Regulators

WOW Cinema petitions TDSAT on delayed auctions for DD FreeDish slots

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MUMBAI: Peeved by Doordarshan’s decision to keep a new round of e-auctions for slots for private TV channels on pubcaster’s FTA DTH service FreeDish on hold and fear of being shoved off the platform after annual contract expiry, WOW Cinema has moved disputes tribunal TDSAT questioning Prasar Bharati’s stand.

Wow Cinema’s manager Cinema 24x7 Pvt. Ltd. has requested telecoms and broadcast disputes tribunal TDSAT, amongst other temporary relief, to restrain DD’s parent Prasar Bharati from removing the TV channel from the DTH platform after expiry of the agreed terms in September 2017 till the final disposal of the present petition.

As reported by Indiantelevision.com earlier, slots for private broadcasters were not being filled up after falling vacant on DD FreeDish with the expiry of annual contracts, while Prasar Bharati has also reportedly put on hold a fresh round of e-auctions since August 2017 citing “administrative reasons”.

This stance of the pubcaster, according to the petition, would/could affect more TV channels on DD FreeDish. According to the petition, which is likely to come up for preliminary hearing on 12 October 2017 at TDSAT, on account of absence of clarity on e-auctions from Prasar Bharati and the agreement with the petitioner coming to an end September 2017, WOW Cinema would not be available to viewers of FreeDish despite the petitioner’s willingness to fulfil all future obligations as part of auto-renewal of the contract.

However, Prasar Bharati, through its counsel, has argued that since the petitioner was free to participate in a fresh round of auctions (as and when it happens) and would be governed by a fresh agreement on winning a slot, the request for an auto-extension was unfounded.

It was also submitted by Prasar Bharati that two more channels (VAA Movies and RT Movies) too had gone off DD FreeDish due to the expiry of their agreements in August 2017--- and so Wow Cinema is not an exception.

DD FreeDish, a multi-channel FTA DTH service, was launched by Prasar Bharati in December 2004 and, at present, carried approximately 80 SD TV channels, along with 32 radio channels. This Ku-Band DTH service provides TV coverage throughout the Indian Territory (except Andaman & Nicobar islands) and, reportedly, has a subscriber base of about 22 millions.

Though FreeDish is now over a decade old, but it’s only in the last few years that private TV channels realised its importance and the platform’s reach. With BARC India starting to measure rural audience, the primary base of FreeDish, private broadcasters started to jump on to the FTA bandwagon --- even paying sizable carriage fee. WOW Cinema, for example, paid Rs. 80 million in an e-auction for a year’s shelf life on DD’s KU-band platform.

Not only some private TV channels from the stable of big broadcast companies like Zee, Viacom18, Sony and Discovery, GECs and news channels included, had hopped on to the FTA bandwagon, but the likes of Star India had recently launched revamped or new TV channels (Star Bharat and Star Sports First) on the DD FreeDish with fresh programming to extend their reach and improve on audience measurement data.

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