DTH

Zee looking at July launch for DTH services?

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NEW DELHI: Subhash Chandra companies Zee Telefilms and ASC Enterprises (which is implementing the Agrani satellite project), are preparing to launch a KU-band direct-to-home television service in India. A tentative timeframe that is being talked about for this within the group is July.

According to broadcasting industry sources, the Zee-Agrani combo has started talking about a DTH service for India. At a seminar held last week in the Capital, a senior Zee executive is also reported to have referred to the DTH service and that the group is looking at putting together a platform by "July or thereabouts".

However, indiantelevision.com's attempt to elicit an official response from Zee-Agrani was met with silence.

But, we also learn from government sources that the files relating to the two applicant companies for a DTH licence were in the information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's office yesterday and the minister is said to have studied them also.

That Zee-Agrani has started talking about a DTH service may also be because of the movements in the ministry and expect an initial go-ahead from the I&B ministry for this soon.

As the first step towards okaying a DTH venture the I&B ministry would need to issue a letter of intent (LoI) to the applicant, subsequent to which other parameters would have to be fulfilled.

But close on Chandra's heel for a DTH venture will also be Star, which has applied for a DTH licence through Space TV. It would also expect a LoI soon after ASC Enterprises that has applied for the licence, if not along with it.

There have been numerous clarifications sought by the ministry on various aspects of Space TV, including its shareholding pattern. At last count, a particular missive from the ministry had sought clarification on whether some directors of Space TV were employees of Star India.

Still, the big question to ask here could be: do the two prospective DTH players have the financial muscle to make investments in a DTH venture? A typical DTH venture would need investments worth between $ 400-500 million.

Unless Space TV is being backed up by the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star, the little known company with an acknowledged paid up capital of Rs 100 million would find it difficult to cobble together the massive investment that a DTH venture would require.

Chandra's case may be a bit different as the DTH platform is being sought to be put together by ASC Enterprises, where one of the subsidiaries has managed to attract foreign investment from Alcatel and Arianespace.

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