New Delhi: State-owned broadcaster Doordarshan is planning to expand its new digital terrestrial transmission (DTT) service across the country. The broadcaster, which currently operates the service in 16 cities, is planning to expand it to three new cities by March 2017 and 44 more in the next two years.
In the process, Doordarshan has also partnered with Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIMA) to develop a suitable business model for the platform which it expects will be firmed up by February 2017.
The DTT model is an Internet-free broadcast distribution service, through which consumers can receive television channels on the go or at home through television sets, smartphones and tablets—using a Doordarshan application and a dongle specifically designed for the service.
“We are working with IIMA to develop a business model which will be ready by February. We might share the capacity by auctioning channel slots to the private broadcasters. We are yet to finalize the model and from there, we can further develop a roadmap for DTT. This can be a game changer for the industry," said Supriya Sahu, director general at Doordarshan, adding that the broadcaster will spend about ₹ 320 crore to achieve its targets by 2018.
Doordarshan’s DTT model currently showcases five of its channels—DD News, DD Bharati, DD National, DD Sports and a regional-language channel or DD Kisan, depending on the area. The model has the capacity to carry 10 channels.
Earlier this month, Doordarshan organized a discussion with private broadcasters to familiarize them with the DTT model and proposed a partnership in the future.
Broadcasters have welcomed the offer. “It is an interesting space. It’s a new concept which we are evaluating and accordingly, management will take a call. We are planning to have more interactions with Doordarshan officials," said Naresh Chahal, vice-president at Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt. Ltd.
The advantage of DTT over video-on-demand services like Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is that DTT does not require an Internet connection. However, the DTT set-up needs huge investment and currently has little capacity, which according to Sahu, remains a challenge for Doordarshan.
Another official from a broadcasting company, who did not wish to be identified, said DTT certainly has a future in India, “but there is no way to tell how successful it is or can be. Doordarshan currently has a very rough plan and needs a better understanding of the sector. Private participation depends on how perfectly Doordarshan is able to develop its model," the official said.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) floated a consultation paper in June to open terrestrial broadcasting to private broadcasters and develop a roadmap to move to DTT. Terrestrial television broadcasting is the traditional way of delivering television channels by transmission of TV signals through radio waves and is currently the monopoly of Prasar Bharati. The regulator has conducted open house discussions on the matter and is yet to come up with its recommendations.