According to a joint press release by Pay Tv operators in Uganda, the Ugandan Communications Commission, UCC, is after them. The press release makes reference to a UCC directive dated April 20, 2018, that labeled them "non-compliant."
UCC also went ahead and advised the public not to deal with the Pay TV operators. As if that wasn't enough, the commission is apparently developing a new licensing framework.
"The UCC Is in the process of developing a new licensing framework, on which we were in the process of engaging the regulator to ensure that the framework is enabling and appropriate," read part of the statement.
Among the proposals in the framework is a hike in the license fees. "One of the UCC's changes to the licensing framework was to increase the annual license fees payable by Pay TV operators by an exorbitant 2400% from Shs 22 million (USD 5950) to Shs 550 million (USD 151,000)."
On top of that, the Pay TV operators will be required to part with 2% of their Gross Annual Revenue and any existing regulatory fees remain in force. Across the region, Kenya charges 0.5% of the gross annual turnover while Tanzania charges 0.8%.
Amidst all this, Pay TV operators made it clear in the joint press release that they will pass on any increment in the fees to the final consumer. " Pay TV operators will have no choice but to pass on these increased fees to subscribers if we are to survive," part of the statement read. Though, they also noted that they " are reluctant to do [so] as it would make Pay TV Services affordable and place an additional burden on consumers."
But, just in case the frameworks come to pass, what should you, as a consumer of Uganda's Pay TV expect?
The most obvious is a hike in fees. If the operators are facing a 2400% increment in their fees as well as giving away 2% of their Gross Annual Revenue, expect at least 2400% increase in your current package price. If you have been paying 10,000 per month, then expect to pay at least 30,000 per month for your package.
Here's how it will work; a 2400% increase in your package a year is 240,000. The operator will spread this over a period of 12 months given the license is annual. Implying that you'll pay at least 20,000 per month. When you add that 20,000 to the 10,000 you're currently paying, then you'll arrive at the 30,000.
Secondly, a monopoly - especially of DSTV, is likely to emerge. When you anecdotally look at the target audience most of the operators, it is the bottom of the pyramid. With the exception of DSTV. DSTV, having the English Premier League and a more financially stable audience can survive this. But, after it has created a monopoly, then Ugandans would be subject to all the adverse effects it comes with.
In the end, the dilemma will be whether to own a Pay Tv or not. Especially for the bottom of the pyramid. Given that the much-touted free-to-air option could have been a pipe dream that many local channels are not willing to commit to. Maybe, they will resort to options like the illegal broadcasting services such as Bein.
For the internet savvy middle-income consumers, there's an alternative of live streaming. Local channels like NTV and NBS TV are already live streaming their programs through YouTube.
Additionally, a recent influx of on-demand Internet content platforms like ShowMax, Netflix, Iflix, and iROKO might see them switch to such options. These services cost between UGX 27,000 to UGX 30,000 per month for unlimited viewing. Depending on the package you opt.