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Soon, watch 200 channels free

india Updated: Jan 25, 2010 01:37 IST
Nandini R Iyer
Nandini R Iyer
Hindustan Times
free to air (FTA) channels

If you’re happy watching just the free to air (FTA) channels, you can indeed get them entirely free of cost by the end of the year. All you need do is install a set top box.

Currently, the various direct to home (DTH) service providers — Tata Sky, Dish TV, Reliance Big TV among others — offer various ‘bouquets’ of free and paid channels, which cost betw-een Rs 80 to Rs 1,200 per month. With the new option Doordarshan is planning, you won’t have to pay anything at all.

Doordarshan has its own DTH service already, called DD Direct, and it is free, but it provides only 59 FTA channels, most of which are Doordarshan’s own. Now the government has told Prasar Bharati to prepare a proposal by which the number of FTA channels DD Direct provides increases to 200.

Doordarshan officials believe the move will be a game changer. “It will bring about the kind of change that occurred when the government decided incoming mobile phone calls should be free,” said a senior official.

At present DD Direct reaches 6 million homes, while private DTH operators cater to 14-16 million homes. Officials expect its reach to expand to 30 million homes within months of launching the new product.

The moot question is whether some pay channels will be willing to turn free to take advantage of the huge viewership DD Direct expects to offer, making up in advertising rates what they lose from subscriptions. Officials said they offered another incentive: the carriage fee — annual price of beaming a channel — Doordarshan charges is lower than private operators.

“If DD Direct can put together a good combination, it will have a good market,” said Uday Shankar, CEO Star India. “But I doubt pay channels will shift.”