The General Manager of Multichoice Ghana, Cecil Sunkwa-Mills has singled out piracy as the company’s greatest operational challenge that is denying it of huge revenue inflows, taxes to the nation and royalties and also copyright fees to content creators.
“One of our biggest headache as a company is piracy. We face this challenge very seriously, and as business operators one of such is cable piracy which is always common in the compound houses. It is even more common in the mining communities like the Obuasi municipality,” he said.
Mr. Sunkwa-Mills, speaking during a media interaction and a tour of the corporate office in Accra by members of the Network of Communications Reporters (NCR) said Multichoice Ghana has established an anti-piracy department, which is collaborating with the security agencies to clamp down on actors of such activities which impede greatly on its operations in the country.
He explained that the piracy challenge facing the company comes in the form of installation of unapproved set-top-boxes (STBs) which broadcast DStv content free of charge, which he said is illegal.
“It is illegal to publicly screen DStv content in clubs, pubs, viewing centres and restaurants which have not been paid for the right to do so.
“It is also illegal for a commercial subscriber to screen an event on a giant screen out of a specified premises without specific permission for public screening from content owners such as a World Cup match or big boxing bouts,” he said.
Piracy is the unauthorised duplication of copyrighted content that is then sold at substantially lower prices in the market. It is also known as the stealing of intellectual property for selfish gain or interest.
Experts have highlighted that one major obstacle to the development of intellectual property in Africa including movie and entertainment industry is piracy. Many people through piracy feed on the creative sweat of film makers without having any form of empathy.
In sub-Saharan Africa for instance, according to Business Software Alliance (BSA), the highest piracy countries were Zimbabwe 92%; Cameroon 83% and Nigeria 83%.
Available figures show that in Nollywood--Nigeria each film is replicated into 50 to 200,000 CDs/DVDs - distributed to markets, video clubs and eventually various homes, sometimes illegally.
While piracy accounts for almost 7% of all global trade, Nigeria accounts for 80% of the pirated international music CDs. This trend has a subsistent damaging effect on the country’s economy and global trade.
Mr. Sunkwa-Mills indicated that Multichoice Ghana had built a nationwide infrastructure for digital terrestrial broadcasting, called the T2 or DTT, which can help the country speedily switch over to the new terrestrial television broadcasting.
The company, he said, has built 13 transmitter sites across the country, including one free-to-air (FTA) uplink transmitter site, which has enabled it to roll out its local digital terrestrial television (DTT), Gotv, which could be received throughout the country with only a set-to-box device (DTV box) and an antenna.
Multichoice Ghana, the first paid television in the country broadcasting in partnership with M-Net, a South Africa-based digital television network, has since 2014 launched a second DTT service, GoTV, in addition to its DStv broadcasts.
Nii Amah Dagadu, the Corporate and Public Relations Manager at Multichoice Ghana, explained that the company had adjusted its pricing, with price reductions even though it now offered more channels and value on each bouquet, explaining that the English Premier League (EPL), one of the selling points of DStv, used to be on its premium bouquet, but has also been added to the next lower bouquet, the Compact Plus, although it has also slashed the price for the bouquet.
“`Multichoice has also added a lot more paid channels to the various bouquets, while reducing the prices on all four bouquets - family, compact, compact plus and premium.
“Since February this year, we have improved content on some of our much lower bouquets and also reduced prices. In April, which is the beginning of our financial year, prices would normally have gone up, but we froze prices, even though we had improved the content. All these are part of the phase one of our value strategy which we call ‘business unusual,” he said.
“In spite of these price reductions and content improvements it is business unusual because for a while we’ve been accused of being an expensive product, but now our pricing looks very attractive.
“All this is fueled by the fact that customers have complained, as economic conditions across Africa have worsened. We’ve seen foreign exchange parity rising, with local currencies depreciating that made it more expensive for them to continue to subscribe,” Mr. Dagadu remarked.