WikiLeaks: No Mickey Mouse in Nigeria

2011-09-06 11:55

Cape Town – In another sensitive US diplomatic cable from 2009 just released by WikiLeaks, the American consulate in Lagos notes that Nigerian youths who love American TV programming “today, for instance, often did not know who Mickey Mouse was due to exclusive rights for Disney products given to the upmarket MultiChoice”.

The sensitive cable is one of tens of thousands of a new batch of US diplomatic cables released by the whisteblower site WikiLeaks, with one discussing the booming satellite television market in Nigeria two years ago and which is still continuing.

The 2009 US cable mentions MultiChoice Nigeria managing director Joseph Hundah saying that MultiChoice subscriptions had at that time grown 300% over the last three years “and now totals some 370 000 prepaid accounts”.

Furthermore, MultiChoice “would continue to depend on the top end of the market but he acknowledged that less expensive competitors had exposed a new layer in the consumer market that his firm was eager to target”.

Exclusive pan-African distribution rights

The US cable mentions the Nigerian pay-TV competitor, HiTV, saying that “Nigerians had an affinity for American television programmes but noted that the decision years ago by American firms to sign exclusive pan-African distribution rights with MultiChoice South Africa precluded HiTV and other Nigerian satellite TV companies from broadcasting popular programmes” and that “these contracts were signed at a time when MultiChoice was virtually the only satellite provider in Africa”.

While HiTV lamented that many Nigerian youth don’t know Mickey Mouse, the cable says: “Discovery Channel had created a separate content line to distribute to HiTV and other channels on a non-exclusive basis while still complying with its MultiChoice contract” – a model that HiTV “was encouraging other American firms to adopt.”

Entertainment more than a luxury

According to the cable, both HiTV and MultiChoice Nigeria noted plans to expand service throughout northern Nigeria where they admitted penetration to date had been weak.

The cable summarises the Nigerian satellite TV market, and reads: “While this market is very young, it looks promising for American distributors who can deliver popular programming.”

Another interesting factoid from the cable says: “MultiChoice’s experience across Africa was that viewers, once hooked on satellite television, rarely cancel their subscription in response to an economic slowdown, suggesting that entertainment is seen as more than simply a luxury good”.

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