Some weeks ago Disney Star revealed its plans to launch its pending channels and shut down or rebrand some existing ones from 1 February 2023 through RIO and Rate card published on their website, to coincide with the introduction of the new New Tariff Order (NTO 2.0) packaging and pricing scheme, as mandated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. But the fact that there have not been any promos for any of the upcoming channels certainly raised a question mark over whether the broadcaster actually intended to launch them as scheduled, given that these changes were already postponed indefinitely in late 2021 after being announced a few weeks before. And, indeed, we have once again reached a situation where none of the changes have gone forward as scheduled.
Most of the channels that were supposed to shut down (Star World, Star World HD, Star World Premiere HD, UTV HD, Star Sports 1 Bangla and BabyTV HD — but not Star Sports 1 Marathi as it was never carried by any TV operator) have once again been granted an extension, and are available for à-la-carte subscription on major DTH operators such as Tata Play. Similarly, the new channels that were supposed to be launched — including Disney Channel HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil/Telugu HD, Asianet Movies HD and Vijay Super HD, among others — have been frozen yet again.
However, it appears that the broadcaster will indeed proceed with the launch of two of its Hindi movie channels, Star Gold Romance and Star Gold Thrills, from Wednesday, 15 February, replacing UTV Movies and UTV Action, respectively. Even so, this, like many other decisions, is subject to change without prior notice, given that the rebrand of UTV HD to Star Gold 2 HD is also among the deferred changes.
This is far from the first time that the launches and shutdowns have been put on hold, but unlike in 2021, Disney Star has not put out a statement officially declaring the delay in these changes, possibly because it does intend to implement them at some point instead of cancelling them. Instead, we have had to wait for updates from Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) regarding their fate.
This delay in implementing the launches and shutdowns is likely because of the long-drawn-out implementation of the NTO 2.0 tariff structure by TV operators, or DPOs, that involves signing new Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) agreements, updating new bouquets and prices, and possibly realigning channel numbers. It is frustrating to see the broadcaster repeatedly announce these plans and then backtrack on them, but the situation is neither entirely Disney Star’s fault nor in its control.
This despite the broadcaster officially confirming via Sanjog Gupta, its Head of Sports, that it intends to launch the HD versions of Star Sports 1 Tamil and Telugu in time for this year’s Indian Premier League, in order to reach a record viewership of 500 million on TV through multiple languages and feeds. (This is the first time in many years that Disney+ Hotstar will not telecast the IPL — Hotstar having shown the event even when Sony was the satellite rights-holder until 2017 — now that Viacom18 has bagged the IPL’s digital rights. Viacom18 recently also acquired the broadcast and digital rights of the upcoming Women’s Premier League.) This statement gives us hope that, sooner or later, Disney Star will finally come around to launching its much-awaited channels before the IPL, like it had done for channels like Pravah Picture and Star Kiran in 2022, as well as shutting down several channels long earmarked for closure.
Disney Star declined to comment on a timeline for the launch or reasons behind the delay when approached by DreamDTH.
Thanks: Sarfaraz, DreamDTH Community Forums