“We Didn’t Make Billions From SMS Votes” – Multichoice MD, John Ugbe Reveals How Much They Actually Made


"We Didn't Make Billions From SMS Votes" - Multichoice MD, John Ugbe Reveals How Much They Actually MadeOn the sidelines of the just-concluded Digital Dialogue Conference held in Dubai, the Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, fielded questions from a group of Nigerian editors on his company’s operations in Nigeria.

He spoke about the recent BBNaija show, why the pay-as-you-go pay-TV model can’t work and the social responsibility projects being undertaken by his company. Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed was at the session.

Read excerpts below.

Is there a way that you can review the location of Big Brother Naija to ensure it is domiciled in Nigeria, so that all economics of the hosting and its associated benefits come to Nigeria?

Tinsel is domiciled in Nigeria and shown all over Africa. We just premiered a new epic series in Lagos. For this we built an entire village from scratch to portray the realities of a village setting. Our group of channels are called Africa Magic to reflect our African Heritage. Nigeria has the biggest movie industry that is why our productions are domiciled in Nigeria. For Hotel Majestic we had to take over a hotel in Nigeria for 2 years as a set. It’s a lot of investment. Big Brother demands a lot of complexities and outfitting a house.

For the Big Brother shows, we set up one facility for the Nigeria, Angolan and other editions. It makes sense from a production perspective. It is impractical to replicate sets across our operations in 49 African countries. We choose the best location for each specific production. Big Brother Naija’s production team is made up of 90% Nigerians even though it wasn’t set in Nigeria – so a good deal of skills transfer occurs. Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) comes to Nigeria every year. Speaking as a Nigerian and an advocate of Nigeria – we keep looking at what it will entail to run it locally.

Have you considered implementing a Pay as you consume model considering that work and life schedules make it difficult to catch shows without steady power?

From a producer’s perspective – we have to buy the movie in full and we have to buy enough content to fill the channel and put it on air. That’s what the pay-TV model prescribes anywhere in the world. We have to aggregate content for our different packages, this means ensuring there is something for everyone on the package depending on your interest and pocket strength. But there is a good spread of a variety of content across all packages. Everyone thinks of today. From Day one, you have to buy enough movies to make up the channel and sell that package to one person. It’s a risk as you cannot determine if after buying content, only one or ten people will subscribe. If only one person does, you cut your losses and move on, but you continue to invest in content with the hope that more people will be interested in watching.

Regarding breaking off viewing according to your availability, the challenge is in the model of the business. We don’t know when your decoder is on or off. That makes it impossible to say I want to start billing because this customer has started viewing.

Pay as you go is a mobile network term. The mobile operators have the technical resources to measure what is being used. For pay-Tv on the other hand,it is not the same thing. Last August, the Mayweather vs. McGregor Boxing match was delayed for close to 3 hours. The reason it was delayed is because of the technicalities of pay-per-view in the US.

Pay-per-view for a fight like that would be $99 – that is more than your one-month subscription on Premium – about double. However, we buy the fight and aggregate it for our Premium subscribers, who were able to record it, even when the live event did not happen on schedule. What we encourage our subscribers to do is download DStv Now, and you can watch all the content on your current subscription on the go, on your phone or tablet. You do not have to be bound by availability of power.

Catch Up is there… Get it before the World Cup so it’s right there on your phone and your ipad and your laptop. Those are the innovations we’ll continue to make.

What is your reaction to the assertion that 170million votes from the recently concluded BBN, came exclusively from SMS, thereby yielding profit in the billions?

Click “Next” to see what he said about the votes, and how much they actually made

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