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Doordarshan Free Dish adds 50 new channels, total 113; DD encryption may hurt Dish TV

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Doodarshan Free Dish has added a whopping 50 new channels on the new MPEG 4 technology within 20 days of moving to its new home, GSAT-15.

Most of the new additions are movie channels, but some are still in testing mode. The new channels include Movie House, Manoranjan Movies, Khushboo TV, Houseful Action, MM Multiplex, RT Movies, Star Utsav, Chitrapat Marathi, Fakt Marathi, Shri News and Naptol Blue.

Existing users cannot get these channels using their existing set-top-box, as one needs a special MPEG-4 set top box for getting these channels. However, Dish TV users who have an HD- or MPEG4-enabled set top box can view these channels.

The channels were added after DD Free Dish, the state-owned Direct-to-Home service under the Prasar Bharati, was able to get a huge amount of extra bandwidth after India placed the GSAT-15 satellite in orbit in November.

Earlier, the DTH provider was operating on just 6 transponders on INSAT-4B using the old MPEG-2 DVB S format. Using the format, each transponder of 36 MHz can beam only around 12-20 channels, depending on the quality of the feed and other technical factors. As a result, DD Free Dish was giving only 63 channels before it moved from INSAT to GSAT-15.

However, the new satellite has a huge number of transponders — 24 to be precise.

At the same time, DD is also moving from compression standard MPEG 2 to MPEG 4 and broadcast standard DVB-S to DVB-S2. As a result, it can now beam around 32 standard-definition channels or 8 high-definition channels per transponder in top quality.

Since the GSAT-15 has 24 DTH transponders, the total capacity becomes 768 SD channels. Out of this, around one third — or 250 channels — are to be set apart for Free Dish, while the others are likely to be rented to private players.

Given that DD Free Dish charges around Rs 6 cr per year for carrying one channel, the total revenue if it were to sell all from 768 channels is Rs 4,600 cr per year, or nearly Rs 55,300 cr over the expected life time of 12 years for the satellite. In comparison, the total cost of developing and launching the entire satellite — of which the Ku band transponders are only a part — is estimated to be around Rs 2,000-3,000 cr.

It should also be noted that most DTH operators increase the number of channels they carry by around 15-25% by lowering the quality of the feed, though Doordarshan is reportedly not doing that.

ENCRYPTION AND DISH TV

DD Free Dish is also planning to introduce encryption for its channels — a move that might negatively affect the visibility and reach of the channels and cause inconvenience to viewers.

The Free Dish platform already has an estimated 20 mln installations, making it the biggest DTH operator in the country.

However, since anyone can install and receive the signal without any intervention from Doordarshan’s side, the exact number of subscribers is not known. Dish TV — which has around 15 mln subscribers — also allows all its subscribers to get all the channels of DD Direct Plus.

Along with increasing the channel count, Prasar Bharati is also planning to introduce encryption, which means that you have to buy your set-top-box from Doordarshan or its agents to continue to receive the channels. At present, a set-top-box costs only around Rs 650, but a new MPEG-4 box with encryption would cost at least double that.

The move could also result in an increase in costs for Dish TV as its subscribers will no longer be able to receive Free Dish channels are they are doing now, unless Doordarshan decides to implement some complex technology solution to allow all Dish TV subscribers to bypass the encryption.

Part of the reason why channels are ready to pay Rs 6 cr per year is because by doing so, they automatically are present on Dish TV’s platform as well. Otherwise, they would have to pay a hefty amount to Dish TV as carriage fees. Dish TV also benefits as its subscribers are able to receive Free Dish channels, taking the total channel count to nearly 500 — the highest in India.

Once encryption is in place, Dish TV will have to find one more transponder just to transmit the mandatory Doordarshan channels.

Other DTH operators like Tata Sky and Videocon D2h do not enjoy this privilege as their satellite position is too far away from that of Dish. GSAT-15 is located above 93.5 degrees east longitude, while Dish TV’s satellites are located at 95 degrees.

Two more providers who can take advantage of Free Dish channels are Sun Direct and Reliance Digital TV, both of which broadcast from Measat 3, which is located close by at 91.5 degrees. However, Sun Direct and Reliance Digital TV set top boxes are configured not to show channels from DD’s service.

WILL DD GO PAY?

One worrying aspect of encryption is that it enables Doordarshan to go ‘pay’.

Part of the reason why many people use Free Dish is because it is free and there are no monthly fees or recharges.

With encryption, Doordarshan can block all or some of the channels on its platform for non-paying customers.

There is no clarity whether Direct Plus will indeed do so, but chances are that at least some of the channels could be made pay channels once encryption is added later this year.

If that is done, you will have to pay money to receive those channels, but other channels will continue to be free. This will help channels on the platform make money from subscriptions instead of relying only on ads, and also lead to the introduction of more channels on the platform.

Most of the channels available in India have moved from free to pay over the past five years. These channels are currently not able to use the Free Dish platform as there is no way to get subscription fees. Besides, their existing agreements with other DTH operators will also be called into question if they give free feed to DD.

Despitie this, some pay channels like Aaj Tak and Big Magic Ganga have chosen to give their feeds free of cost of Doordarshan, and have agreed to pay yearly fees of a few crores to DD as well.

This is being done partly because of new rural-focused audience measurement facilities and the fact that the DD service is extremely popular in rural India as it does not require any type of recharging.

All that a user has to do is go to the nearest shop, pay around Rs 1,000, and the shopkeeper sends a technician to install the service. There is no recharge or monthly fees involved. Private players, on the other hand, charge Rs 165 or more per month.

List of new channels

Manoranjan MoviesMPEG 2
Movie HouseMPEG 4
Shri NewsMPEG 4
Star UtsavMPEG 4
Naaptol BlueMPEG 4
Khusboo TVMPEG 4
Housefull ActionMPEG 4
RT MoviesMPEG 4
Test 509MPEG 4
India NewsMPEG 4
Test 511MPEG 4
Test 512MPEG 4
MM MultiplexMPEG 4
Test 514MPEG 4
Fakt MaratiMPEG 4
Chitrapat MaratiMPEG 4
Test 517MPEG 4
Test D1MPEG 4
Test D2MPEG 4
Test D3MPEG 4
Test D4MPEG 4
Test D5MPEG 4
Test D6MPEG 4
Test D7MPEG 4
Test D8MPEG 4
Test D9MPEG 4
Test D10MPEG 4
Test D11MPEG 4
Test D12MPEG 4
Test D13MPEG 4
Test D14MPEG 4
Test D15MPEG 4
Test D16MPEG 4
Test D17MPEG 4
Test D18MPEG 4
Test D19MPEG 4
Test D20MPEG 4
Test D21MPEG 4
Test D22MPEG 4
Test D23MPEG 4
Test D24MPEG 4
Test D25MPEG 4
Test D26MPEG 4
Test D27MPEG 4
Test D28MPEG 4
Test D29MPEG 4
Test D30MPEG 4
Test S1MPEG 4
Test S2MPEG 4
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