Private broadcasters avoid DD Free Dish auction amid fee hike
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New Delhi: State broadcaster Doordarshan’s free-to-air direct-to-home (DTH) platform DD Free Dish failed to receive any applications for a planned auction to award channel slots to private broadcasters, a few weeks after it raised the reserve prices for its platform.
The auction was scheduled to take place on 11 April but the broadcaster didn’t receive any applications for participation, following which the auction was cancelled, said two people familiar with the development, who did not want to be named.
In March, DD Free Dish nearly doubled its reserve prices for non-news channels to Rs8 crore, up from Rs4.8 crore.
“The auction couldn’t take place. It is a matter of concern for the broadcaster. Doordarshan is evaluating the possible reasons behind failure to attract applications,” said one of the two people cited above. In DD Free Dish e-auction, private broadcasters bid for slots on the DTH platform for their television channels.
DD Free Dish has 22 million subscribers, according to recent estimates from television viewership measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India, shared by Doordarshan.
The platform currently has a capacity of 104 channels and carries private entertainment channels, including Star Utsav, Sony Pal, Zee Anmol, Viacom18’s Rishtey and Rishtey Cineplex, as well as news channels, including Aaj Tak, ABP News and News 24.
In the last auction, the broadcaster generated Rs65.5 crore by selling 10 slots and the highest bid went up to Rs7.5 crore. For the year 2016-17, DD Free Dish recorded a revenue of Rs264.17 crore in 2016-17, a 47% increase from a year ago.
“The cost this time was too high, even for the bigger broadcasters. The idea behind DD Free Dish is to provide free-to-air signals to rural audiences. Fixing unreasonable base prices is not the mandate of the public broadcaster,” said an executive at a leading broadcaster, one of the two people cited earlier.
The executive further explained that both Doordarshan and private broadcasters stand to lose. “We won’t be able to reach the rural audiences who can’t afford pay television and Doordarshan won’t be able to earn good revenue,” the official added.