DD's DTH far from target, to offer 75 channels by year-end

NEW DELHI: The number of channels on Doordarshan’s direct-to-home platform DD Direct Plus will go up from 59 to 75 channels by the end of the current year.

This was stated by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting S Jagathrakshkan, amid contradictory figures given by both Prasar Bharati and the Ministry over the past year.

Prasar Bharati had on 7 June last year cleared the expansion of the country’s only free-to-air (FTA) TV platform to 200 channels by the end of the 2011 and even said the clearance of the detailed proposal for e-auction of the channels for the platform was expected to fetch at least Rs 3.5 billion.

Prasar Bharati sources at that time said over 250 FTA Indian and foreign TV channels were in the queue.

Later on 6 September, the Board raised the figure to 250 channels but said this would be in two stages: 150 channels by December 2011 and another 100 channels in the next calendar year 2012.

This figure included the slots for which auctions were held last year. The Prasar Bharati Board had in its 104th meeting taken note of the result of the auction of the six vacant slots on the DTH platform at the prices ranging from Rs 32.1 million to Rs 35 million per year.

It was then announced that the public broadcaster will put on auction another 90 slots within the next few months to increase the capacity from 59 to 150 channels. Sources said DD could have made another Rs 2.17 billion, crossing the Rs 2.8 billion mark before 31 March 2012.

Later in the year, DD sources told that DD Direct Plus was expected to get an annual fee of Rs 1 billion each from the 54 channels that will beam on MPEG 2 and Rs 1.5 billion each from the 96 channels that will beam on MPEG 4.

Doordarshan spends Rs 3.5 billion to Rs 4 billion every year to operate 59 channels on DD Direct+ (including 22 DD channels) whereas private operators manage over 230 channels on their respective DTH platforms at nearly half the cost (on a per channel basis), sources said.

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