For several years, viewers and broadcasters have been banging doors at Doordarshan to increase its bouquet of Free-To-Air channels. While the public broadcaster has made several un-kept promises during the past several years, it now seems to have galvanised action, due to an acute need to generate operational revenues.
63 CRORE E-AUCTION
Infact, the addition of new channels has occupied main stage with the recently concluded eauctions. Doordarshan’s recent eauctions allotted 26 new channel slots to private broadcasters on DD Direct Plus, bringing in Rs 63 Crores carriage fee per year. This is more than 3 times the carriage fee before migrating to the e-auction mechanism 2 months ago. At that time, DD Direct charged a carriage fee of just Rs 80 Lakhs per channel, and there was a wait list of almost 100 free-to-air channels that wanted to join the platform.
63 CRORE E-AUCTION
Doordarshan current offers its original 54 channels and the recently auctioned 26 channels. All these 80 channels are broadcast using MPEG-2 compression.
250 CHANNEL PLAN
Spurred by the huge revenues generated by just 26 new channels, Doordarshan has declared now plans provide a total of 250 FTA channels. The plan, approved by Prasar Bharti, will be implemented in 2 phases.
Phase 1 will see a total of 150 channels on DD Direct+ by end December 2011.
Another 100 channels will be added on DD Direct+ by end December 2012.
REMAINS ON INSAT 4B
A major concern has been that the huge addition of channels will require a large number of additional transponders that just not available on the existing satellite – INSAT-4B. If the service shifted to a new satellite, all the existing users; most of who are in rural areas, will have to re-align their dish antenna. Many may not even be aware of the shift, rendering their reception equipment non functional, and reducing viewership.
MPEG-4 FOR ALL NEW CHANNELS
To avoid this, Doordarshan has decided to introduce all the 170 new channels on the more bandwidth efficient MPEG-4.
Doordarshan reckons that the existing 80 channels retained on MPEG-2 and all future channels on MPEG-4 will accommodate the projected 250 FTA channels, with the probable requirement of just 1 more Ku Band transponder on the INSAT-4B satellite.
This will open up a huge market for import and supply of MPEG-4 satellite receivers that will be required by end December 2011. The MPEG-4 satellite receivers can also receive MPEG-2 transmissions, enabling users to receive all the channels on DD Direct+.
- 80 Existing Channels Remain On MPEG-2
- 170 New Channels On MPEG-4
- Transmissions Continue From INSAT-4B
- Private Sector To Operate & Maintain The Service, On Contract
OPERATE & MAINTAIN CONTRACT
Doordarshan with its high public sector overheads has realised that its costs to operate and maintain DD Direct+ are steep. As a result, it has taken a decision to contract out the operation and maintenance of DD Direct+ to a private sector operator. This will most probably be an existing private sector DTH platform, since they already have the necessary expertise.
Bids will soon be invited, and the contract is likely to be finalised before end 2011.
Skeptics point out that the past several years Doordarshan has defaulted on almost all its promises regarding the growth of DD Direct+. However, the recent financial bonanza from its eauctions has spurred the slumbering broadcaster into action. Will we see 150 channels on DD Direct+ by end December this year?