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DD Free Dish looks at advertising for monetisation

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MUMBAI: The government’s own direct-to-home (DTH) platform DD Free Dish has had a good run since launch because of its wide acceptance, especially in the rural areas where the reach of cable is limited and pay TV is expensive. Now, the government is drawing up plans to make money from the platform.

Last year, the government sanctioned a scheme to extend the number of channels to up to 250. In a reply in the Lok Sabha recently, Minister of State in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) Rajyavardhan Rathore said that this would enable Free Dish to generate revenue via advertisements. Quoting a private newspaper, the response mentions that private channels easily garner Rs 500-700 crore as revenue a year while a channel slot on Free Dish is as low as Rs 6-8 crore. He admitted that there were limitations to the revenue models that could be adapted into the free service if it wanted to ensure quality and reach.

Another means of making money is via auction of channel slots on the DTH platform, which turned into a legal case when the auctions were arbitrarily called off mid last year by Smriti Irani, the information and broadcasting minister. Auctions have been kept in abeyance till a settlement is reached between Prasar Bharati and the networks that have reached out to the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal. The tribunal has asked the government to conduct a comprehensive review on the auctioning policy for Free Dish before any stand is taken.

At present, there are 72 free channels and 39 radio stations available on Free Dish.

Updating the parliament on its growth, Rathore added that about 66,000 DTH set-top boxes have been given out in tribal, remote and border areas. According to estimates, Free Dish’s total subscriber base is 22 million.

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