DD Free Dish emerged as enabler of competitiveness in M&E industry: Prasar Bharati CEO

Shashi Shekhar Vempati addressed the Video and Broadband Summit (VBS) 2022 on Wednesday.

Mumbai: With a presence in over 40 million households, DD Free Dish has emerged as an enabler of competitiveness in the media and entertainment industry, said Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati on Wednesday, highlighting the stupendous growth recorded by the platform in recent years.

Vempati delivered the keynote address at the 18th edition of the Video and Broadband Summit (VBS) organised virtually by on Wednesday. The day-long summit was co-powered by broadpeak, with Disney Star as the presenting partner and Nxtdigital as the summit partner.

Talking about the growth of DD Free Dish, the Prasar Bharati CEO said it was present in two crore households when he joined the public broadcaster in 2017 and has since doubled its base. “It was because of the Free Dish audience that channels like Dangal and genres like Bhojpuri have come of age,” he remarked. “There have been new, upstart channels that have challenged the incumbent bigger media houses. It has created a platform for people to sample content and subscribe to whatever they want to watch.

DD Free Dish now in 40 million households

During his five-year association with the public broadcaster, Vempati shared that he has observed striking changes in the way that the TV and video viewing market has evolved. According to him, the key factors that are driving this change are regulatory interventions, the decision by the government to phase-out analog terrestrial TV and the rise of OTT and digital.

“The pandemic had a tremendous impact on the way we work,” he elaborated. When I joined the organisation, everything was paper-based but now we’ve become IT-based. The situation has forced us to think innovatively and put technology first.”

Public Broadcaster’s Digital Turnaround

Prasar Bharati’s digital growth has doubled every year with its YouTube channels clocking more than a billion views every month. The public operator which operates more than 400+ radio stations is now delivering its radio services via the News On-Air app. “While the app has several million downloads and an active listener base, it has also become a proxy for us to understand what people like to listen to on the radio,” said Vempati. “Analytics from the app gives us insights like which is the top city for online radio listening (Pune) and which streams do people prefer in every city. It also lets us know what time people are listening and which programmes they love the most.”

He added that it was astounding that India has not leveraged its strength as the biggest media market and largest English-speaking market to build a local ecosystem for technology that can support the M&E sector. “As a public broadcaster, we invest (capital spending via government grants) up to Rs 100-200 crore in technology and it is very saddening to see this infusion of funds leaving the country,” he noted.

Need for indigenous technology-development

Most of the technology requirements of the M&E industry in India are imported and royalties go to entities in other countries. “We need to build a local ecosystem of technology vendors to supply the industry with all kinds of equipment,” said Vempati. “That’s why it is important that we focus on indigenous standards development.”

For example, most of the 5G tech stack has been framed by entities in other markets. Prasar Bharati has recently signed a MoU with IIT Kanpur to develop IIndian-specific standards for 5G that allow for convergence between broadband and broadcast. This will allow for new opportunity areas such as direct-to-mobile broadcasting that will be in line with India’s unique needs to deliver content directly to mobile.

Prasar Bharati developing next generation broadcast solution

“With millions of people live streaming every event, it is going to raise the costs of the network and the pipes are going to choke. The telcos will not be able to handle so much traffic and that will lead to buffering. The way out is having the ability to offload steaming traffic to broadcast infrastructure if necessary. This benefits everyone including big OTT platforms,” he added.

Another opportunity area that Vempati sees is innovation in the supply-side economics of content. “Why is content so expensive?” he asked. “There is a need to deliver higher quality content at lower cost and India should be cost leaders in terms of creating content, seeing the enormous talent base that we have. The M&E industry in India is looking for its “Walmart moment” when it comes to bringing down the cost of content. We should find innovative means, technologies, and approaches that can bring down the cost of content.”

Latest Reads
Digital channel Zindagi to launch on DTH platforms as a value-added service

Mumbai: Digital channel Zindagi which features popular Pakistani soap operas will now be available on DTH platform Dish TV, D2H and Tata Play as a value-added service. The service will be available starting on 23 May.

Television TV Channels People
Rakesh Jha joins Viacom18 as VP- creative (sports business), Sports18

Rakesh Jha has joined Viacom18 as vice president-creative (sports business), Sports18. He announced his new role on LinkedIn.

Television TV Channels People
"The best in the film-exhibition sector is yet to come" – PVR's CEO Gautam Dutta

Gautam Dutta is a veteran of the theatrical business. As CEO of PVR, he is taking the multiplex major through one of its most exciting phases, following the tough two years of the pandemic forcing it to shut down cinema halls. 

Television TV Channels Movie Channels
One Take Media brings the 'fun'tastic series Bablu Dablu Cubs

One Take Media has launched a fantastic series Bablu Dablu Cubs, which combines education and various teachings. It is one such fun package of edutainment series taking kids into an exciting world of the curious bear cubs. 

Television TV Channels Viewership
My11Circle Women’s T20 Challenge to air on Star Sports & Disney+Hotstar

Even as the pulsating IPLT20 tournament has entered the playoff stage, Disney Star India has announced that it’s going to add to cricket lovers’ excitement by airing My11Circle Women’s T20 Challenge from 23 May to 28 May on the Star Sports network and stream it on Disney+ Hotstar as well. The...

Television TV Channels Sports
Applause Entertainment to make a series on Mahatma Gandhi

Production house Applause Entertainment will make a series on Mahatma Gandhi. The company has bought the rights to two books by Ramachandra Guha. Actor Pratik Gandhi will play Mahatma Gandhi.

Television Production House Film Production
Balaji Telefilms reported an income of Rs 119 crore for Q4 FY22

Balaji Telefilms has announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended 31 March 2022. The group posted an income of Rs 119 crore for the quarter and a loss of Rs 33.3 crore.

Television Production House Film Production
Zee Theatre expands its content slate with four musical blockbusters

Mumbai: Zee Theatre brings star-studded stage productions like "The Sound of Music", "Hairspray Live!", "Peter Pan Live!" and "Billy Elliot: The Musical" to the small screen. This is the first time that four international musical blockbusters can be seen on Indian television.

Television TV Channels GECs
Nachiket Pantvaidya resigns as group CEO of Balaji Telefilms

Mumbai: Nachiket Pantvaidya has resigned as group chief executive officer of Balaji Telefilms, the company notified in a regulatory filing. This was his second stint with the company. He was appointed as group CEO in July 2021. Before rejoining Balaji Telefilms, Pantvaidya was the managing director...

Television TV Channels People