Nigeria: Why HiTV Lost the EPL Rights – Toyin Subair tells his side of the story

Investment

In an interview with Nigeria’s Daily Independent on Monday, August 9, HiTV’s Managing Director put his side of story about how the company lost the EPL rights. Subair said that contrary to the information that made the rounds in the newspapers and other electronic medium that HiTV could not afford the right's fee, the opposite was the case.

"HiTV actually paid the owners of the rights; the issue that came up had to do with the Bank Guarantee which took some time because of the new CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) regulations. We have been doing business with the owners of the rights for three years now and we have never had any issue concerning payment. We actually paid for the right to broadcast the 2010-2011 English Premier League matches; we had won the rights 100 per cent to air the matches from now till 2013. When the rights owners demanded for a guarantee to cover the two seasons, our bankers had to move fast and assured the owners that they would provide it, but due to the new CBN regulations, they had to follow due process which took some time. However, they were in communication with the owners of the rights and one of the bank's managing director actually called the rights owners to explain the delay. This was on a Monday."

The bank chief according to Subair explained the position of things and assured the English Premier League board that they will get the guarantee they asked for on Friday. "The rights were withdrawn from us the next day, Tuesday."

Subair described the development as a "rude shock and disappointing" even as he assured that everything is on track because HiTV has over the past couple of years moved away from building its business model around the Barclays Premier League. "Although we lost the rights, we have over the years grown our brand with other premium content for all.

"I want to correct the impression that HiTV is all about the English Premier League. While we pride ourselves as number one in the area of sports content especially football, HiTV is purely an entertainment Pay TV company with lots of other entertainment content for the viewing delight of its numerous subscribers. However, at HiTV, we have identified live sports as a key component of Pay-TV model. A live sport is the battering ram for pay-television. In sub-Saharan Africa, this live sport is the Champions League, Europa Cup and Premier League. They are important for the rapid attraction of subscribers across all of Africa. It guarantees a healthy minimum subscriber base throughout the year. At the moment we also boast of premium sports content such as the biggest football show in the world, the UEFA Champions League, Carling Cup, Europa Cup and of course Italian Serie A, for sports lovers. But then, HiTV has an array of channels that it continues to acquire (31 channels now and still counting) that cater for all categories of viewers. We are bringing in 10 more new channels in a couple of weeks. For kids, there is Hi Kids, Kids Co and Nickelodeon, for movies, we have Hi Movies, Hi Mix, etc, for news (both foreign and local) there is BBC, Sky News, and Al Jazeera and Hi News, Amuludun, Biscon, TVC etc take care of local programming and for entertainment, Hi Nolly is one of the best movie channels one can get in this part of the world and plans are on to ensure that all the films you watch on Hi Nolly are all new films. We now have a new Channels Manager who is doing the best she can to make this dream a reality. So in the next couple of weeks, it is a new Hi Nolly that you will be seeing. For viewers of religious programmes, God TV, Dove Vision etc are just there to take care of their needs. We just launched a new world class music channel, One Music; there is Wedding TV to cater for the needs of potential couples, what else would one want in a Pay TV?"

He continued: "There is more than enough reason to stay hooked to HiTV and people have stayed hooked to HiTV all seasons. We will continue to grow our business model and invest in all opportunities local and foreign which bring entertainment and information to Nigerians, we will remain focused in our goal of being the preferred highway of delivering the very best of informative and entertaining channels into every home in Nigeria and then the world", Subair said.

He debunked the rumour that HiTV blamed the loss of the rights on the new CBN regulation. "We are aware of the ongoing reforms in the banking sector and there was no time that HiTV blamed the Central Bank of Nigeria for the loss of the EPL rights, the reforms will be of benefit to all of us and our children in the future, so that is clear."

On the replacement of Nigezie music channel with the widely acclaimed One Music on the HiTV platform, Subair again refuted the claim in some quarters that HiTV had issues with Nigezie managed by Femi Aderibigbe. "Like every union, Nigezie and HiTV broke up amicably when their lawyers wrote that they wanted to move on. Both HiTV and Nigezie own the channel on equal basis, so our lawyers have began the process of making sure that the process of disengagement is concluded. We had no quarrel and we wish them (Nigezie) all the good things they wish themselves. You can now see that we have launched our own music channel, One Music on August 1 and you will agree with me that it is the best new music channel in this side of the world."

Hi Nolly and One Music signals are being seen in 10 African countries as well as Europe, America and Canada. "Both Hi Nolly and One Music signals are seen in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Sudan and Eritrea on Wannachi platform and in South Africa we are on Top TV."

HiTV signals are also on Sky in the UK and in America and Canada on Comcast and Dishnetwork. "We are the most watched African channel in Europe, America and Canada; this has shot up our advertisers' revenue in recent times."