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No takers for DD Freedish at Rs 8 crore reserve price

MUMBAI: Broadcasters have given a cold shoulder to public broadcaster Doordarshan’s 32nd e-auction of vacant slots on its free direct-to-home (DTH) platform Freedish due to the increase in reserve price to Rs 8 crore.

Riding high on the popularity of Freedish, Doordarshan was looking to squeeze out more carriage fee from the entertainment broadcasters from its 32nd e-auction. DD had hiked the reserve price of vacant non-news slots to Rs 8 crore from Rs 4.8 crore.

A DD official said that broadcasters had stayed away from the auction due to the high reserve price. “No one participated in the 32nd e-auction,” the official stated.

DD Freedish had also for the first time invited only non-news channels to bid for vacant slots. Earlier, the news and non-news channels were allowed to participate in slot auctions. The reserve price was also the same.

With broadcasters in no mood to shell out more for getting a slot on Freedish, DD has gone back to the drawing board. The pubcaster will have to decrease its reserve fee as the highest amount paid by a broadcaster to get on Freedish is Rs 7.6 crore by Hindi GEC Sony Pal.

In January 2016, Sony Pal had renewed its slot for Rs 7.6 crore. However, in the e-auction held in February, the channel had renewed its slot for a reduced price of Rs 7.3 crore. In FY17, DD had earned an average of Rs 5.1 crore from the sale of 54 slots. Its total earnings stood at Rs 275.4 crore.

“The Prasar Bharati board is seized of the matter. I am sure a clear path will emerge quickly,” DD DG Supriya Sahu said without elaborating much.

However, a senior distribution executive from a leading TV network said, on the condition of anonymity, that the reserve price hike was too steep. “The reserve price of Rs 8 crore is too high even for a Freedish because big broadcasters don’t pay carriage to pay DTH platforms while smaller broadcasters pay anywhere between Rs 3–4 crore,” the executive stated.

The spectacular rise of the Freedish platform is giving sleepless nights to pay DTH platforms. Tata Sky CFO G Sambasivan had stated that Freedish had added 10 million subscribers in a span of one year. All private DTH operators had not managed to add these many subscribers in a year, he stated.

The reporting of rural data by BARC India and the competition among private broadcasters to cater to this burgeoning market has made Freedish a very critical platform, with its 22 million customers most in rural areas of Hindi-speaking markets (HSM).

Broadcasters are also making an all-out effort to grab rural TV share by offering fresh content on their FTA channels within days of its airing on pay channels. However, ZEEL is not following this strategy as it feels that the FTA channels might hurt the pay revenues of broadcasters if this trend continues.

The FTA channels, who have seen a big growth in viewership, had garnered an estimated Rs 4–5 billion in ad revenue and are expected to earn Rs 8–10 billion this year.

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