China-backed StarTimes has 1.3 million pay-TV subscribers in Nigeria, out of a total in its portfolio of African countries of a claimed 2 million. StarTimes is present in 10 African countries.
StarTimes’ regional director Yian Dong, confirmed the numbers at an event in Abuja last weekend.
StarTimes’ Nigerian operation is run in a partnership with Nigeria’s Television Authority, the nation’s public broadcaster. StarTimes runs its DTT system in 18 Nigerian cities and is adding distribution in a further 15 cities by year-end.
Yian said: “Technical hitches have been overcome in the last three years and consequently our quality has improved. We are poised to make digital television in every home in Nigeria and beyond. I can’t find any digital television provider that is working so hard like Startimes to provide quality and affordable digital television services to every home.”
He said the company has over 200 Nigerian employees in its customer call centre department apart from other departments, adding that with the expansion drive, more Nigerians would be employed.
However, there are also reports that some of its subscribers are unhappy. For example, subscribers in Kenya have successfully complained to the Communication Commission of Kenya about StarTimes’ wanting fees for Kenyan free-to-air public broadcasts.
In another problem area, viewers in Uganda are grumbling about low-quality set-top boxes being supplied that cannot be upgraded to DVB-based transmissions which are imminent. Local reports say that this will result in Court action against StarTimes. Two Ugandan citizens Mulwani Taminwa and Muzamiru Kasamba were on 18th June cleared by the Commercial section of the High Court to file a case on behalf of more than 130,000 complainants whom, “the Chinese duped into paying for the outlandish appliances,” according to their submission.
They will be joined by the Uganda Consumers Protection Awareness Association (UCPAA) to push for a refund from the Chinese. The victims will also seek a swap for the compliant decoders from the accused. Ugandan lawyer Richard Omongole filed the public interest lawsuit, with a preliminary application by Mulwani, Kasamba and UCPAA, to bring a representative suit on behalf of the buyers. The Court’s deputy registrar Thaddeus Opesen allowed the application, which is to be served to Star Times management through an advertisement in the media.