Is another free-to-air (FTA) DTH operator pawing to take off in India? If the statements made by the Pantel Technologies (the company that took over the ailing Reliance Big DTH) management in media releases are to be believed, then the answer is in the affirmative.

Yesterday, Sri Adhikari Brothers Television Network and Pantel Technologies announced through a release on the Bombay Stock Exchange that the companies had arrived at an understanding to jointly create a bouquet of over 20 FTA channels comprising diverse genres, such as entertainment, kids, infotainment, mythological, and movies.

The release further stated that “the varied product offering will strengthen the business of Reliance Big TV (RBTV) and will give a leg up to the largest FTA network in India. FTA channels have shown an upsurge with all the leading broadcasters showing a keen interest in the FTA product offering.”

Pantel Technologies CMD Vijendra Singh was quoted in the release as saying: “Our main aim is to develop the entertainment appetite of the rural market and create an alternative India. With our coalition with Sab Group, we will bring together our technological proficiency and their content expertise thereby enabling us to provide good content for rural India, which is what we are committed to for their upliftment.”

Pantel had acquired the entire shareholding of RBTV with the business on an “as-is, where-is” basis. The transaction ensured that all 1.2 million customers of Big TV would continue to enjoy uninterrupted services, the company said in a statement. The deal also ensured continuity of employment for about 500 employees of RBTV.

Attempts to connect with SAB group managing director Markand Adhikari and Singh were not successful.

However, if Indiantelevision.com’s interpretation of the announcement today is correct, then it should prove encouraging for private broadcasters. The Prasar Bharti-owned FTA service FreeDish has been an unmitigated success but its future looks in doubt with conflicting reports appearing about whether the powers that be want to continue providing the slots to private players. According to sources in the public sector Prasar Bharti, minister of information and broadcasting Smriti Irani has put a full stop to the e-auction process as the government wants to populate the FreeDish platform with its own channels. – Indian DTH