A fresh wave of competition is imminent in Nigeria’s pay television (pay TV) industry. Courtesy of the introduction of ‘pay-per-day’ or ‘pay-as-you-watch’ offer by StarTimes, a relatively new entrant into the market, there are indications that the scramble for consumers’ patronage by service providers will intensify.
The expectation by consumers is that the new wave of competition ignited by StarTimes through the introduction of new and exciting contents, with top-notch audio visual quality and low-priced bouquets, will prompt a response by existing service providers and ultimately, force a drastic reduction in subscription rates and decoder prices.
Already, a few consumers have started embracing the StarTimes’ game-changing pay-per-day service, which, according to the company’s management, attracts a daily payment of N60 (USD 0.17) to enjoy all the channels. Interestingly, recently launched Telecom Satellite Television (TStv) has also caught the low-priced bouquet bug, offering its pay-as-you-watch model at a daily subscription rate of N200 (USD 0.56). Three days subscription attracts N500 (USD 1.39), while its weekly subscription goes for N750(USD2.09).
The Pay-As-You-Consume cable TV provider in Nigeria charges N1, 000 (USD2.78) for 10 days subscription, N1, 500(USD4.17) for two weeks subscription, while its monthly subscription goes for N3, 000(USD8.34).
Until StarTimes threw its hat in Nigeria’s highly competitive pay TV market, existing pay TV operators had segmented the market with price differentiation for their bouquets.
For example, Multichoice, owners of DStv, has four bouquets namely, Family, Compact, Compact Plus and Premium, which are subscribed for at $5.28, $10.56, $17.51, $27.52 and $40.87, respectively.
But StarTimes may have changed the dynamics with its ‘pay-per-day’ or ‘pay-as-you-watch’ offer. This means that a consumer will only be charged for what he uses, unlike DStv. “Our aim is to ensure that we deliver digital entertainment to every Nigerian home at very affordable rates and we will ensure that this is done in the coming years,” its Chief Executive, Mr. Justin Zhang, said.
He explained that the cable TV provider reached the decision to introduce pay-per-day service in Nigeria late 2016, but was delayed because Nigeria being the biggest market in sub-Saharan Africa, it would not be a wise business decision to launch a product or service without proper testing. Zhang said the launch of the service had to be properly done to avoid any technical disruption, hence the need to test-run the offer for months and make corrections where needed before rolling out a hitch free service.
He said as a highly innovative company, StarTimes continually seeks new ways to improve its customer experience and satisfaction and pay-per-day is one of such.
Zhang revealed that apart from introducing the pay-per-day service, StarTimes moved a notch higher by improving its content. According to him, the company has not only upgraded its movie channels, but also added more safe channels for kids to also enjoy. He further stated that StarTimes now broadcast new movies from Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, (America, Nigeria and India movie industry, respectively).
For existing and prospective subscribers to StarTimes, the icing on the cake is perhaps, the broadcasting of the Russia 2018 World Cup live on StarTimes.
Zhang said this was in fulfilment of the company’s promise to ensure that digital entertainment was delivered to every home. “All our subscribers will be enjoying live matches of the World Cup from the comfort of their homes without putting a hole in their pockets,” he said.
Explaining further on how pay-per-day or pay-as-you-watch works, Zhang, said: “When you talk of pay-as-you-watch, we may be construing it to mean pay-per-day.
“If you want to watch a match today you can pay for one day, or you pay for one week or pay for month for your family. I think this is another definition for pay-as-you-go. You can pay-per-day instead of paying per month.”
Zhang commended the discerning members of the public for the dramatic increase in subscription and promised that they are in business to represent the interest of all potential customers, especially those in the lower rung of the ladder.
Indeed, the offer has gladdened the hearts of consumers. For instance, a subscriber, Eunice Igbokwe, said she is happy with the competition in the sector, noting that consumers are better off with such. She said though StarTimes has not been too long in the market, but coming up with this innovative payment model will be a plus for them.
She decried a situation where some operators in the sector practically held consumers to ransom. She lamented that sometimes consumers pay and will not be connected for days and weeks as the case may be.
According to her, one of the factors that attracted her to the network was the fact that she can travel for weeks without her account reading. Igbokwe related this to the new electricity prepaid regime, which makes it possible for somebody to only pay for what he or she consumed.
Another subscriber, Dele Abiodun, who also uses StarTimes and has bought the recently launched Kwese, attested to the quality of the programmes. He, however, asked that they continue to maintain the quality of the programmes.
He went on to say that the purchase of Kwese was because of the free-to-air soccer channels and its flexible subscription plan.
Another subscriber, Ibukun Oni said she uses the latest entrant, Kwese because of its simplified payment system. “If I am cash strapped I will go for the N990 or N1,800 bouquet, since it will give me the same number of channels for the number of days my subscription will last.”
