Mr. Israel Bolaji Is The Head Of Public Relations, Startimes Nigeria. He’s been doing a Yeoman’s Job For The Cable Satellite Television and Technology Company in Nigeria, promoting its quality Television content, Innovative Dtv Technology and increasing coverage even as it remains a pocket friendly pay-Tv provider. Bolaji spoke rxtensively on some other issues with Research Intelligence. Excerpts:
DStv and GOtv enjoy their right to feature Premiership as their key selling points, is there any effort by StarTimes to also feature Premiership in their programs and what’s special about the brand?
This brand as far as I am concerned is benchmarked against global love mark brands, in terms of brand promise, offerings and consumer connection. In that light, we understand our subscribers and appreciate their cravings. Number one, this is a hero brand in the Pay-Tv industry. We are on record as the first to introduce the DTT technology which I can describe as the antennae model that has now made digital television commonly accessible and acceptable for the general masses. StarTimes pioneered it six years ago. We are the pioneers of DTT technology and its true lead advocate across Africa.
There’s a product called Combo decoder, the first endeavour in sub-Sahara Africa to combine both the DTT and DTH Technology, that’s the antennae and the dish technology (these are the two available models). StarTimes is the first brand in Africa to have merged both on a single device with combined benefits for the price of one. These are among many other firsts that this brand has recorded in the last six years in Nigeria and since it started business in Africa. This is a brand that came to the scene and broke the jinx that has long existed in the Pay-Tv landscape for over twenty years and encourages every man and woman to key into and enjoy digital TV. Essentially, the brand is a Q and A brand – quality and affordability. Our mission is to ensure that every family in Nigeria is able to access, enjoy quality and affordable digital television.
For us what drives Pay –TV business is exciting content, so we are not a decoder box selling brand. Rather we are an entertainment brand at StarTimes. It would interest you to know that in Africa for example, we are the leading and fastest growing digital TV brand and we currently cover about 80 percent with over 400 owned and authorized channels offering movies, sports, music, fashion, kiddies, entertainment, series, news and so much more. StarTimes is a content provider, content aggregator, system integrator and also a technology provider, so it’s not just a Pay-Tv brand. We are many things rolled into one and not just pushing decoders. We have the capacity and technical resources to set up digital television studios for example; we are able to develop content, produce content and integrate systems for robust dtv network. We are arguably the only brand around with robust expertise and competence on the complete dtv technical value chain. Great entertainment is the hallmark of Digital television and for us that’s what drives us, and that is the special thing about us. The strength of a great brand lies in how much it is able to connect well with the publics to meet their critical needs, and what is the critical need there? It’s entertainment and that we are pursuing aggressively. We are working with a lot of experienced and resourceful content providers; periodically, we review our channels – yank off non-performers and sign up new channels. These decisions are largely driven by research and customer feedback. We are also investing massively in expanding our transmission bases, signal coverage and other required infrastructure to ensure that our consumers enjoy good quality television experience anytime of the day. What does it mean when people say that they enjoy digital television? It means they get to enjoy all varieties of entertainment –talking about sports, kiddies, movies, series, religious programs, sports, etc.
In sports for example, we have 5 dedicated sports channels that cater for that category. We have 7 dedicated channels that cater for movies and for Indian we have about 8 channels that cater to that category. We have every category covered with quality channel that can truly meet their entertainment need. Speaking about sporting offering , I observed that some people are in the habit of relegating digital television to the micro level of which popular sports league is beamed. It’s beyond that. StarTimes is about a rich blend of different competitive content; we are not a one league platform. From research TV is watched much more by women and young adults. Men see a lot of football but mostly at bars and hotels but more women watch movies and series every day; they follow all their soap operas and series usually at home. So we cater to that category of viewers. They enjoy a lot of Nigerian Nollywood movies, Indian movies, Mexican operas, Series. If you talk about Indian movies, we have 7 dedicated channels to Bollywood alone showing different Indian content. It is about keeping it flexible and expanding the options for enjoyable viewership. That’s same with our offerings for sport enthusiasts. Sports is largely watched and enjoyed by men. For us our goal around sports is not to overemphasize one league over others but to give viewers what I call a fine cocktail of sporting entertainment.
