Airtel Digital TV adds Zee Picchar HD on LCN 971

The addition comes months after its Tamil counterpart, Zee Thirai HD, was added in June 2023 — with Tata Play becoming the first DTH to add Zee Picchar HD in October.

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By Soham Bhadra

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As of Thursday (18 January 2024), Airtel Digital TV has added Zee Picchar HD, the first (and, so far, only) HD movie channel in Kannada, on LCN 971. Zee Picchar HD, launched in September 2021, was not carried by a single DTH platform for more than two years — a problem that was also faced by its Tamil counterpart Zee Thirai HD, launched at the same time. However, a bumper addition of seven Zee and Star HD channels by Tata Play at the end of October 2023 gave Zee Picchar HD a home on a DTH platform for the first time. Even so, Zee Thirai HD had already been added by Airtel Digital TV in June 2023 on LCN 779 — the first DTH operator to do so — but it is only now, nearly seven months later, that Airtel has done the same for the Kannada channel, making it the second DTH to carry it.

This addition ensures that Airtel Digital TV carries all five Kannada HD channels, as the four HD GECs — Udaya HD, Star Suvarna HD, Zee Kannada HD and Colors Kannada HD — are carried by all DTH platforms in any case. (For Dish TV, only those customers who are tuned to the ST2 satellite that is used for South Indian viewers — and also by sister entity d2h — will receive them, not those who use the NSS6/SES8 satellites which are focussed towards non-South Indian customers.) Moreover, with Airtel’s addition of Zee Zest HD in October 2023 — combined with the fact that Zee’s Hindi premium movie channel &xplor HD was exclusive to it for 4 years, until Tata Play’s bumper addition at the end of that month — this also means that all 19 Zee HD channels are available on Airtel Digital TV, the second such DTH after Tata Play.

Channel numbers of all 19 Zee HD channels on Airtel Digital TV

A useful addition for Kannada viewers, but several regional HD channels are absent

Airtel Digital TV is typically the second-best at adding new channels, after Tata Play, and it has quite an impressive range of HD channels, with the total after this addition standing at 88. Among regional HD movie channels, as mentioned above, it added Zee Thirai HD in June 2023 followed by another Tamil movie channel, Vijay Super HD — which had been launched in March along with several other Disney Star channels — in October. Moreover, it was quick to add Star Sports 1 Tamil and Telugu HD and Star Gold 2 HD, also launched in March 2023, shortly after their launch.

However, the remaining new HD channels from Disney Star remain missing from Airtel: two that were launched in 2022 — Pravah Picture HD (Marathi movies) and Star Kiran HD (Odia GEC) — and two more in 2023, Disney Channel HD (kids) and Asianet Movies HD (Malayalam movies), though some of these took many months to be added by DTH platforms. The non-addition of several new regional HD channels was a surprise for a broadcaster as large and powerful as Disney Star, but their distribution has steadily improved since the second half of 2023.

While Pravah Picture HD was added by Sun Direct shortly after its launch in May 2022, and Disney Channel HD by Tata Play in March 2023, it was only in early August 2023 that Dish TV NSS6/SES8 (for non-South Indian viewers) and d2h and Dish TV ST2 (for South Indian viewers) added 7 new Disney Star HD channels — thereby becoming the first to add Star Kiran HD and Asianet Movies HD. This was followed nearly three months later at the end of October by Tata Play’s bumper addition, but Airtel added none of them except Vijay Super HD.

Zee has slowly been improving the distribution of smaller HD channels — but Sun Direct remains a problem

In preparation for its grand merger with Sony, Zee has slowly started to expand the reach of some of its lower-profile HD channels like Zee Picchar HD, Zee Thirai HD, Zee Zest HD and &xplor HD, where only after several years — four in the case of &xplor HD — has got a second DTH platform to add them. Even though Dish TV and d2h are themselves owned by the Essel Group and are hence sister companies of Zee, they have traditionally lagged behind Tata Play and Airtel Digital TV in adding the HD channels of not only Zee but other broadcasters (with SD channels faring somewhat better) but this has improved somewhat, with only these four HD channels being absent from the two sibling DTH operators.

However, a major stumbling block in the distribution of Zee HD channels is Sun Direct, which otherwise has more HD channels than Dish TV (when South Indian channels from ST2 are excluded) and d2h. This is because Sun Direct has refused to carry a regional GEC as important as Zee Tamil HD, more than six years after its launch in October 2017 along with the mega-rebrand of all Zee channels and properties. Similarly, Zee Keralam HD went on air in November 2018 along with the SD version — and received a facelift recently, shedding its orange logo and graphics (copied from Zee TV and used across many other Zee regional GECs) in favour of a hibiscus-red look — but Sun Direct has failed to add this HD channel as well.

Ironically, Sun Direct was the very first DTH to add the Telugu pair of Zee Telugu HD and Zee Cinemalu HD — shortly after their launch on New Year’s Eve 2017 — and also added Zee Kannada HD soon after its launch in November 2018, some weeks before Zee Keralam’s own launch. It also has Zee Marathi HD and Zee Bangla HD to serve those two non-South Indian markets. Unfortunately, the fact that Sun Direct still refuses to add Zee Tamil HD and Zee Keralam HD — and also Zee Talkies HD, a Marathi movie channel — is a big hindrance to the distribution of Zee’s regional HD channels.

Regardless, a small but useful addition like Zee Picchar HD will ensure that Airtel Digital TV’s HD offering remains well ahead of the pack, with only a few smaller niche channels absent compared to Tata Play — though it has Gemini Music HD in Telugu, which Tata Play does not yet — and continues to effectively serve the entire country’s entertainment needs well into the mid-2020s.

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Soham Bhadra

Television Analyst

77 articles published
Soham is a Computer Science graduate from NTU, Singapore, actively interested in the Indian TV and entertainment industry. He publishes articles and shares his insights on the Indian TV industry and DTH operators. He has a passion for words and reflects that through his articles.

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9 thoughts on “Airtel Digital TV adds Zee Picchar HD on LCN 971”

  1. Why not added our odia chanel- Naxatra news, star kiranHD ,MbC tv ,Mtv beats HD , music india, Ddnews HD MTv HD in airtel dth


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