MPEG-4 slot auction: Will high cost and lack of clarity keep broadcasters away?

The reserve price has been increased to Rs 50 lakh/annum from Rs 5 lakh/annum, and the incremental amount has been revised to a minimum of Rs 2 lakh and multiples against the initial Rs 10,000

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Mar 5, 2021 12:30 PM
DD Free Dish

After making a whooping Rs 731.34 crore from the sale of 57 MPEG-2 slots from the just-concluded 52nd e-auction, Prasar Bharati is ready for the auction of MPEG-4. However, broadcasters may not be too keen on participating this time as bidding could be quite an expensive affair here. Also, the chatter around discrepancies in the e-auction of MPEG-2 slots has left broadcasters skeptical about the whole process.

As per the amended policy guidelines issued just last week, bidding in the e-auction of vacant unreserved MPEG-4 slots will be open to all genre (language) channels at reserve price of Rs 50 lakh/annum. The reserve price initially stood at only Rs 5 lakh/annum. Not just that, the bidding is also set to get more expensive as per the new guidelines. The incremental amount in the auction bids of MPEG-4 slots has been revised at a minimum of Rs 2 lakh and multiples against the initial Rs 10000.

Moreover, the participation fee has also been increased in the new amended policy guideline from Rs 1.25 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

Another factor that is discouraging broadcasters is the fact that the number of vacant slots up for auction has not been declared in the invitation for participation.

“News broadcasters burnt a huge hole in their pocket in the MPEG-2 slot sales in the recent auction and had to push their bid budgets to astronomical sums because they were unsure about the number of slots that would be allotted to news. Broadcasters are worried that something similar will take place in the March 16, MPEG-4 auction at a time when budgets are not huge but the reserve price and the incremental amount have both gone up enormously,” said a small-scale GEC broadcaster who had participated in the auction last time too.

Generally, 18-19 slots are put up on auction in the category but this time around there is no mention or clarity on the number of vacant slots in the notice inviting applications for allotment of vacant MPEG-4 slots of DD Free Dish DTH Platform for the period from 01.04.2021 to 31.03.2022.

Broadcasters are also questioning the hike in price and whether it is justified for a slot that doesn’t have the reach of MPEG-2 slots. “If MPEG-2 slots gives us around 30 million reach, MPEG-4 is not even at half of its reach so why should we put in so much money for it,” questioned another regional broadcaster in the GEC category.

In the last auction in the category, held on November 4, 2020, the pubcaster had allotted MPEG-4 slots to News State UP/UK and Popular TV for the period 10.11.2020 - 31.03.2021.

In 2020, channels like 9X Jalwa, Samay,Sangeet Bangla and JK 24x7 News have also been allotted slots in the category.

However, according to a regional news broadcaster, the stakes could well be higher at the auction given some channels failed to secure slots in the MPEG-2 slots. “Since the auction is open for all categories and the reserve prices have gone up, the bigger channels that failed to secure spots in the MPEG-2 slots will bet big, making it difficult for smaller channels to survive in the auction. Even if the MPEG-4 slots have way lesser reach than the MPEG-2 slots, maintaining a spot on DD Free Dish is mandatory for broadcasters from the advertising point of view,” said the broadcaster.

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