Kanu Nwankwo our ambassador recently said in an interview that if you enjoy one soup why can’t you have a fine mixture? We offer world class Football leagues not just adding up the numbers. JJ Okocha is a living testimony as to the strength and vigour of the German Bundesliga, and many other greats like Jonathan Akpoborie , Sunday Oliseh and others. So why the undue emphasis on one league over the others? For example from surveys that are available globally the fans entertainment and excitement global index rates Bundesliga best among all leagues. In terms of average stadium attendance, Bundesliga has the highest in the world with over 42,000 attendance guaranteed per match and no other one comes close to such record. There’s something great about all the different leagues. So why destroy some for another? Let me also take you down memory lane, many years ago in the 80s what was being watched was Serie A and at some point the local league was also very popular before we switched to Serie A and later to Bundesliga, so it’s evolving and all about what people enjoy at the moment. You must have observed that many Nigerian big footballers, Africans and other international footballers are moving in drove to China, you can say it’s because they are the biggest spenders but viewers want to see them in action and for us we have it on StarTimes exclusively, we have the Bundesliga right exclusively across Africa, the Serie A, League one and the Chinese Super League. We are not just showing these games, we are having activations to better engage fans with these games, for example through our live studio sessions with expert commentary and analysis and winnings etc. Now if you talk about EPL, I hope you know we have EPL on StarTimes, we show one big match every Saturday through our NTA partner, NTA Sport 24 Channel. So our strategy is to give you a fine mixture of great entertainment you can enjoy at affordable prize.
Before now StarTimes could be accessed in 17 cities in Nigeria what is the current coverage?
StarTimes has since moved beyond 17 city coverage. StarTimes started with 4 city coverage six years ago but today we are in over 60 cities across all states in Nigeria. We have covered all the states except Borno. We are expanding the infrastructure, investing heavily in content working with best in class producers and channel owners and you could see from the quality we have on StarTimes.
How do you respond to customer issues?
I would say that the formula we have is just three in one. There’s a problem with any business where many people are going for after sales, so what we do is to make sure that our service is good and minimize the number of people with complaints. And what do you do to cater for that – extensive customer education through our online platforms and radio. Through our website you can get a lot of self-help also. You know what we sell is in the air so as much as possible we try to educate the people especially the general mass that forms the crux of our subscriber base on how to position the antennae and the direction of their decoder. We have standby call Centres that operate round the clock as such somebody is available to attend to customers’ queries anytime they call.
How will the migration from analog to digital broadcasting affect your business?
Well, for us what is critical? The first thing is what does digital television means? It means television will no longer work in their conventional analog mode so you require the aid of a decoder with antenna or dish to enjoy television and that is what we call digital television and the switch means that at a particular time (we have a mixture of both now) the whole nation must switch and transit from analog to fully digitalized television. So what are we doing? Number one, we are offering very affordable decoders and subscription rates. We are making sure that digital television is very attractive. Number two; we are ensuring that the service itself is enjoyable and making the difference between analog and digital clear. We are doing a lot of consumer awareness and education across through mass media, educating people on the need to migrate from analog to digital because of imminent benefits for government and for everybody – job opportunities, better content, better picture quality, better audio quality, more customer control on their content and timing. We are also partnering critical key stakeholders as well as the regulatory bodies and government. We are also introducing a lot of innovation that will make digital television attractive and exciting.
Do you share content across the countries where StarTimes operates?
StarTImes operates in many countries across Africa. And yes we share content across markets and cultures. There’s a channel called StBollywood Africa which can be accessed across Africa and that is why we created the seven language option and audio. You can hear a particular programme in Swahili, English, Yoruba, Portuguese and many more so that people can enjoy the same content in different versions. We make sure that our channels can be seen across different markets in different categories. For example, we broadcast Chinese channels and I know you don’t understand the Mandarin language but we have it subtitled in English and it’s available across our markets in Africa.
How is recession affecting your business?
Recession is here and real but it’s a function of what you do with it. For us as a business we know that recession means that our subscribers are now more than ever constrained to part with money, we see it as a challenge to provide very exciting services such that they will be more compelled to part with their hard-earned money. So we want to ensure that there’s surplus value for money. So far we see that they are responding well.
Has market research been relevant to your business?
It has been very relevant. Most of the things we have done bothering on innovation, new product are from feedback system and market research. Most of the new products we have introduced are all products of market researches. We are always getting consumer insights to understand the consumers better, what they want, how much more we can meet their needs, how much more we can make their digital television experience more exciting and research has been very helpful in all these.