DD appoints marketing agency for DTH service

NEW DELHI: Pubcaster Doordarshan, proposing to launch its free KU-band direct-to-home television service on 15 August, expects to seed the market with over 10,000 boxes before the launch date. Some boxes would be sold, while a bulk would be distributed free. It has also appointed a marketing agency towards the purpose.

Pointing out that the launch of DD Direct -- as the DTH service has been christened -- would be a "soft" one, bereft of hype associated with such initiatives in the broadcast industry, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma told today, "We expect to have distributed 10,000 boxes -- needed to access the DTH service -- by mid-August and the vendor for the boxes has intimated us that the effort would be to sell additional boxes."

According to Sarma, DD has also appointed a marketing agency to have the set-top boxes for the DTH service to be sold through outlets in various cities. "If the promise of the vendor comes through, then about 20,000 boxes would be sold over the period." The price of the boxes has been kept nominal, Sarma added.

The launch of the DD Direct, to be beamed through NSS6 satellite, had been a matter of speculation for sometime in the government and industry circles for various reasons. One being whether the present Congress-led government would finally go ahead with the launch of the DTH service.

Though Prasar Bharati, which manages DD and sibling All-India Radio, had made an offer to private sector TV channels to come on board the DTH platform, the response had been lukewarm. Most of the Hindi-language entertainment channels have preferred to keep away. But on the other hand, some popular South Indian language channels, including two from the Sun TV family, have agreed to be part of DD Direct, which also has Star's free-to-

air Star Utsav.

Sarma said that DD Direct would be launched with 17 channels, including private channels, but admitted that no Sony channels are part of the bouquet.

DD had decided last year to launch a KU-band DTH service as part of its expansion. A feasibility study undertaken indicated that it would be a costlier affair to expand terrestrially and so the DTH mode was opted for especially keeping in mind border areas and north-eastern parts of the country where both terrestrial and cable TV signals are either fuzzy or do not exist at all.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in October last okayed pubcaster Doordarshan's forays into DTH television service and gave a nod to government assistance amounting to Rs 1,650 million in the first phase.

The assistance was to be disbursed over a period of three years starting from the current financial year. The one-time cost of installation of hardware would be approximately Rs 6,000, which is also expected to come down to Rs 3,000.

The CCEA had also approved, in principle, a proposal that after three years, DD can "go pay" with its DTH service to generate additional revenue for keeping up the service. By "going pay" means that subscribers would have to pay a monthly subscription for the service as they would pay for any other DTH service in the country.

DD initially plans to distribute 10,000 TV sets and dish antennas free-of-cost to public institutes like village panchayats, some educational institutions and NGOs.

At the moment, there is only one DTH service in India, Dish TV, which is promoted by Subhash Chandra's companies. The Tata-Star combine are awaiting a clearance from the information and broadcasting ministry for its proposed DTH service.

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