Prasar Bharati has invited applications for the allotment of vacant MPEG-2 slots of the DD Freedish platform for the period from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, through the 67th online e-auction process that would be tentatively held from March 13, 2023.
The e-auction will be conducted according to the e-auction methodology for the allotment of DD Freedish slots to the private TV channels notified by Prasar Bharati on January 27, 2023.
Only the satellite channels licensed by the MIB would be allowed to participate in the e-auction.
Only companies holding valid permission from the Ministry of I&B can apply for participation in the e-auction for the allocation of DD Freedish slots.
International public broadcasters licensed by the Ministry of I&B can also participate in the e-auction.
The subscribers of MPEG-2 set-top-boxes are estimated to be in the range of 40-45 million.
The biggest change in methodology is that each round of e-auction will offer six slots in every bucket. Earlier, five slots were auctioned in each round of a bucket.
The next major change is the increase in base price by Rs 1 crore for each bucket from the second round onwards.
Further, the teleshopping channels have been downgraded from bucket A+ to bucket A. The teleshopping channel will now fall under the base price of Rs 12 crore from the earlier price of Rs 15 crore.
English news channels have been shifted to bucket D from bucket C. Despite the fact that no English news channel ever participated in the auction of the DD Freedish slot, the pubcaster has reduced the entry cost for them from Rs 7 crore to Rs 6 crore.
The devotional genre (Spiritual/AAYUSH channels) has been shifted to bucket D from bucket R1. The reserve price for bucket D is Rs 6 crore, whereas it is Rs 3 crore for bucket R1.
However, in 2022 e-auctions, the spiritual channels spent an average of Rs 17 crore for a DD Freedish slot.
In total, Freedish had 76 slots for private TV channels which is likely to increase to at least 81 in the upcoming e-auction.
The anxiety amongst broadcasters for a slot on the pubcaster-owned platform is bound to grow as the broadcast sector is consistently reeling under pressure from multiple quarters.
Reliable sources told BestMediaInfo.com that BARC India was ready with its universe update and DD Freedish households have made big headway in the new universe.
Traditionally, Hindi general entertainment channels spent between Rs 15 crore to Rs 16 crore for a slot under bucket A+ on a base price of Rs 15 crore.
India’s top four broadcasters kept leaving and coming back to the DD Freedish auction each year under pressure from private DTH and cable operators.
However, the experiment has failed multiple times as the private DTH and cable sector has not been able to deliver the desired distribution revenue. Moreover, the top broadcasters have lost a huge chunk of advertising revenue because of a drop in reach after moving away from DD Freedish.
Despite this, the average cost has remained stable even as a few Hindi GECs have entered into the fray.
This year, all four broadcasters will be bidding for a lot each in bucket A+, thus taking the number of potential bidders for the top bucket to 14.
The existing number of channels in bucket A comprising Hindi movie channels is 14 - which is likely to remain the same this year as well.
The e-auction for bucket B comprising music channels is expected to be wrapped up in the first round with six players in the fray.
Bucket C comprising Hindi news channels is the most competitive bucket. It has 21 channels currently, including a few Hindi regional news channels.
Among these 21 news channels, 14 national Hindi news channels participated in the e-auction under bucket C and spent between Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 11 crore.
With the closure of Zee Hindustan and the addition of two national Hindi channels - Bharat24 and Bharat Express, the competition for bucket C is likely to remain similar to the previous year.