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DD’s Freedish eyes expansion in non-Hindi markets

MUMBAI: Doordarshan’s free direct-to-home (DTH) service Freedish plans to roll out its MPEG-4 set-top boxes (STBs) from April 2016, a move that will allow the platform to offer more channels.

Freedish is also planning to reserve certain slots for non-Hindi regional channels. The move will allow it to expand to non-Hindi markets.

“Encrypted MPEG-4 STBs will begin rolling out in April 2016. It’s happening now and will take some more time to happen,” Doordarshan DDG (Comm. & Sales/ IR & IMD/ DCD) CK Jain told TelevisionPost.com.

Unlike the MPEG-2 STBs, the MPEG-4 STBs can be procured only from authorised dealers.

“MPEG-4 STBs can be bought from the market, but they will be provided by the authorised distributors. Even though the STBs are encrypted, subscribers will not have to pay any fee,” Jain added.

The MPEG-4 STBs will be priced upwards of Rs 1,000, he revealed. “All FTA MPEG-4 STBs will receive MPEG-2 channels as they will be unencrypted,” he said.

Freedish will be able to provide almost 112 channels through MPEG-4 STBs. Currently, it provides 64 channels through MPEG-2 STBs.

DD free dishMPEG-4 is a compression technology that allows DTH operators to transmit double the number of channels compared to MPEG-2 technology with the same satellite transponder.

With a bulk of its more than estimated 20 million subscribers located in the Hindi heartland, the DTH operator is looking to tap non-Hindi markets. It is considering a proposal wherein it will reserve certain slots for non-Hindi regional channels.

“We are considering reserving slots for regional channels because our platform is slightly skewed towards Hindi markets. The proposal is under consideration, but it’s at a very preliminary stage,” he noted.

Jain believes that Freedish subscriber base is much more than the industry-accepted figure of 20 million.

To buttress his point, he said that on his recent trip to Rajasthan he came across various cases wherein subscribers of private DTH operators had migrated to Freedish as they were not able to afford the monthly subscription fee.

According to Jain, this explains the case of growing inactive DTH subscribers in the country. As per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report, there are 39 million inactive DTH subscribers against the total registered 78.74 million during the quarter ended 30 June 2015.

“I was recently in Rajasthan and I found an interesting thing. Many people who had subscribed to private DTH operators did not renew their monthly subscription and instead opted for Freedish. The dish remains that of a private DTH operator, but the STB is that of Freedish,” he pointed out.

He added further, “It’s happening all over the place, which is why there are 39 million inactive subscribers of private DTH. Where have they gone? Most of them have switched to Freedish.”

The massive reach of Freedish can be gauged from the huge jump in the ratings of FTA channels. “The ratings prove the point. FTA channel ratings are just going through the roof,” Jain expounded.