PayTV is your normal GoTV, DSTV,Startimes, StarSat, Zuku and others of the same ilk transmitting over DTB (Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting), Direct-To-Home (DTH) commonly known as Satellite, Cable or IPTV but behind a paywall. This requires the subscriber to pay fees to decrypt their signal or what you might term as subscription fees using their respective decoders. For this read, we shall mainly focus on DTB and DTH (Satellite) providers since most Ugandans can easily relate to them against their Free-To-Air (FTA) counterparts.
All the above have seen a meteoric rise ever since the country went all digital in television transmission to abide by the ITU guidelines and clear airwaves for telcos, improve transmission among other promises. However, this rise has seen PayTV lead the pack while FTA offerings trail behind it.
The battle between all players has been nothing but focused on pricing and content though many have come to disappoint on the latter and other reasons as stipulated below;.
Expensive internet infrastructure and prices.
While the technology to transmit TV signals over cable or internet has been around for some good time, it is not as prevalent as DTB and DTH and the cost of installation remains high. Even services that have disrupted the TV business elsewhere like SVOD services remain expensive for the average Ugandan who can’t manage to pay both the subscription on top of data charges which are also priced at a premium.
Others that don’t watch TV but find content online also find internet expensive thus limiting the would be disruption of the PayTV business with viable alternatives.
Limited knowledge about cheaper alternatives.
There exists free alternative to the paid ones over DTB or DTH but unfortunately the initial cost of buying and installation are prohibitive for the mass market and most consumers go for the cheaper paid ones. The providers then recoup their investments in terms of durated subscriptions.
Some consumers even don’t know about the existence of such free to air transmission given providers of these services rarely advertise nor do they meet budgets of their well funded PayTV peers that throw Ads about their services at every possible opportunity.
Limited regulation of the sector.
UCC has had a tight grip on broadcasters but most of the affected are local players than international channels. The local FTA channels also have to compete with deep pocketed multi-channel networks that often enjoy leverage in acquiring rights to premium content than what the local players could afford.
This gives the international players a lead advantage and them being behind a paywall, users have to pay to access such content and the would be revenue for local players ends up repatriated to foreign countries.
Also, the tight grip on premium content rights held by some PayTV players leaves no room for smaller players to grow unless if such rights are broken up and re-distributed amongst the different players (whether PayTV or FTA) with a preference towards the local players to compete favorably and also make such content affordable for the average Tom, Dick and Harry.
Quality of Content
While I might appear as a lobbyist for the local players, the one thing we can all agree on is that the quality of their content is still lacking compared to the walled channels fronted by PayTV players.
Even with UCC’s directive of an average of 70% local content shown on local television in place, the same directive doesn’t affect PayTV players that carry international channels and thus local players find themselves buying international content than investing such resources locally to compete favorably. This very content is often acquired on the cheap owing to the economies of scale enjoyed by its producers and distributors in their respective countries.
On the other hand, production and distribution of quality local content is straight out expensive with many exploits that don’t protect parties involved in the trade.This makes it less favorable to run on local channels.
Only if the local players could up their game, attract funding or subsidies and the industry regulator tightening its grip on the industry to protect local production houses, such gaps will continue to exist and we shall find ourselves paying more to the PayTV guys.
The PayTV providers have now seamlessly integrated with most mobile payment options available that subscribers no longer have to trail long distances to the providers branch to renew their subscription. You can now do it on your mobile phone, POS terminals in the neighbourhoods, electronic transfers among others.
This ease of payment has furthered the long hold on television by PayTV players given they’re easily paid for and accessible. It used to be a different picture a few years back.
Also, some players have made watching TV cheaper with micro bundles that attract payments for a day, week if anyone cannot afford the lengthy 30 day period that has been the norm. This makes PayTV appear cheap.