The public sector broadcaster plans to air popular old shows as well as fresh new content on DD RETRO
The retelecast of mythological shows such as Ramayan and Mahabharat has propelled public service broadcaster Prasar Bharti backed Doordarshan (DD) into the limelight. Buoyed by this, Prasar Bharti on April 13 launched a new general entertainment channel (GEC) DD RETRO. Catering specifically to the audiences’ nostalgia, DD RETRO airs old shows from DD’s archives. According to Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharti, the broadcaster had been planning to launch a new GEC channel apart from the two existing channels – DD National and DD Bharti. “We have been looking to build a dedicated GEC channel for some time now. If all goes well DD RETRO could emerge as that channel,” he added.
DD RETRO started airing its content a couple of days ago. Before this, the channel was showing devotional songs (bhajans) during its test transmissions. At present, the shows aired on DD RETRO are the same as that on DD National. Apart from Ramayana and Mahabharat, the channel is presently showcasing Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s Chanakya and Upanishad Ganga, Shaktimaan featuring actor Mukesh Khanna, Shriman Shrimati, Shah Rukh Khan’s Circus, Byomkesh Bakshi, The Jungle Book and sitcoms Buniyad and Dekh Bhai Dekh. Going forward, the broadcaster plans to add fresh content. “The goal is not to duplicate or conflict with DD National or DD Bharati but to offer a third GEC alternative with a mix of content from our own archives, old DD serials and some content that is being exposed to DD FreeDish audience for the first time,” Vempati added.
As per the data provided by TV audience measurement body, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) (Across Genre: All India (Urban+Rural), the re-telecast of Mahabharat and Ramayan resulted in nearly 40,000% jump in viewership for Doordarshan, catapulting it into being the most-watched channel.
Currently, the channel does not have any advertisements. According to industry estimates, the cost of a ten-second ad spot on popular GECs such as Star, Colors, among others ranges between Rs 1 lakh – Rs 1.5 lakh during prime time that is between 8 pm – 10 pm. However, with most of the inventory being vacant, ad spots on GECs are currently being sold at a discount of 40%-50%. DD is believed to have increased its ad rates given the sharp rise in viewership. At present, a ten-second ad spot on DD during Ramayan is being sold at Rs 65,000, while a ten-second ad spot for Mahabharat is available at Rs 15,000. Pre-Covid times, the price of a ten-second ad spot on DD ranged between Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000. As per Divya Karani, CEO, dentsuX, DD has seen an increase in its ad rates post lockdown. “DD RETRO has a strong prospect in fetching advertisements due to the viewership it will garner on the back of mythological content,” Karani added.
The channel is currently available on DD FreeDish along with direct-to-home (DTH) platforms such as Airtel Digital, Sun Direct and Fastway Cable. The restrictions in availability across DTH platforms might be one of the reasons behind the channel’s lack of advertisement, “The biggest issue with DD RETRO is its availability on only Free Dish platform, some select DTH platforms and cable operators, restricting its reach. Given that these shows have not been seen by many it could get good sampling by the audiences but access needs to be increased. If they are able to ensure connectivity of over 50% cable and satellite television households, then it could get scale,” Navin Khemka, CEO South Asia, MediaCom, said.
But this rise may not last long. According to Lloyd Mathias, angel investor and business strategist, DD RETRO will face a stiff challenge to retain its viewership base post-Covid-19, as private GECs will be able to air fresh content. Will DD’s plan to infuse fresh content work? Only time will tell.