The latest offering from Rupert Murdoch’s STAR bouquet of channels—Star Utsav—is likely to join public broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s direct-to-home (DTH) platform. Incidentally, STAR hasn’t joined Zee group’s DTH—Dish TV. STAR’s own application for the DTH venture (in partnership with the Tatas) is yet to get government approval.
Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma confirmed that Star has shown interest in making its Utsav channel part of the pubcaster’s DTH bouquet. Called Ku band service, Prasar Bharati’s Rs 500-crore DTH project would be launched in early July, Mr Sarma said.
STAR Utsav, a free-to-air channel, carries reruns of popular soaps, that have been already shown on TRP-churner STAR Plus. When contacted, a STAR India official said that no formal agreement has been signed yet between Prasar Bharati and STAR on this. But, STAR is in principle, open to the idea of getting on-board Prasar Bharati’s Ku band platform, the official added.
Besides STAR Utsav, other broadcasters like Zee and Sun network have also shown interest in Prasar Bharati’s DTH, according to Mr Sarma. Sun TV is promoted by Kalanithi Maran, brother of union minister for communications and IT Dayanidhi Maran, who was managing director of the network earlier.
Relaxing its stand on charging Rs 75 lakh per channel per year, Prasar Bharati has now decided to carry the private channels free of cost, at least for the initial six months. Mr Sarma reiterated that the public broadcaster’s direct-to-home platform would be meant for remote areas of the country and carry free-to-air channels only.
Interestingly, this is not for the first time that Prasar Bharati is entering a pact with Mr Murdoch’s businesses. For instance, the state broadcaster is also in advance-level talks with UK-based BskyB for its overseas service.