The auction for DD Metro various slots from 10 pm to 12.30 am suggests that the channel is not so hot any longer, at least not for late-night viewing. The pre-qualification bids for these slots, which were opened on Monday at Mandi House, came as a shock to Prasar Bharati officials. They couldn't believe it when they found a solitary bidder-Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC)-for the 10.30 to 11 pm slots. There was no other bidder for this slot or for any other slot.
Although the 10-10.30 pm timeband on the channel had become popular with TV Today's Hindi news programme Aaj Tak, even this slot went without a bidder. Industry watchers say that after Prasar Bharati decided to make the entire 10 pm to 12.30 am slot entertainment-based, potential `news' players naturally moved out of the fray. Another reason is the high floor price of Rs 15 crore for the slot.
The channel's misery is also partly due to Prasar Bharati barring Kerry Packer's Channel Nine from bidding in this auction. One of the conditions in the auction form was that any channel/software company clocking over seven hours a week under sponsored category on DD Metro would not be eligible for bidding. Therefore, Channel Nine, which had contributed majorly in lifting the ratings of DD Metro, had to stay out despite its willingness to buy more slots on this channel.
Recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee pointed out that Channel Nine, despite being a foreign company, had got the 7 to 10 pm slot on DD Metro without going through a global bidding. Prasar Bharati had taken a note of the Standing Committee observation, and the result is before us.
With a lone bidder and no competition, opening of the financial bid on January 17 won't hold any surprise for anybody. For record, the floor price for the 10.30-11 pm slot is Rs 7.5 crore. One only hopes that Pritish Nandy wouldn't let DD down this time, like it did during the very recent Sydney Olympic Games when it walked out of its marketing contract mid-way through the Games.