Television

MIB, Prasar Bharati mulling B-school help on DD & FreeDish biz models

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MUMBAI: The government is exploring seeking help of an Indian Institute of Management to suggest ways on revitalising Doordarshan, including studying the existing business model of national broadcaster’s FTA DTH service DD FreeDish and whether further suggested improvements could be implemented.

According to government sources, the move is part of ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB)’s efforts to shore up the bottomlines of Prasar Bharati, an autonomous body that manages India’s two pubcasters, Doordarshan and All India Radio.

A B-school may be roped in to study the business model of DD FreeDish -- that at present auctions slots on the platform to private broadcasters too -- and explore whether if private sector TV channels are bumped off DD can generate revenue on the strength of its own channels, many of them also distributed terrestrially.

As per some media reports, DD not only put on hold the latest round of e-auctions for slots on FreeDish in August 2017 on an advisory from MIB, but has also stopped renewing agreements of TV channels, which are presently on the DTH platform but are faced with a blackout once their annual contract comes to an end.

A top Prasar Bharati official is said to have made a presentation to MIB minister Smriti Irani recently on how the DD set-up could be revitalised, including rejigging the business model for DD FreeDish, amongst other things.

Though most big private sector broadcasters like Star India, Zee, Viacom18 and Sony, all having their channels on FreeDish, have not yet officially reacted to DD FreeDish keeping in abeyance the e-auctions for administrative reasons, smaller TV channels may feel the pinch. One of them, Cinema 24x7, has moved the telecoms and broadcast disputes tribunal TDSAT seeking interim relief as its contract expired in September 2017 and, according to its petition, it failed to get clarifications from DD on future auctions.

The magic of DD’s FTA platform was discovered by TV channels a couple of years back with the battle for a slot intensifying in the last one year or so, egged on by BARC India starting to measure non-urban and rural audience. On DD FreeDish, it’s not pubcaster’s channels that top the list in terms of audience ratings, but mostly those belonging to the private broadcasters.

A TV executive, on the condition of anonymity, explained that while Doordarshan, as a statutory body, survives on annual grants from the government, in 2016-17, DD FreeDish recorded revenues of about Rs 2641.7 million, a 47 per cent increase from a year ago. Hence efforts to revamp the current business model for DD FreeDish, having almost 52 per cent rural viewership that attracts private TV channels willing to pay hefty carriage fee, could prove detrimental for the pubcaster’s revenue, the exec added.

Former MIB minister Manish Tiwari, while criticising DD’s reported moves to change the existing revenue models for DD FreeDish by putting on hold a transparent mechanism like e-auctions, told Indiantelevision.com, “DD FreeDish benefits from the presence of private TV channels on its platforms as it provides diversity of content to non-paying rural audiences.”

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