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At MultiChoice, we keep reinventing to delight customers, says Ugbe

By Margaret Nwantok
11 June 2019   |   4:24 am
We consider the media our partner, without their support, it’ll be nearly impossible for us to build our reputation and further engage with our various stakeholders.


John Ugbe is the Chief Executive Officer of MultiChoice Nigeria. In this Interview with MARGARET MWANTOK, he spoke about the brand’s 25 years presence in the country and how it is reinventing itself to be sustainable. He also spoke about the company’s recent partnership with the Sickle Cell Foundation, Nigeria and how CSR is defining companies, as Big Brother Nigeria returns June 30, 2019.

• We are committed to creating awareness around Sickle Cell Anemia

Your company has impacted positively on the Nigerian media scene, but how has it been able to cope with the competitive business environment?
We consider the media our partner, without their support, it’ll be nearly impossible for us to build our reputation and further engage with our various stakeholders.

Staying afloat in an increasingly challenging and competitive business environment is a necessity for any enterprise. For us at MultiChoice, there are certain fundamentals we don’t compromise, because we know if we keep those elements in focus and stay consistent, we’ll not only survive the business environment, we will thrive. Number one is keeping the customers at the centre of all we do from both the pricing and content standpoints. We’re always challenging and asking ourselves hard questions on how to delight our customers and keep them with us. So we focus on getting the best content, we evolve constantly.

The second is technology and how we can harness this to make life better for our customers. We pride ourselves for being technologically innovative. Because, what we do is to make high quality and entertaining content available to people and one of the ways we’ll measure our success as a business is, how we have deployed the resources available to us to provide top-notch services to our customers.

Finally, we are always on the lookout for people who are visionary and dynamic. Of course, we equally train and keep on training our employees, so they keep abreast of new thoughts and ideas in our industry.

How have you been able to sustain your business in Nigeria, considering the fact that many pay TV businesses have come and gone?
What I’ll tell you without a doubt is that we’re a visionary business and we’re here for the long haul. We always keep the future in view, and we keep challenging ourselves and questioning our assumptions on every aspect of our business and how we can make it better for our customers, employees and investors. Standing strong at 25 is not child’s play, it’s been a lot of hard work, and courage and determination to keep pushing the envelope and tinkering with every single idea our people put on the table until we hit the goldmine.

Truth is, I’m not in a position to speak for competition, but from where I sit, I can say without a doubt that a business like ours needs to keep reinventing itself to delight the customers and keep them glued to our content. We aim for the best; the best of football, the best of African stories and the best of kiddies’ content.

As a brand builder, what do you think about CSR?
Every organisation has a community, shareholders and staff. At every point, you have to maintain a balance; what impact you have on the immediate community. The CSR has changed now for us, we say its Creative Shared Value. As an organisation, you can’t do everything; you have to choose. An example of this is our boxing competition. When we started, boxing was nowhere in the country, and this is why we create share value. Today, we have a world-class boxer going for the Commonwealth.

What are your other areas of support to host community?
In November 2014, we commenced the GOtv Boxing Night to remedy the protracted decline of professional boxing Nigeria. The sport had slipped out of reckoning because of poor funding and squalid organisation, both resulting in the reluctance of amateur boxers to join the professional ranks, as there were no fights to keep them engaged. Since we commenced the GOtv Boxing Night, we have invested over two million dollars (N700million) in this sport and the sport has been revived in Nigeria.

It is important that people know that some of these big sports didn’t become big over night. It takes a lot of developments, losses along the way. We are 25 years in Nigeria, and have been doing boxing for two years. We will keep it going until we see boxing becomes one of the biggest sports in Nigeria. We need sponsors; we need trainers to development these raw talents.

Also, our Enterprise Development Programmes have created numerous jobs; we have built key partnerships with indigenes to drive the growth of the business as well as develop entrepreneurs and create enterprises that provide jobs and economic empowerment to many individuals across the country. At the moment, the EDP consists of 16 Mega Dealers, 65 Super Dealers, 800 branded stores, 1200 Gotv canvassers, 1249 sabimen – GOtv, 300 DStv Direct Sales Representatives (DSR’s) and 170 Installers.

How is MultiChoice Talent Factory coming along?
MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF), the flagship corporate shared value (CSV) initiative of MultiChoice is a significant investment that testifies to their commitment to helping Africa’s creative industries to grow into vibrant, economic powerhouses. It is a one-year fully funded programme aimed at igniting Africa’s creative industries to boost the quality of local film and television programming and create a pipeline of great stories. The MTF is a much bigger project for us. We had 50 sound engineers from the country offering special training to the talents. We will be graduating the first set in September. We have started another intake already. We don’t just train them as scriptwriters, we want them to graduate and build the future of African talent.