The Nation learnt that the new wave of competition in the pay TV markets re-ignited by StarTimes comes in the mould of the competition in the telecoms sector, where the introduction of per second billing by indigenous telecoms giant, Globacom forced other services providers to drastically reduce the cost of their services.
Recall, for instance, that at the take off of mobile telecommunications in Nigeria, MTN was the premiere company and it only provided call rate billing on per minute while the cost of SIM card was as high as $500 as at 2002.
Credit: The Nation Nigeria
Africa is home to an extensive and diverse medicinal plant life. This includes commonly used herbs like Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), Buchu (Agathosma betulina), Cape Aloe (Aloe ferox) and Hoodia (Hoodia gordonii).
These plant - or herb-based treatments have been a key part of the continent’s traditional medicinal practices for thousands of years. Up to 80% of people in some areas regularly use traditional medicines and consult traditional health practitioners. In some areas, traditional treatments are the main or only treatment because they are accessible, affordable and culturally accepted.
Numerous traditional African medicines are undeniably beneficial in treating disease or maintaining good health. Some have even been the source of many prescription medicines. But there are challenges. These include the fact that many consumers automatically assume “natural equals safe”. Another problem arises when people use traditional or herbal remedies together with prescribed medicines.
Part of the research my colleagues and I do at North-West University in South Africa is focused on understanding these combinations. Which are harmful? Which could be beneficial? We’re looking at what’s known as “interactions” – the effect herbal medicines may have on the normal uptake, breakdown or activity of prescribed medicines.
Knowledge is key. Scientists need to conduct proper research to understand such interactions. Consumers need to be taught about these interactions, whether good or bad, and to tell their healthcare providers about everything they’re taking.
Prescriptions of traditional African medicines tend to be secretive. They’re based on knowledge passed from generation to generation of traditional healers. This can result in vague doses. Patients have been known to overuse some remedies while self-medicating. This can have severe health consequences. These include stomach upsets, liver damage and even kidney failure. Some widely used natural health plant products which have been associated with adverse health effects because of misuse include Aloe vera, Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and Green tea (Camellia sinensis).
All of these natural remedies are generally considered “safe”, or even healthy by consumers since their use is not regulated or restricted. Nothing indicates to the user that “too much of a good thing” could be dangerous.
Thanks partly to efforts by the World Health Organisation, access to Western medicine – especially for diseases like HIV/AIDS – is increasing across Africa. More and more people tend to be using traditional medicine in combination with prescription medicines. Often none of their healthcare providers know about this and so cannot warn about possible interactions.
Some traditional African medicines may interfere with the normal metabolism of drugs. For example, St. John’s Wort is a natural remedy frequently used for depression. But it’s been shown to increase the removal of medicines, such as some oral contraceptives, from the body. This can lead to ineffective levels of the prescribed medicine, putting women at risk of pregnancy when they think they are protected.
On the other hand, the interaction could also result in reduced clearance of a drug. This may lead to higher levels of the prescribed medicine in the body, which produces negative side effects and could even lead to toxicity.
These interactions happen at a metabolic level. So even herbal products that are safe when used on their own may pose a risk when taken in combination with Western medicine – that is, synthetic pharmaceutical agents.
Some of the best known examples of drug interactions are the effects of citrus, particularly grapefruit juice, and alcohol of many prescribed medicines. These combinations should be avoided.
Another example of particular importance in Africa is Cancer bush (Sutherlandia frutescens). It is widely used in the treatment of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB, especially in countries like Zambia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and South Africa, as it is believed to generally improve quality of life in these patients. But it has been shown to lower the plasma levels of the antiretroviral drug, atazanavir, to sub-therapeutic levels when they’re taken together, reducing its anti-HIV efficacy.
This traditional remedy can also interfere with isoniazid therapy, which is used as a preventative measure in TB treatment.
Despite these known interactions, policy makers still promote the use of these herbal remedies in the management of HIV/AIDS and associated illnesses. Clearly more public engagement is needed so patients understand the risks of interaction.
And the good news
But it’s not all bad news. Interactions between African traditional medicines and prescribed medicines can potentially be exploited for good.
One of the biggest problems in the development of new medicines is the low uptake of these compounds into the body, or its quick removal. In some studies, traditional medicines have been shown to have the ability to increase uptake or decrease the metabolism of prescription drugs. Applying these effects could enable the development of new herb-drug combinations with increased efficacy and reduced side-effects.
But studies that characterise and evaluate the healing properties or potential toxicity and drug interactions of traditional African medicines are very limited. This is further complicated by the fact that so many medicinal plants (more than 5000) are being used. So healthcare practitioners have limited information and often can’t make proper recommendations to patients who use such traditional remedies.
Whether positive or negative drug interactions are at play, African countries need to improve their regulation around traditional medicines. Only a few, among them Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa, have incorporated traditional African medicines into their adverse drug reaction reporting systems.