DD to reopen bidding for Metro slots?

A day after the industry's nyet to Prasar Bharati's efforts to attract bidders for Doordarshan's Metro, a leading business daily reported that the pubcaster was planning to offer the 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM prime time band without any minimum floor price. However, sources in Delhi said that while DD officials were open to the idea of a reduction in the base bid they were unlikely to accept a zero sum situation.

Sources said an official announcement would be made in the next two days, probably through advertisements in newspapers.

A possibility that has been thrown up is of DD producing and marketing programmes on its own but this seems an impractical option. What could happen is that DD reverts to the old system where a particular time slot is thrown open either to producers for bidding or a producer approaches the pubcaster with a programme for a time slot on an air time barter basis. (Here the air time sales are looked after by the producer and the rights to the programme are also with him/her.)

Asked for HFCL-Nine Broadcasting's reaction in the light of the the possible changed circumstances, an official spokesperson said there was nothing further to add to the statement CEO Ravina Raj Kohli had put out yesterday.

Partha Sinha, senior vice-president marketing, Zee Telefilms, said: "We will have to make a fresh reassessment if the reports are true but it's too soon to make a definitive comment."

Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea said he would prefer to wait for official word from Prasar Bharati. "At the moment it's all too speculative," he said.

Markand Adhikari, vice-chairman and managing director, Sri Adhikari Network Ltd, a DD content provider, said that he was in favour of the half hour time slot air time barter system, rather than larger time bands being blocked up by a single player, so that everyone operates "under a level playing field."

Interestingly, senior Doordarshan officials are reported to be against any re-negotiation with HFCL-Nine Broadcasting on the issue of giving an extension to the existing contract.

The Kerry Packer-backed outfit had last year bagged the prime time slot of 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM for Rs 1210 million. HFCL-Nine’s annual contract ends in September for the 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM slot and October for the 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM band. The minimum floor price in the new bids for the three-hour prime time band were put at RS 975 million.

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