The MTF consists of three regions and 60 students: Western, Eastern and Southern Africa, with 20 students from each region. Nigeria and Ghana being the most vibrant filmmaking countries in West Africa comprise the Western region. The programme is open to those who are passionate about telling authentic African stories within the ages of 18 to 25. An immersion programme is organised for students where they intern in all our original productions.

The video entertainment industry is a tool for shaping the African narrative. Only Africans themselves van tell authentic African stories. Our academies give up and coming filmmakers the opportunity to master the business and hone their skills. This raises the quality of our local content and increases the pool of world-class talent within the industry.

Do you have plans to empower these talents when they graduate?
We are definitely looking at different ways of working with the talent. There is conversation internally on how to go about this. But don’t forget it’s a lot of investment keeping them there for one year

When is Big Brother starting?
The show is starting on June 30. Its a lot of work trying to get the show back, we had to built the facility from the scratch. People see the end product without knowing the effort put into it. Through the show we have been able to send CSR messages such as Malaria and other initiatives.

On Big Brother, what plans do you have on ground to aid the airing of the show, the challenges of power most especially?
We took quite a bit of time to host the Big Brother show in Nigeria, because we have to put in our best to ensure the show is produced and broadcast with the same exacting standards that it has come to be known for. We identified most of the challenges we might face hosting a show of this magnitude in Nigeria, and debated all the solutions the team can possibly come up with and without a doubt, power supply was one of the issues on the table; and we’ve cracked that. We have plugged that hole and we’re confident come June 30, our viewers will be treated to some riveting, entertaining and intriguing drama that Big Brother Naija is known for.

How much would it cost to run the show in Nigeria against having it elsewhere?
I’m not able to disclose the monetary value to you, largely for confidential purposes. But what I can say is that we’ve invested quite a significant resource into putting this show together. In addition to our direct investment, let’s look at the micro-economics that will be impacted by this show – myriad jobs have been created and through this, people have more money in their pockets to meet their basic needs. We’ve provided a platform for the creative and entertainment industries in Nigeria to further grow and hold itself to a higher standard of excellence that we’re known for. So, all these and many more are the things that we tend to focus on for most of our productions.

How is the partnership with Sickle Cell Foundation important to Multichoice?
Sickle cell disorder is one of the major ailments afflicting black people globally with over 150,000 children born each year with the disorder and over 40 million Nigerians are healthy carriers of the sickle cell gene.

While there are several awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Cancer and others, there is little or no awareness creation about the sickle cell disorder. At Multichoice, we believe we can change the disorder with awareness. The challenge we have is how to increase the awareness around sickle cell. We have worked with the foundation on different initiatives but the most critical part for us is creating awareness and managing this disorder, which mostly affects blacks. Lately, we worked with the foundation on genetic counseling workshop. We have also been engaged in some of the foundations rural development programmes. For over a decade, MultiChoice Nigeria has supported the Foundation in various ways; We have created a few audio-visual documentaries and aired across DStv and GOtv, to help increase awareness about sickle cell.

Can you share more on how you have supported the foundation?
We recently revived the Genetic Counseling Training programme, which had been dormant for five years. We partnered with the Foundation on the 18th Genetic Counseling Training course on Sickle Cell Disorder. The two-week counseling course was aimed at raising awareness about and deepening understanding of the Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) as well as pointing out ways that SCD patients could lead normal lives. The training course, which had in attendance 31 participants from across the country and from other countries in Africa, also had 27 resource people who shared new knowledge and methods in the management and treatment of SCD in Nigeria. The value of the knowledge and skills transfer is incalculable

We have provided support to the Foundation by sponsoring various workshops. We sponsored two rural community awareness outreach programmes in Ijede, Ikorodu and in Ikotun, Igando, Lagos State. Since the partnership commenced, MultiChoice has donated three operational vehicles to the Foundation, two cars and one bus. We also provided free subscriptions to the Foundation’s headquarters. We have also sponsored the training of psychologists in 2009, bringing in specialists from England for this purpose. We have stationed donation boxes in all our branches to encourage walk-in customers make heartfelt contributions in support of the Foundation. So, it’s an on-going partnership.

Sickle Cell awareness is high in Nigeria but the problem persists, why?
Awareness to the disorder is high but awareness around prevention is what we are trying to put out. It’s good that some churches insist on the test before getting couples married. It is a disorder that could be avoided.