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DTH News : Big broadcasters to pull-out channels from DD Free Dish
MUMBAI: The four big broadcasters will be pulling out their channels from Prasar Bharati’s free direct to home (DTH) platform DD Free Dish from 1st March, Dish TV chairman, and managing director (CMD) Jawahar Goel has said.

Goel further stated that the decision has been taken collectively by leading broadcasters Star India, ZEEL, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), and IndiaCast Media Distribution, which distributes TV18 and Viacom18 channels.

“Zee, Star, Sony, and Viacom18 have decided to withdraw their channels from the platform from 1st March. They have decided not to go on that platform. So, all these channels will not be there on DD Free Dish. That is why you must have seen that in a-la-carte they are no more a free channel,” Goel told analysts during the company’s earnings conference call.

The four broadcasters distribute Hindi entertainment and movie channels on Free Dish, which reaches an estimated 30 million homes. These channels air repeat content that are first premiered on the pay channels.

These include erstwhile free to air (FTA) channels like Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, and Rishtey in Hindi GEC genre and Sony Wah, Star Utsav Movies, and Zee Anmol Cinema.

In certain cases, even pay channels are being distributed on distributed on Free Dish. These include Hindi GECs Star Bharat, Sony Pal, and Hindi movie channel Rishtey Cineplex.

It is pertinent to note that the four broadcast networks have converted their FTA channels to pay in the new pricing regime of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The reason for turning FTA channels to pay is that the TRAI regulations bar mixing of pay and FTA channels in a bouquet.

The issue of distributing pay channels on DD Free Dish has also been a bone of content between Dish TV and pay broadcasters. The DTH player has filed petitions in Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) seeking a refund for pay broadcasters.

The TRAI had recently said that it is seized of the matter. TRAI chairman RS Sharma, in an interview to Business Standard, had said that the new regulatory framework doesn’t apply to DD Free Dish as it is not a pay-TV platform.

Dish TV’s contention is that there should be parity in terms of nature (pay or FTA) of the channel offering. The broadcasters have argued that DD Free Dish doesn’t collect subscription, therefore, they cannot ask the DTH platform to pay for carrying the pay channels.

Interestingly, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati had come out with new policy guidelines for auctioning slots on DD Free Dish last month. The pubcaster has devised reserve price for different genres based on the commercial potential.

Five buckets have been created for e-auction of MPEG2 slots. At Rs 15 crore, the highest reserve is for Hindi GECs and teleshopping channels under Bucket A+.

The Bucket A has been dedicated for Hindi movie channels with a reserve price of Rs 12 crore. The Bucket B comprises of Hindi music, sports besides Bhojpuri GEC and movie channels and has a reserve price of Rs 10 crore.

The English, Hindi, and Punjabi news channels are under Bucket C with a reserve price of Rs 7 crore. The Bucket D comprises of all other genres with a reserve price of Rs 6 crore.

The auction of 56 MPEG2 slots on Free Dish is currently under process. The e-auction began on 11th February.

With the pay broadcasters pulling out of DD Free Dish, it is believed that Prasar Bharati will find it hard to mobilise enough revenue from the auction of slots as the high reserve price will make Free Dish slots out of reach for smaller broadcasters.

The four leading broadcasters have 11 channels on DD Free Dish. These include Star’s Star Utsav, Star Bharat, Star Utsav Movies, Star Sports First; Sony’s Sony Pal, Sony Wah; Viacom18’s Rishtey, Rishtey Cineplex, MTV Beats; and ZEEL’s Zee Anmol, Zee Anmol Cinema.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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