content. The linear content is already a channel that someone has put together. The linear channel is a ready-made content; they determine the schedule like the BBC, the content there is controlled by the BBC. The other aspect, which is the raw content, is for us to buy the materials and put them together.
What are the cost implications for content?
The cost varies depending on the content; some are more expensive than others because they have so much clout like the Discovery Channel. Content price varies from $1 to $100,000, there is no fixed price for content, depending on how desperate the owner wants to sell and how desperate the buyer is.
With fierce competition in the Pay TV industry in Nigeria, how do you intend to break even?
We know there is a monopolistic tendency in the market, the existing structure in the legislature of Nigeria allows a dominant player to take advantage of the environment. In the pay TV business, PVR technology costs about N70, 000 but we are saying with N15, 000 you can have a PVR. In content wise there was a lot of exclusivity which is going to be difficult for one person to break. Beyond this, we will develop the market for our self, develop a niche for our self because right now the tendency is also thriving in the industry, Nigeria with a population of about 170 million, 26 million households with television, but the market is so huge. There is still a huge market that is not being addressed, we are here to capture that niche market and grow it.
As a Nigerian company, how do you want to convert some Nigerians who lean towards foreign products?
Looking at the entertainment industry now, without Nigeria music, the party will not rock unlike what we had in the seventies and nineties. There is a shift and 40 to 50 per cent of Nigerian adults now watch Nigerian content. Can you believe that Channel TV after CNN in Nigeria has one of the highest rating and it is a Nigerian channel just because people are connected to the station, we belief the mindset is changing.
What measures have you put in place to prevent piracy and secure your platform?
The issue we have regarding hackers, the solution we chose is that we are the first paid TV platform in Nigeria that is card-less. We have put away that element that can encourage hacking. Also the software we use is an active anti-virus, it actively monitors any form of tempering and we deal with it accordingly. We are not saying our platform is 100% tamper proof, but what we have done is to reduce it to the barest minimum and make hacking as difficult and challenging as it could be to deter them.
Who are your target audience?
Our offer is an all-inclusive, addressed to all the demographic of our customer base, because we are pushing innovation and making it available at a very convenience price. We are actually addressing all our customers. This is different from the tradition which is a trend in the industry; we are targeting every member of the demographic groups in Nigeria, the high income earners to the middle income earners and to the lower earners. Looking at our subscription packages they are structured in that way, we will deliver across all of demographics. Our objective at the initial stage was targeted at the middle class but our experience has shown that the upper class and lower classes are also interested in our service.
Presently do you have the capacity to satisfy your growing customers?
We have the capacity, as it works the technology does not require physical presence everywhere; we only need one physical presence to deliver the service. What we have done is to partner with dealers who make commitment by keeping data in the regions, installers and retailers. We have been recruiting nationwide; we are creating jobs and adding value to our customers. We cover the whole country and beyond in terms of the capability to receive our signals, so any customers anywhere in Nigeria can receive our signals.
What are the challenges you are faced with in the area of legislation?
The number one challenge in the industry is that there is no regulation. NBC is doing its best but there is no act of law that backs it up to penalize. Before the last government handed over, there was a bill that was being pushed, anti-competition bill like what we find in Europe that nobody can own 100 per cent of an industry, if you grow beyond a particular size, for instance when Microsoft, Google among others grew beyond a certain size, they were stopped to allow room for other players. There is no such law right now in Nigeria so it is a big barrier; it is only legislature that can change that. The other challenge that is affecting our business is foreign exchange (forex), 80 per cent of what we buy is international content: CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, we buy in dollars. Apart from these, other challenges can be dealt with. However, as more players become part of the ecosystem of buying and distributing, the market will grow and there will be several players that will get access and customers will have more options to choose from and it is a good thing that such facility is not limited because it will enable Nigerians to benefit by having more options. This is good for the economy and the customers.
What are your plans for the nearest future in terms of innovation and growth?
Before the end of the year, we will be releasing one of our most innovative products into the market to change the entertainment world; we will be doing more of local content, funding local content and building local capacity and platforms for game shows to drive the industry. Nigeria is ripe to have its own movies that can compete anywhere in the world just like what we have in the music industry today. We see ourselves meeting the expectations of all Nigerians, in an affordable and consistent manner.