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38th DD Free Dish e-auction on 11 February: Key highlights of revised policy

The e-auctioning of slots on DD Free Dish was arbitrarily called off in 2017

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MUMBAI: The 38th DD Free Dish e-auction for 54 vacant MPEG-2 slots will be held from 11 February. The Prasar Bharati Board on Tuesday gave a green signal to e-auctioning of DTH slots on DD Free Dish. The public broadcaster will resume the allocation of slots based on a revised policy, confirmed Prasar Bharati (PB) CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati. He thanked the Board, MIB secretary Amit Khare and minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for their support.

The e-auctioning of slots on DD Free Dish was arbitrarily called off in October 2017. Earlier, DD Free Dish would conduct the e-auction every couple of months to award vacant channel slots to private broadcasters. The last e-auction was held In July 2017.

With the pubcaster set to kick-start the much-awaited e-auctions, here are the key highlights of the revised policy:

· The e-auctions will be based on a differential pricing to be determined by the genre (language) of channels. Private broadcasters desirous of carriage on DD Free Dish will have to declare the same to be eligible to bid in e-auctions.

· To lower the entry barrier for genres (languages) that are currently under-represented on DD Free Dish the differential pricing for slots is split into five disparate buckets as opposed to the 2 buckets based on which e-auctions were previously held.

· Different genres (languages) have been grouped within these five buckets with differential reserve pricing for slots in respective buckets.

· To promote the new DD Free Dish authorized set top boxes, the new policy also envisages invitational pricing for channels to also take up MPEG4 slots in addition to the existing MPEG2 slots.

· The new policy also makes it attractive for channels from a cash flow standpoint through better payment terms. This will ease the burden on channels while lowering the entry barrier for channels.

According to the PB CEO, a key consideration factored in by the new policy was to increase the diversity of content available on DD Free Dish and to expand its reach across India especially within the non-Hindi speaking states.

The government-owned DTH platform has had a good run since its launch and is now desired beyond rural areas as well. According to industry experts, the DTH platform now has close to 30 mn subscribers.

While there are numerous advantages of Free Dish, some private broadcasters feel it offer a threat to distribution platform operators (DPOs).

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