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Prasar Bharati revenue likely to cross Rs 10 billion in FY 2006

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NEW DELHI: For the first time in its history, Prasar Bharati, running Indian pubcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR), is likely to cross the Rs 10 billion revenue mark.

"We have been doing quite well this financial year (April-March) and expect to close our books with a Rs 1,000 crore (10 billion) revenue in March 2006," Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma told Indiantelevision.com during a wide ranging interview.

While national broadcaster DD will end up contributing a lion's share to Prasar Bharati's kitty, less-hyped sibling AIR, according to Sarma, is likely to clock over Rs 2 billion, having crossed the magical Rs 1 billion-mark in 2003-04.

According to Sarma, a "revitalized" Prasar Bharati, where the effort has been to "change the mindset of people," is reaping the benefits of undertaking in-house marketing of programmes on its channels instead of outsourcing such activities.

"We realised that there were hundreds of people out there in the market trying to sell our programmes and, in the process, underselling the product in an effort to upstage competitors. So, we decided to do our own marketing and that is showing results," Sarma said.

At present, a 10-second slot on prime time on DD National would cost Rs 65,000, while a non-prime time slot could be had for between Rs 20,000 - Rs 40,000. A prime time slot on DD news is going for Rs 5,000.

It is worth noting that in the 2004-05 fiscal, the pubcaster raked in revenues in the region of Rs 7.88 billion (DD Rs 6.53 billion and AIR Rs 1.35 billion).

Prasar Bharati is also looking at making optimal use of its existing manpower and assets, while devising strategies to tap newer sources of revenue.Other initiatives include making programmes' on-air life span on national broadcaster DD ratings-linked.

"Such thinking has led us to undertake work for government organisations more aggressively. Revenues from government organisation-related work (that includes narrowcasting work for agriculture ministry, for instance) is likely to contribute approximately Rs 300 crore to our total income this year, signifying an upswing," Sarma said.

Each time band of Doordarshan has a basic benchmark for TRPs, which will be utilised for monitoring the ratings and continuance of slotted programmes. The TRP of all TV homes and SEC ABC 15+ females will be monitored for this purpose. Depending on continuous analysis, benchmark for different time slots on DD National, for example, has been set.

On prime time (evenings), the benchmark ratings are between 6 and above. Similarly for mid prime time, it is between 3 and 6, while time slots that could generate ratings below three are early morning till 11 am and late night slots after 11 pm.

With a financial restructuring of Prasar Bharati --- being studied by a committee headed by a senior bureaucrat from the information and broadcasting ministry --- in the offing, the organisation is streamlining its activities and has come out with an annual report where profit and loss accounts as well as all assets have been properly documented.

"The restructuring will be good for the organization and the employees' union (that had petitioned the Prime Minister earlier this year to dismantle Prasar Bharati's existing autonomous structure) too is supporting us now," Sarma said.

As part of the restructuring game plan, DD has also started taking ownership of programmes telecast on its network. In the past, rights of most programmes used to rest with outside producers as DD depended heavily on outsiders to give them entertainment-related fare.

According to Sarma, Prasar Bharati, which runs a subscription free DTH service, is looking at expanding aggressively overseas. Deals for the US market for four DD channels have already been signed, while negotiations are on for other markets like the UK and Middle East.

Doordarshan, the national television service of India devoted to public service broadcasting, is one of the largest terrestrial networks in the world. Its network of 1314 terrestrial transmitters covers more than 90 per cent of the country's population.

At the time of Independence in 1947, AIR had six stations and 18 transmitters covering 11 per cent of the population. Today, through its 215 stations and 337 transmitters, it services 99 per cent of the population.

(Rs 46= 1 US$)

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