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How DD Freedish e-auction for 2023-24 will play out for broadcasters

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

The race for getting on the free-to-air DTH platform DD Freedish has kicked off with Prasar Bharati revising the methodology for e-auction days ahead of inviting bids from private broadcasters.

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. 

“DD Freedish households in the new universe would be close to 50 million and no broadcaster can afford to lose such a base. It is as good as Pay DTH subscriptions and Pay cable subscriptions, separately,” said the source.

DD Freedish offers unparalleled reach to any channel of any genre and with the e-auction for 2023-24 in the pipeline, broadcasters have started working on their Freedish strategy.

Among all the factors, inflated pricing as a result of fear of missing out (FOMO) has been the biggest concern for the broadcasters, specially from the news genre which saw channels bidding for a slot for over Rs 20 crore in 2021. That is 3X of the reserve price.

Here’s how the upcoming e-auctions for 2023-24 are likely to play out in the current situation.

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.

“Given the importance of news channels for the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections, it is believed that the government will accommodate all the news channels on the DD Freedish platform. We are pretty much sure that the average slot price could drop further than the last year,” said an industry analyst.

The revised policy guidelines said that the differential pricing for genre will be based on the principle of higher Reserve Price for genre with greater commercial potential and public interest objective.

However, many industry experts questioned the logic behind keeping teleshopping, music and Bhojpuri language channels above the news genre.

“Going by public interest objective, how can news fare below teleshopping, music and Bhojpuri genres? Except for 2022 e-auctions, news channels have spent between Rs 10 crore to Rs 20 crore because of fear of losing out. News channels cannot survive without Freedish and they always fear that the slots will be exhausted by the time the second round of auction takes place for bucket C,” a leading national Hindi news broadcaster told BestMediaInfo.com.

“Auction is designed in a manner to create panic and generate as much revenue as possible. In all, the average pricing will remain low or even further low if the channels across genres will not panic and believe that they will get a slot,” said the industry analyst quoted above.


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