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DD DTH service gets strong upgrade signal
New Delhi: In order to meet its twin aims of adding to revenue and popularity of its free-to-air DTH service — DD Direct Plus — public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has decided to increase in two stages its channel capacity to 200 from the current 59. This has been planned keeping in mind the increasing popularity of the direct-to-home (DTH) services of the private operators.

Doordarshan is expected to infuse over Rs 10-15 crore in the next fiscal to fund the capacity addition of DD Direct Plus, sources said.

“In the first stage, we will add 41 channels to take the tally on DD Direct Plus to 100. Subsequently, we will add another 100 channels in 2010-11,” DD director-general Aruna Sharma told FE.

Doordarshan is also eyeing revenue from private broadcasters who would like to place their channels on DD Direct Plus. Any private channel in the free-to-air mode can be placed on DD Direct Plus by making an annual payment of Rs 60 lakh (for Indian channels) or Rs 1.2 crore (for foreign channels). The addition of 100 channels on DD Direct Plus could fetch the public broadcaster an annual revenue of Rs 60 crore.

However, scarcity of transponders on satellites may see DD Direct Plus using the MPEG4 channel compression technology to add more channels. This technology is also being used by leading DTH operators like Airtel’s Digital TV, Reliance ADAG’s Big TV and Sun Network’s Sun Direct.

The MPEG4 technology enables DTH operators to accommodate more channels in the available bandwidth, compared to the MPEG2 technology currently being used by DD Direct Plus, Dish TV and Tata Sky. “Our technical staff is currently working on the MPEG4 technology. Upgraded technology will also mean the roll out of new set top box for DD Direct Plus,” confirmed a senior Prasar Bharati official.

This is significant because the proposed high definition channel — DD India — that will carry the upcoming Commonwealth Games coverage will be available only on DD Direct Plus.

Currently, DD Direct Plus has around 6 million subscribers. With the addition of more channels and an aggressive marketing strategy for DD Direct Plus, Doordarshan aims to double its current subscriber base in next three years, a top DD official said. The private DTH space currently dominated by six DTH operator’s together command a paying subscriber based of around 20 million.

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<img style="float:left; margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px;" src="" />National broadcaster Doordarshan is seeking to strengthen its direct-to-home (DTH) platform – DD Direct Plus – and expects to have some 200 channels on its platform by end of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan or 2012.

At present, DD Direct Plus has a bouquet of 57 Free-to-Air (FTA) channels.

In the first phase by the end of 2010, DD Direct Plus aims to have about 100 FTA channels. In second phase, it is targeting 200 channels of which many will be FTA channels.

Currently, 31 of the 57 channels are from the DD stable.

Strong response

“We have an overwhelming response from private channels to get on to the DD Direct Plus platform. Even some of the pay channels are willing to go free,” said Ms Aruna Sharma, Director-General, Doordarshan.

“There's a waitlist of 74 private channels seeking an entry to the DD Direct platform,” Ms Sharma said without disclosing their names. Some of the private channels such as Zee Smile, B4U Music and 9X are already on the DD Direct platform.

Subscription charge

Hinting at the possibility of DD Direct Plus starting to charge subscribers once it has over 100 channels, Ms Sharma said “pricing will depend on the policy at that point of time.” In the Fifth Plan, DD is investing about Rs 85 crore in strengthening the DD Direct platform.

The reach

Currently, DD Direct Plus reaches over six million homes, while the total subscriber base of private-sector players is expected to be around 18 million. An estimated two million DTH households were added in the October-December quarter.

DTH subscribers constitute a small portion of the overall television viewers in the country at present.

Analysts expect the DTH industry to grow at a compounded annual rate of 30 per cent by 2012. The overall television viewership in India is expected to grow to 132 million by 2012, up form 115 million.

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