's Perspectives

Prasar targets April launch

(Posted on 10 March 2004)

Here's a player that could have been the king, but chose not to as far as DTH is concerned.

One of the earliest ones to show an interest in starting a DTH service in India, India's pubcaster DD even had a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia's Astro, which operates a pay platform in Malaysia, for DTH in the mid-1990s. The MoU was allowed to lapse subsequently as no action was taking place on the policy front and DD's DTH project in charge, Urmilla Gupta, hopped over to Star India, when RK Basu was CEO of Rupert Murdoch's Indian operation, to head (unsuccessfully though) the DTH division.

Another aborted bid at having a go at DTH just before the last general elections - then it was the Election Commission that thumbed down DD's attempted forays - DD now has drawn up plans for a DTH service to be started from April. Armed with a war-chest of Rs 5 billion (spread over five years) for this project, DD's parent company, Prasar Bharati, has made sure this time its attempts are not stalled.

KS Sarma: Bullish about DTH

According to Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma, "The transponders have been obtained and other logistics are being given a final shape and if all goes well, our unique DTH service would be on air by April."

Unique? Yes, DD's DTH platform, for which a separate brand name has not yet been coined or thought of, would be the country's first and, probably, the only free DTH service. A majority of subscribers, which would comprise village panchayats, NGOs and select government funded educational institutes, would get the hardware free from Prasar Bharati and would also not pay any monthly subscription fee to watch a gaggle of 30 channels, including 20 of DD's.

Though Sarma, optimistically, hopes that other private satellite channels, apart from some free to air ones, would join DD's DTH platform, until now not much headway has been made with the likes of Star and Sony in this regard except "exploratory talks," a senior executive of a private satellite channel said.

The real reason for the government okaying financial support for DD's DTH forays is because the cost of expansion of terrestrial services of DD would have proved to be costlier, especially in the hilly and sparsely populated areas like the North-east India, comprising the seven states like Nagaland,
Mizoram and Assam.

Because DD is looking at its DTH foray as a public service from a public service broadcaster, an aggressive marketing is not expected during the first year.

Also read:

Can Star power say Tata to Zee's Dish, DD?
What's cooking on Dish TV?
The International Scenario
FAQs regarding DTH






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