DTH

DD Direct+ freshens up as FREEDISH

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MUMBAI:  Direct to home TV (DTH) subscribers are in for a bonanza. And it's coming courtesy the government-owned Doordarshan which has rechristened its free DTH service DD Direct+ as FREEDISH. Not just that. It is all set to get a makeover ? la its private sector DTH cousins and launch snazzy call centres. There's more: a new package of 120 channels which will require activation of a new range of consumer set top boxes (STBs) is being introduced.

DD sources say that the work contract for the same has already been finalised and the equipment is currently being shipped. “We currently have 17 million active subscribers and expect to add a million subscribers per month once we start the 120 channel STB service,” says a DD official.

The pubcasters’ current 59 channel STBs cost Rs 1200, while the 120 channel STBs are expected to be priced at Rs 1400.  The 59 channels include 21 DD channels and 38 other channels offering a wide variety of entertainment, musical, devotional, educational, news, international channels.

“We are now working towards offering 120 channels free of cost for a lifetime to DTH consumers,” he adds.

So what happens to the old STBs? “Well, if the existing customers want to switch to 120 channel STB, they will have to buy the new one,” says the official.

DD is also deviating from the past as subscribers to its FREEDISH 120 channel service will need activation of their STBs.

As a consequence, the pubcaster hopes it will have a better handle on data relating to its subscribers. “We were unhappy with the way we were functioning. While earlier we were unorganised, the whole idea of introducing the service is to streamline the whole process,” says the official.

Currently, seven international makers are supplying the STBs to DD and the plan is to bring in new ones into its fold.  “We have already received several bids from international and national players,” informs the DD official.  Local STB manufacturers will be authorised only after their products comply with BIS specifications.

“Until now, customers could only buy the STBs through local shopkeepers. Now we are setting up call centres to interact with our customers. These call centres will be set up according to our guidelines, but at the STB manufacturer’s expense,” the interested parties can approach us for the same," says the official.

The DTH operator says the service will continue to beam off INSAT 4B as it has enough capacity for the additional channels it is offering.

While the new name doesn’t feature on the website as yet, the trademark for the new name has already been registered.

It is to be noted that DD had recently conducted an e-auction for placement of private channels on its DTH platform after the Prasar Bharati Board approved it.

“The new system of e-auctioning, in which auctioning was done for 28 channel slots, has yielded positive results. In comparison to previous years e-auctioning, where the average price per channel for 28 channels auctioned was Rs 2.73 crore, in the present year the average price has risen sharply to Rs 3.7 crore, a growth of nearly Rs 1 crore per channel,” states a report sent by DD.

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