HITV BREAKS DSTV MONOPOLY, BEGINS OPERATION - EXPLOITATION OF NIGERIANS UNACCEPTABLE, SAYS NWEKE

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Monopoly in Nigeria's pay-television industry hitherto enjoyed by South Africa's Multic-hoice, owners of DSTV, was finally broken yesterday when an indigenous firm, Entertainment Highway Limited (HITV), began commercial broadcast in Lagos. Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Frank Nweke (Jnr), who was the special guest at the launch also described as "ridiculous, exploitative and unacceptable", a situation where Nigerians pay the highest rate for Pay-TV services in any part of the world.

HITV is a wireless digital terrestrial platform that has no limit on the channels it can broadcast and is starting with 24 channels including CNN, BBC World, LBC International, Al Jazeera, God Africa, MTV Base, Fox Sports and Nicke-lodeon. It also has specially created channels like Hi-Sports, Hi-Ovation, Hi-Nolly, Nigezie, Hi-KIDS, Hi-Mix and Hi-Biz.

The direct-to-home entertainment service provider, HITV, made history late last year when it won the right to broadcast English Premier League (EPL) to its Nigerian subscribers. The implication of this is that from August, South Africa's DSTV would no longer broadcast EPL to its Nigerian subscribers. The company already has rights to broadcast other football leagues including La Liga, Spanish League, Euro 2008 qualifiers, among others.

The Managing Dir-ector/Chef Executive Officer of HITV, Mr. Toyin Subair said at the launch that "the achievement of HITV is nothing to be boastful about, but seen as tool to create value, develop the minds of Nigerians and to sell Nigeria's uniqueness to the world."

He added that "as part of our strategy, we have channels that would fill any vacuum aside our commitment to be socially responsible in developing, for instance, our National League. That was why we took the management of Nigerian Football League (NFL) to London, where they studied the EPL format. This resulted in the signing of agreement between the EFL and NFL, where EPL would help in the growth of the Nigerian league in a way that it would be attractive to watch. We are different because we have a line up of local content. We have invested so much in the project, all for the benefit of giving pride to Nigerians".

HITV, according to Subair, disclosed that four channels have exclusively been dedicated towards selling the Nigerian project and they are Channels TV, Hi-Nolly, Nigezie and Hi-Ovation.

Subair who explained that HITV was established to fight the inefficiency, exploitation, poor customer service and stringent subscription payment pattern by foreign operators, which it would replace with local content, animation of Nigerian folktales and good pricing.

According to him, "Channels TV would produce 24 hours news for HITV, Hi-nolly would feature series of quality Nigerian home videos, Hi-Ovation, in conjunction with Dele Momodu's Ovation International, would be used as a platform to sell the excellence of Nigerians in Diaspora from all walks of life, while the Nigezie is a strictly music and local show channel with 90 percent Nigerian content being produced by a top Nigerian producer, Olufemi Aderibigbe (popularly called Kwame)"

He disclosed that HITV is committed to helping music, sports and entertainment grow in Nigeria as a result of "our belief that pay-TV is a major driver in the development of music, sports and entertainment. HITV as terrestrial, gives it an advantage of cost efficiency and quality output of broadcast which a satellite broadcast would not be able to cope with."

Speaking as the special guest, Minister of Information and Communicatins, Mr. Frank Nweke described as "ridiculous, exploitative and unacceptable", a situation where Nigerians pay the highest rate for Pay-TV services in any part of the world.

The Minister who said he was extremely proud to be HITV's first customer, lamented the exploitation of Nigerians though the Pay TV business saying, "At N9,000 per month, which is equivalent of $65-$70, Nigeria is far exploited compared to all other societies where Pay TV exists, that they pay between 5 and 10 dollars monthly subsription."

He said his support for HITV was not based on personal ground, "but for the integrity and pride of Nigeria as a nation", explaining that "it is also a demonstration of the commitment of the Federal Government to open doors for Nigerians in any legitimate business endeavour, especially in situations where any firm or group of persons from other nations operate in our clime with the intent to shut Nigerians out of engaging profitably in the same venture, thereby outrageously exploiting Nige-rians".

Nweke who paid cash to acquire an HITV decoder described the take-off of HITV as a demonstration of the fact that Nigeria is indeed the Heart of Africa, urging HITV to through, its content and broadcast network, "sell the uniqueness of Nigerians to the outside world".

Also at the launch were a reputable Nigerian industrialist, Mr. Felix Ohiwerie and Senator Olayinka Omilani, the National Vice Chairman, South West of People's Democratic Party (PDP).

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