The completion of the digitisation process in India by the end of 2016 will help to upgrade the DD Freedish platform which will feature close to 250 channels. In an exclusive interview to NexTV India, C.K Jain, Deputy Director General (DDG) of Doordarshan India, parent organisation of DD Freedish, reveals the challenges faced by the Indian national broadcaster.
Q. What are the challenges that DD Freedish is facing in the current market?
A. Doordarshan being a public service broadcaster, we have to meet more challenges than private broadcasters because we have certain limitations of initiating certain projects and rolling out certain projects. It always takes time and we are in a public department. Challenges in the TV business are many folds and it has been in the past also. Now with the growth of the broadcasting industry that has taken place in India where we have more than 855 channels operating in the country, the first challenge is good quality content. The appetite for good quality content is ever increasing from the audience. This is one area. Broadcasters have to be in tune with the market to meet the demand of the quality of content that people are demanding.
Q. With regards to content distribution, what are the obstacles the industry is currently facing?
A. This is the second challenge in regards to the distribution of the content they are throwing out. Basically distribution in large countries such as India is still being regulated fully. The distribution industry is not completely regulated until we are fully digitalised. Distribution always remain a challenge for distributors even though they make a good content because they are unable to reach the audience they have targeted. This is another challenge that the television industry is facing and I am sure once the digitalisation process is complete by December 2016, this problem, to a certain extent, will be sorted out.
Q. Is there any project in the pipeline for DD Freedish?
A. We have been trying to keep up with the pace of the market. First and foremost, the project we are envisaging is to upgrade the DD Freedish platform. Right now it is carrying 64 channels but we are planning to move close to 112 channels in the near future.
Q. How is the migration to 112 channels going to affect the technology being used by the current STBs?
A. We are also migrating our technology from mpeg2 to mpeg4 but ensuring that the existing subscribers continue to receive the signal. In fact, to ensure that the customers who have mpeg2 Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) continue to receive the channels, we are migrating in phases. First the mpeg2 channels will remain and we will add the mpeg4 channels. Mpeg4 is a natural transition. All other DTH platforms have already moved to this technology. We were constraint by the existing subscribers.
Q. Any chance of providing more channels?
A.That is one area we are looking at and we are further upgrading our platform to 250 channels in the next 2 years and all STB’s by that time will be mpeg 4.
Q. What are the other projects that DD Freedish is working on?
A. We are also doing an important project on digital terrestrial transmission (DTT). We are upgrading our transmitters form analogue transmitters which will allow us to send close to 8 to 16 channels. We are increasing the number of transmitters in the one city and so we will be able to send 16 channels. People will be able to receive TV not only in the car, even at home, but they will be able to receive live television on their mobile. This technology is about to be rolled out very soon and in a few months we will be ready to go. We are in the process of making a business plan for this.
Q. Will DD Freedish provide High Definition (HD) channels in the near future?
A. It is my personal view and the policy of the organisation will be totally distant. We are getting to the audience and they are not equipped to receive HD signal. So why do we spend extra bandwidth and extra money on transmitting HD channels.
Q. How does DD Freedish plan to increase their number of subscribers?
A. To be precise, the last survey showed 234 million of households in the country. Out of 234 million, 168.5 million own at least one television. 65.5 million households which average 4.5 people per house amounts to nearly 250 million people who do not get to watch television in this country. This a potential market for us and for everybody as well and you see those broadcasters who were only in the pay business are now switching to FTA.