700,000 STBs sold, DD's DTH service going places

NEW DELHI: DD Direct Plus, Indian pubcaster Doordarshan's DTH service, is gaining popularity with sales of set-top boxes zooming to over 700,000, according to latest figures collated by the broadcaster.

The southern state of Tamil Nadu has notched the maximum sale of boxes, 200,000, which is an indicator of indifferent cable TV services provided beyond the metros.

A senior official of Prasar Bharati, which manages DD and All India Radio, said, "The high sale of boxes in a state like Tamil Nadu, which has a high cable penetration of over 80 per cent, is itself an indication of the type of services being provided and how low-cost equipment can do the trick."

On an average the hardware to access DD Direct Plus costs Rs 3,500 (approximately $ 77) and in the grey market, which too is thriving as per unofficial figures, about 50 per cent of the original cost can be shaved off. There is no monthly subscription to be paid by subscribers.

In Tamil Nadu, inclusion of the popular Sun TV in the free DTH package has been the driver for DD Direct Plus.

Following Tamil Nadu --- where the sale of boxes have crossed the total number of subscribers in the country being boasted by private sector Dish TV, 20 per cent owned by Zee Telefilms --- is the state of Rajasthan where 90,000 boxes have been sold. Rajasthan is considered a low cable penetration market.

Next in the line is Maharashtra with 60,000 boxes, primarily sold outside big cities like Mumbai and Pune and Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat with 40,000 boxes sold in each of these states.

The Prasar Bharati official said that up till now DD was targeting single DD homes for its DTH service, but in some places it has been seen that the pull of regional channels (like Sun TV and ETV Marathi) has succeeded in penetrating cable dominated areas too.

DD has 900 dealers peppered across the country for the sale of DD Direct Plus boxes and they include the state-controlled Bharat Electronics Ltd, Spacelink and MCBS. All such companies also manufacture unbranded boxes for the DTH service of DD.

Having tasted initial success, Prasar Bharati will now be focusing on states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.

DD Direct Plus, as the KU-band service is known, is probably a unique experiment undertaken by a media company. For the first two years or so, beyond a one-time investment in the hardware, a subscriber would have to pay nothing. However, since the service is free, there are no moves to get any private sector pay channels, like Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony, NGC or Discovery on board.

Private sector TV channels that are being carried by DD Direct Plus include Zee Music, Smile TV and ETC Punjabi (from the Zee stable), Sun TV, Kairali TV, BBC, Akash Bangla, Star Utsav, Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, amongst the 30-odd channels being part of the service at the moment.

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