One of the most prominent news items of the last three weeks has been TSTV, a new pay-television service provider that announced itself with considerable bang and arrested the attention of Nigerians with seductive, but hardly plausible offering.
The implausibility of its offering hardly came as a surprise to those familiar with the new provider’s front man, Bright Echefu, a young medical doctor and latter-day businessman.
After graduating from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Echefu went abroad and returned to establish African Health Television (AHTV) under his holding company, Bricke and Athens Limited.
The year 2015 was a bad one for Echefu, whose wife, Cindy, died during her attempt to deliver their third child and was buried a month later.
Then came the implausible. In December of the same year, Echefu got engaged to Florence Esu, his wife’s best friend, an event that put the Nigerian cyberspace in an overdrive, provoking furious online disapproval.
At the time, Florence had just completed her reign as a beauty queen, having won Queen Aso, an Abuja beauty pageant. She gleefully announced that she was happy to have accepted Echefu’s marriage proposal.
In January 2016, a month after their engagement, Echefu was picked up by by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly issuing a dud cheque of about N2million N1. 165million to a man that supplied computers to his company. An attempt to remedy the situation had led him to issue a United Bank of Africa cheque of N1.165million. But, again, the cheque bounced, initially attracting police attention before the EFCC moved in to arrest and subsequently charge him before Justice S.C Amadi of the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, on 21 January 2016.
A day after his arraignment, the thrill Florence felt about him was gone, as she announced on the social media that she was disengaging from Echefu.
The young doctor, who had previously waved off bereavement, was not a man to be held down by a failed engagement.
By February 2016, he had started a romance with another woman, Gift Chukwuocha, to whom he got engaged within two months of the affair.
That was the last heard about him until he returned to public consciousness with TSTV, which was initially billed for launch on 25 July. In the weeks leading to its launch date on 1 October, Echefu’s TSTV advertised itself, very exaggeratedly, as a game changer. Aside from offering its services at considerably low prices, wooly communication from the company bred the belief that subscribers could suspend their subscription whenever they wish. The fed the false belief that an a la carte model (interchangeably labelled pay as you watch or pay per view). It turned out that it is not. What the company intends to offer is the option of suspending subscription seven days a month and only for those using its highest bouquet. However, only a few of those seduced by the extravagant promise of pausing subscription had the presence of mind to understand that they had been conned.
Others remain wedded to the belief that they could pay as they watch. The biggest con, however, was in the package of channels TSTV was offering. Frenziedly shared Whatsapp broadcast initially said the TSTV was offering 200 channels, including those broadcasting foreign football league matches for N3000. The company issued a disclaimer on its Facebook page, saying it would offer 100 channels and broadcast the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Europa League via beIN, a global entertainment and sports content distributor headquartered in Qatar.
It proceeded to advertise the logos of beIN’s range of channels on its website, tstvafrica. com. This came to the attention of the Qatari broadcaster, which responded with a letter to TSTV, copying the National Copyright Commission on 28 September, in which it demanded that the new provider should immediately desist from including its channels in its promotional materials as it has no authorization do so. It also warned that any broadcast of its property, without authorization, will amount to intellectual property theft.
A day earlier, Turner Broadcasting Systems Europe Limited, which distributes American news channel CNN in English, had written to TSTV, copying the National Broadcasting Commission, to make the same demands and for the same reasons.
Those familiar with Echefu were not surprised that he employed a con trick to snare potential subscribers, many of whom have been spun giddy.
Sources also believe that Echefu is not the real owner of TSTV, but a front for powerful figures in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. They point to the fact that the Federal Government agreed to give him a three-year tax break.
“Why a three-year tax break? He is not a pioneer in the field. TSTV is not the first Nigerian pay-television company. Many others have been there and never got a tax break. What this suggests is that he is a front for powerful people in government,” said a pundit.