DTH

DD FreeDish poised to increase channel capacity to 250

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NEW DELHI: Doordarshan DTH platform FreeDish, which already has a capacity of 124 channels including HD channels, will soon getting approval to increase this capacity to 250 channels over the next two years. The minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore told the Parliament that Doordarshan’s DD National Channel has been uplinked in the High Definition (HD) format since 1 January this year.

With analogue having been largely switched off, many stakeholders feel that FreeDish is the best option in Phase IV which covers rural India. The Ministry had itself said  in the Parliament last month that HITS (Head-end In The Sky), private DTH and DD FreeDish are the options in remote rural areas while discussing the issue of the concerns expressed by operators that over 20 per cent of rural and remote areas were not financially and technically viable.

The only free-to-air DTH platform in the country, FreeDish - which conducted its 33rd auction this week - earned Rs 2.8665 billion through auction of 54 slots in six auctions from 30 March 2016 to 14 February 2017. In comparison, DD had earned Rs 1.8034 billion in 2015-16. The last e-auction - the 32nd e-Auction - on 14 February 2017 fetched Rs. 655 million.

Despite the reserve price of Rs 48 million, the highest bid for a slot was Rs 73 million for Sony Pal. The reserve price in the first five auctions was Rs 43 million and was raised to Rs 48 million in the 32nd auction. The reserve price for the 33rd auction was Rs 80 million.

A new era begun with the adoption of MPEG4 helping FreeDish take the first major step to mark towards its target of 104 television channels by March end with its 32nd e-auction which helped it cross the capacity of eighty channels. FreeDish touched the figure of 104 with its 32nd Auction.

In line with the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’, DD has decided to implement Indian CAS (iCAS) on DD Free Dish Platform. iCAS (which is an initiative of the central government) is being introduced in 24 MPEG-4 channels. The introduction of iCAS will provide enhanced viewing experience.

DD officials said these additional 24 MPEG-4 SDTV channels will be available to viewers in FTA mode. The existing viewers will continue to get 80 SDTV channels, but will have to obtain iCAS-enabled authorised set-top boxes for accessing all 104 channels.

Although FreeDish will remain free to air with no monthly or periodic fee, the viewers will be required to register with DD FreeDish on getting the new STB from Doordarshan authorised STB dealers.

DD earned Rs 980 million in 2014-15, Rs 1800 million in 2015-16, and Rs 1040 million till September in 2016-17.

FreeDish was launched with a modest bouquet of 33 channels in December 2004, and now carries eighty TV channels and 32 radio channels. This includes 22 Doordarshan channels and two parliamentary channels, seven general entertainment channels, 18 movie channels, 13 news channels, seven music channels, three religious channels and eight channels of other genres. All All India Radio stations also piggy-back on the platform.

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