Six news channels pay more to secure DD Free Dish slots


News channels have increased their spending to secure distribution on the free direct-to-home (DTH) platform, DD Free Dish, after Prasar Bharati revamped its e-auction strategy.

Six news channels – News18 India, ABP News, NDTV India, Republic Bharat, Zee News and TV9 Bharatvarsh – have collectively spent Rs 100 crore to secure slots on the DD Free Dish platform, according to people familiar with the e-auction process.

This is twice the amount they spent in previous year’s e-auction. The price for slots in the current auction has risen 50-100% for the six news channels.

News channels have paid Rs 16.68 crore on average for each slot, compared to Rs 9 crore last year. The reserve price for news channels was set at Rs 7 crore.

Senior executives of leading TV news networks said the remaining news channels that have not bid so far have no option but to bid for the slots since the industry’s call to sit out the e-auction has become infructuous.

The news broadcasters were earlier threatening to boycott the ongoing auctions, contending that the carriage fee for the next financial year would become unviable for the news genre.

Prasar Bharati has changed the e-auction methodology by allowing channels from other genres to bid for slots in a particular bucket that was earlier reserved for a specific genre.The news channels fear that the change in methodology will lead to massive inflation in the value of DD Free Dish slots.

The News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) and News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) had written a letter to information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur seeking his intervention in the matter. However, some member channels of both associations went ahead and participated in the e-auction despite a boycott call given by the NBDA and NBF.

Prasar Bharati’s collections from the sale of vacant DD Free Dish slots have crossed Rs 450 crore on the fourth day of the annual e-auction, which kicked off on March 14, said people privy to the development.

The public broadcaster is conducting its annual e-auction for selling vacant slots on DD Free Dish, which reaches an estimated 40-50 million homes. The slots are being auctioned for a one-year period from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024.



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