The Silent Coup by Prasar Bharati

08 Jun,2020

 

By Indrani Sen

 

In February 2019, post TRAI’s NTO, big broadcasters had pulled out their Hindi mass entertainment channels from DD Free Dish which subsequently led to loss of viewership, weekly GRPs and ad revenue for those channels. The four big broadcasters, who submitted fresh bid invitation for vacant MPEG-2 slots by Prasar Bharati and won the e-auction held on June 2, 2020, must be sighing in relief now after getting five channels back on DD Free Dish. With effect from June 10, 2020, DD Dish TV subscribers would be able to view Star Utsav, Sony Pal, Zee Anmol, Colors Rishtey and Zee Anmol Cinema. It is definitely a win-win proposition for viewers as well as the channel owners in the post Covid-19 scenario.

 

Considering that these channels were earlier earning on an average 100 times more that the average carriage fee of Rs 6 to 8 crore paid per annum to DD Free Dish and most of them lost 50% + of their ad revenue after pulling out from DD Free Dish, it is no wonder that they have all boarded back the DD Free Dish Band wagon at the first available opportunity. The five channels are in dire need of restoring their ad revenues in the post-Lockdown stage and cannot do without the viewership numbers which DD’s free-to-air platform promises to add. It is a silent coup by Prasar Bharati for making DD Free Dish an essential part for the survival and growth of these private channels.

 

In most of the statistical analyses of subscribers of DTH providers, DD Free Dish is not included which makes the advertising and media Industry forget about its existence. While Doordarshan does not have the built in mechanism to measure the growth of DD Free Dish connections, estimates available from government sources as well as private consultancy firms unanimously agree that DD Free Dish is the leading DTH service provider in India.

 

On June 23, 2019 at a programme to launch distribution of DD Free Dish TV set top boxes in Kashmir, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar claimed that (https://www.indiantelevision.com/dth/dth-operator/dd-free-dish-has-35-crore-subscribers-prakash-javadekar-190623) Doordarshan was the biggest DTH service provider in India with 3.5 crore (35 million) subscribers of DD Free Dish.  He further claimed that there are total 5.5 crore (55 million) DTH connections in India. The 2019 FICCI-EY report estimated 30 million subscribers for DD Free Dish and predicted that it would cross the 50 million mark in near future.

 

It is evident from the activity related to DD Free Dish on various private e-commerce sites that their business is doing well. From the sale of DD Free Dish set-top boxes on Amazon (https://www.amazon.in/STC-DD-free-Dish-Set-Top/dp/B07FNKDGGC ) to installation of DD Free antenna on Indiamart (https://www.indiamart.com/proddetail/d-d-free-dish-antenna-installation-5874029873.html) to sale of remote  on Flipkart (https://www.flipkart.com/mase-remote-dd-free-dish-controller/p/itmfdcbspgtjqmgg) , e-commerce sites are doing brisk business due to the popularity of the DD Free Dish.

 

DD Free Dish is available in Ku-Band on GSAT-15 (at 93.5°E). It has been upgraded from time to time. The number of channels available increased from 80 to 104 in 2019, of which 26 channels are reserved for Doordarshan. Currently 104 SDTV channels along with 40 radio channels of AIR are available to the subscribers. DD Free Dish has been the greatest contribution which Prasar Bharati has made to broadcasting in India since the satellite TV’s invasion from the sky and privatisation of TV channels. If the set top box for DD Free Dish can be made technically enabled to receive WiFi signals then a new vista of media consumption will open to the vast audiences belonging to  “Bharat”.

 

 

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