Nigeria: For HiTV, It's less football, more entertainment

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"HITV was never set up to sell football only, it was circumstances that led us using football at inception as our mainstay content. We have used football to gain the high level of acceptance we hoped to get, now is the time to go back to our original business model which offers Nigerians unparalleled entertainment."

These were the words of  Toyin Subair, CEO, HiTV, used in announcing the company's intention of shedding the 'football only' platform toga and its readiness to offer 'total' entertainment package to its over 200,000 subscribers.

"Against this backdrop, HiTV would not be bidding again for the UEFA Champions League the process of which is on now. HiTV, from May, will not show the UEFA Champions League games again too. Any football content that comes at a high cost to us as a company, we will not acquire anymore because we have now realised that the rights owners are the only ones benefitting in the bargain. When we first bid for the rights, it was $10 million, now it has gone up to over a $100 million; only the rights owners are enjoying the benefit because the strain of such an amount on a company is enormous. You just can't sell it."

Subair, went down memory lane, as he talked about HiTV's controversial loss of the broadcast rights to the English Premier League last year. "What seemed like our battering ram, mainstay content, it seemed we could not use it not through our fault but the fault of banks and the rights owners. When we started out as a Pay TV business, we went to the banks with our business model and all what we heard was that, without live football, they won't be able to support us. These same banks were the ones chasing us when we won the rights to the English Premier League. So you will understand why we decided to use football to grow the business, now, we have understood the business and we are going back to our original business model, which is purely to offer entertainment to Nigerians. Using something to start a business does not mean you will grow the business with it, so we are re-inventing ourselves as a company. We need to be alive to give Nigerians brand value."

With over 400,000 HiTV boxes in homes across the country, Subair said the task now is to bring back all churned subscribers of the platform with new and exciting channels HiTV has launched in recent times. "We are confident and with the support of Nigerians that have stood by us since inception, we will be able to get content that will draw them back on our platform."

He revealed plans to relaunch the Gamji channel among other initiatives to reposition HiTV as a 'total entertainment company.' "We are re-launching Gamji Hausa movie channel, it will soon to be called Hi Gamji, and this idea came about after the success we recorded with Hi Nolly Yoruba. We realised the huge market potential in the North so we are driving deep into the hearts of our Hausa brothers and trust me, what you will see henceforth in Hi Gamji will be irresistible just like Hi Nolly Yoruba. 1 Music is the latest craze in music channels on Pay TV at the moment and our repackaged Hi Nolly is doing so well too. The feedback we have got on our newly launched Viasat Explorer and Crime channels is amazing. On the back of that, we are launching 15 more new channels between now and August. We are launching Viasat History and Nature as well as Indian Soap and Lifestyle Channel, Star Plus. Our Star Gold Indian movie channel is the talk of the town, so Star Plus will complement it."

Work on Tinapa Studio, which HiTV acquired last year is ongoing according to Subair. "Our Singaporean partners will be arriving in the country next week to begin work on Tinap." The major challenge HiTV is facing in studio it acquired about a year ago is that of power, the Pay TV boss said.