The big four broadcasters – Star, Zee, Sony and Viacom18 – seem to be not too keen on placing their general entertainment channels on DD Freedish this year. However, the broadcasters are looking to secure slots for their Movie and Music channels, highly placed sources confirmed the development with BestMediaInfo.com.
The big four have submitted applications for a total of 11 slots including GECs, Movies and Music.
Prasar Bharati sources told BestMediaInfo.com that Star has applied to bid for two slots, Sony has applied to bid for three channels, Zee intended to bid for four channels and Viacom18 for two channels on DD Freedish.
As per slots auctioned last year, four slots in Bucket A+ for GECs won by Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, Sony Pal and Colors Rishtey are likely to go vacant.
E-auction of MPEG-2 slots of Prasar Bharati’s DD Freedish DTH platform kicked off Monday. On Tuesday, the bidding for Bucket R (Devotional), Bucket A+ (GECs), Bucket A (Movies) and Bucket B (Music) took place.
The three reserved slots for Bucket R were picked by Ramdev’s Patanjali-owned channels for a whopping Rs 50 crore at more than 5X of the reserve price.
This was followed by the round-1 of auctions for five slots each in Bucket A+, A and B. However, none of the big four broadcasters won any slots for their GECs in the Bucket A+.
The successful bidders in the first round for five slots were – Shemaroo TV, The Q India, Enterr 10 GEC, Dangal and ABZY Cool/Azaad. The highest bidder in the segment was Shemaroo TV that shelled out Rs 15 crore 45 lakhs followed by The Q India with Rs 15 crore 40 lakhs, Enterr 10 GEC with Rs 15 crore 35 lakhs, Dangal with Rs 15 crore 25 lakhs and ABZY Cool/Azaad with Rs 15 crore 20 lakhs.
As per sources, the big four broadcasters are unlikely to bid aggressively on Wednesday as well and the remaining slots will most likely go vacant.
Sources said that broadcasters have a lot of pressure from pay DTH players to abstain from putting their channels on DD Freedish.
“On one hand, the DTH players are arm-twisting the broadcasters to not put their channels on Freedish. On the other hand, TRAI has also indicated that the broadcasters should bring down their MRPs for cable and DTH subscribers if they are providing their channels on Freedish for free,” said a media observer.
“Currently the situation is that dominant players such as Tata Play and Jio are not willing to support their reach if they (broadcasters) place their channels on Freedish,” the observer added.
A senior TV executive, under conditions of anonymity, said that abstaining from DD Freedish is a safer option as they are able to keep pay DTH players happy and also avoid unnecessary intervention from TRAI.
“They claim that DD Freedish has 40 million boxes but nobody knows what the actual number is. Though we can reuse a lot of our original content on Freedish but in the process we will end up drawing the ire of Pay DTH and financially it isn’t worth it,” the executive added.
It may be recalled that these four channels had decided to pull the plug from DD Freedish from March 1, 2019 as TRAI’s new tariff order implemented on March 31 did not allow inclusion of FTA channels in the pay channel bouquet. However, TDSAT struck down the TRAI’s provision twice and these channels made a comeback in June 2020.