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Freedish’s revenue zooms 53% to Rs 275.4 cr in FY17; Sony Pal top bidder with Rs 7.3 cr

MUMBAI: Aided by the growth of the free-to-air (FTA) market, the launch of new channels in the genre and a surge in subscribers, Doordarshan’s free direct-to-home (DTH) platform Freedish has posted its highest revenue ever in FY17.

The over-a-decade-old platform with an estimated 22 million customers has raked in a revenue of Rs 275.4 crore in FY17, up 52.71% from Rs 180.34 crore reported a year ago.

The new fiscal year could see further growth as DD Freedish has fixed the reserve price for the upcoming auction of vacant slots at a record high of Rs 8 crore. It has also reserved the slots for non-news channels for the first time. The e-auction on 11 April will be the first in FY 2017–18.

DD Freedish’s biggest haul in FY17 came from the 31st e-auction when it sold 27 slots for Rs 129.3 crore. The second biggest haul was during the 32nd e-auction when it made Rs 65.5 crore from the sale of nine slots. Overall, Freedish conducted six e-auctions in the financial year and sold 54 slots.

The highest individual bid for a slot in FY17 was Rs 7.3 crore. DD Freedish received the bid from Sony Pictures Networks India’s Sony Pal, which bagged the slot during 32nd e-auction. The second-highest bid amount during the year was Rs 6.8 crore, which was paid individually by MTV Beats and Star Utsav Movies. This, again, was during the 32nd e-auction.

Incidentally, Freedish’s highest yield came from the 32nd e-auction where it averaged Rs 6.55 crore. Several new channels like ETV Rajasthan and ETV Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand had joined the Freedish bandwagon during this e-auction.

It must be noted that the base price for the 32nd e-auction was hiked to Rs 4.8 crore from Rs 4.3 crore.

During the 31st e-auction, the average bid price was Rs 4.78 crore, with 9XM’s Rs 5.1 crore being the highest bid price.

DD Freedish had raised Rs 14.1 crore from the 30th e-auction as only three slots were on offer. News18 India was the highest bidder with a Rs 5.2-crore winning bid.

The 29th e-auction saw the pubcaster earn Rs 39.4 crore from the sale of eight slots. In this e-auction, Zee Anmol and Star Utsav were the highest bidders with bid price of Rs 5.3 crore and Rs 5.2 crore respectively. Rishtey had won the slot with a bid of Rs 5 crore.

In the 28th e-auction, Zee News was the only winner with a bid of Rs 4.3 crore. It also marked Zee News’ debut on Freedish after it had gone FTA.

In the first e-auction of the financial year, five channels had won slots for a cumulative price of Rs 22.8 crore. Among the winners were newly launched FTA movie channels Zee Anmol Cinema and Sony Wah, which won the bid for a price Rs 4.9 crore and Rs 4.5 crore respectively.

e-Auction Status (2016-2017)

Private DTH operators are concerned about Freedish’s rapid subscriber growth. “Freedish has been there for a long time, but it has seen a huge growth in the last one and a half years. It has seen a growth of 10 million subscribers in 12 months, which is more than the entire private DTH sector’s growth. We have problems because it is not showing any signs of deceleration,” said Tata Sky chief financial officer G Sambasivan.

The growth of Freedish is fuelled by the rise in the number of FTA channels and the content that they are showcasing. The delay window of archived content aired on FTA channels (compared to the same content on corresponding pay channels) shrunk considerably in 2016, having been reduced to around 1–3 months for some of the broadcasters, as compared to more than one year when the channels were initially launched.

Based on how subscribers upgrade to pay TV each year, KPMG has projected Freedish to have 30 million subscribers by 2021. The net negative impact on the total industry revenues over 2016–21 is estimated to be Rs 90–110 billion, according to the 2017 FICCI–KPMG Media and Entertainment industry report. KPMG has arrived at the potential impact of Freedish by also taking into account the inflow of incremental FTA advertising revenues.

For expanding its channel offerings to 250, Freedish is going to install MPEG-4 set-top boxes. While more bandwidth will allow Freedish to source revenue from a wider pool of broadcasters, it has also taken the step of hiking rates for the slots on its platform.

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