52nd DD Free Dish Auction: Why news slots are touching sky-high prices

As per highly placed sources, the news bucket has already pooled in close to Rs 150 crore in the week-long auction

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Feb 27, 2021 9:38 AM

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It has always been expensive for news broadcasters to be on DD Free Dish, but at the 52nd e-auction of MPEG2, the bids went bigger than ever before.

As per highly placed sources, the news bucket has already pooled in close to Rs 150 crore in the week-long auction. Apparently, another slot will be up for grabs at the final round of auction on Saturday and the news broadcasters who haven’t managed to secure a slot already are ready to go all out on the last available slot as being on the platform is of utmost importance in terms of viewership and reach for the category.

Turns out, the public broadcaster has been opening up more slots than expected for the category and has managed to clock unprecedented bidding rates.

In the first phase, Bucket C (news and current affairs) saw five channels (Aaj Tak, ABP, TV9, News Nation and News18) winning slots for more than Rs 90 crore, with the highest bid valued at Rs 22.05 crore.

Turns out, unexpected slots kept opening up pushing the bid values further.

There are a total of 88 slots available on DD Free Dish. As per the latest LCN placements, Doordarshan has 35 channels on the platform followed by two religious channels and 51 private TV channels for which slots are auctioned. As per industry sources, there were 10 applicants for  Category A+ for the annual e-auction, followed by 15 applicants for Category A, 14 for Category B, 12 for Category C and 5 each for Category D and R1. In the auction, technically 53 slots should have come in wherein 5 channels per genre are reserved in 1st session which leaves limited slots for the second session. As a result, when channels like Republic, Zee News and India TV failed to secure slots in the first round, they increased their bid money because no one expected more than one slot opening up for the category in round 2.

According to sources, high-level meetings took place at the ministry level where it was decided to drop some DD channels to accommodate more private news channels. Four auctions for news channels happened on Friday (26.02.2021). Every time the auction started, broadcasters felt that it would be the last slot and so kept on bidding high. The slots sold on Friday went to Zee News, Republic Bharat, Aaj Tak Tez, and Zee Hindustan for a total price of Rs 75 crore, with the highest bid valued at Rs 21.15 crore.

Interestingly, the public broadcaster has written to unsuccessful bidders again that auction for news will once again start at 10.30 am on Saturday (27.02.2021). NDTV, India TV and News24 are yet to take slots.

Most of the news broadcasters are in a state of shock as they have spent a major chunk of their annual revenue in buying slots at the auction as they have no option but to be on the free dish platform irrespective of the price it comes for.

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