India's Hinduja group and state broadcaster Doordarshan have unveiled separate plans to follow rival Zee Telefilms into India's fledgling direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting sector.
The Hinduja group is planning to launch a 100-channel bouquet of DTH services by December 2001. This will include at least 25 specialist channels, along with a host of international and regional fare. The group has reportedly earmarked around $75m over the next two years for the project which will include putting in place a subscriber management system and internet-based call centre.
Meanwhile Doordarshan's board, headed by CEO Rajeeva Ratna Shah, met in New Delhi on Saturday to clear the broadcaster's entry into DTH. The public service broadcaster is expected to launch a platform in partnership with other local players.
The Indian government gave the greenlight to DTH services at the beginning of this month, but placed a foreign equity cap of up to 49%.
Private broadcaster Zee has already announced its intention to launch DTH services, in partnership with US-based Indian businessman Siva Sankaran's Sterling Group. The joint venture platform will involve several regional-language channels in Southern India.
However Zee's stake in the venture has not yet been decided as Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj also capped local private broadcaster's investment in DTH platforms at 20%. The move has angered Zee, which along with other broadcasters allied to the Confederation of Indian Industries, is opposing the move.
The DTH licences cost $2.5m and licensees will have to share 10% of revenue with the government and carry all of Doordarshan's channels. Licences will also have to be accompanied by a $10m bank guarantee.