Disney Star’s new channels are finally here! An overview of their availability and impact

Star Gold Romance/Thrills are available on all pay DTHs, but Vijay Super HD and Asianet Movies HD have not been added by any DTHs. Tata Play is the only DTH with Disney Channel HD.

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By Soham Bhadra

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After several delays over many years, Disney Star’s new channels were finally launched on Wednesday, 15 March 2023 and were added across the five major pay DTH platforms, with different DTHs adding different numbers of channels. Most of these channels were added by DTH operators a day or two after the launch date. However, it was only on Saturday, 1 April, that Tata Play finally added Star Gold 2 HD on LCN 316, just before the SD feed on 317 — after relocating Tata Play Theatre HD from LCN 316 to 329 — two weeks after it added the other new channels (Star Movies Select, Disney Channel HD and Star Sports 1 Tamil/Telugu HD) on 16 March, of which Disney Channel HD remains exclusive to Tata Play.

Unfortunately, Asianet Movies HD and Vijay Super HD have not been as lucky as the others, since DTH operators have refused to add them so far — much like fellow regional HD channels Pravah Picture HD and Star Kiran HD, which were launched last year, but the former is available only on Sun Direct among DTH operators, along with some cable platforms, and the latter nowhere at all. Also, despite promising it earlier, it is highly unlikely that d2h and Sun Direct will add Star Sports 1 Tamil and Telugu HD for the ongoing IPL season. Below is the availability of the new Disney Star channels across DTH platforms.

ChannelTata PlayAirtel Digital TVSun DirectDish TV (NSS6/SES8)d2h and Dish TV (ST2)No. of DTHs
Star Gold Romance3232133383363215
Star Gold Thrills3252173413383295
Star Gold 2 HD3162143572
Star Movies Select4194035785744
Disney Channel HD6571
Star Sports 1 Tamil HD15508022
Star Sports 1 Telugu HD14459292
Asianet Movies HD0
Vijay Super HD0
Total75343

Additionally, Tata Play and Airtel Digital TV have added a special service for IPL matches — called Star Sports Pro on the former and Star Sports VIP on the latter, accessible through a press of a button — that shows live interactive statistics and analysis from multiple angles. There were also plans that Star Sports might launch a 4K feed for Internet-enabled boxes (Tata Play Binge and Airtel Xstream) for the IPL, in order to compete with JioCinema’s 4K streaming, but this did not materialise due to regulatory reasons. Nevertheless, Star Sports and many other channels are a major component of Disney Star’s coverage of the world’s richest cricket tournament, to go head-to-head with Reliance/Viacom18’s free streaming on JioCinema, with multiple audio feeds, a 4K feed and live analysis, as explained on the next page.

A struggle of many years finally comes to an end

It has been several years since plans for new channels from Disney Star were in the works, as trademark registrations for Star Gold Romance and Star Gold Family were revealed in September 2018. Star India had been planning to launch a number of channels well before its acquisition by The Walt Disney Company in March 2019, which is now crossing four years. All along there were rumours that the Star World channels might shut down, or that Star Gold Romance and Thrills might be launched, or that Star Sports would be launching new regional channels over and above what had already been launched in 2018–19.

But a long succession of events put the original plans on hold for many years: the New Tariff Order or NTO 2.0; the COVID-19 pandemic; the resultant sea change in viewers’ preferences, particularly the mass adoption of OTT platforms at the elite, urban end of the population and DD Free Dish at the rural end; disputes between broadcasters, TV platforms and consumers (even reaching the Supreme Court); even a mass protest by cable operators against rising prices in the NTO 3.0 era, leading to them removing Star, Zee and Sony channels for a week in February 2023 — in short, an unprecedented and exponential shift in the Indian television landscape which has permanently influenced business decisions at major Indian broadcasters, of which Disney Star has been the largest, though it may be overtaken by the Zee/Sony merged entity.

The launches of channels like Disney Channel HD, Star Gold 2 HD and Star Sports 1 Tamil/Telugu HD were in the making for many years, as were the shutdowns of many underperforming channels like Star World (HD), Star World Premiere HD and the UTV-branded Hindi movie channels (UTV Movies, UTV Action and UTV HD). Date after date was announced by Star: first March 2020, then December 2021, then February 2023, and finally 15 March 2023. However, viewers were treated with disappointment each time, as the promise of new channels was repeatedly shown and promoted, only to be taken away at the last moment. NTO 2.0 has been the biggest reason for the repeated postponements, and even though some channels like Pravah Picture, Star Kiran and Vijay Takkar were lucky to be launched in 2022, most had to endure a seemingly interminable wait to see the light of day.

Well, this time has not been as disappointing as the others: on Wednesday, 15 March 2023, Disney Star finally went ahead and launched almost all of its planned channels, totalling nine in all. These are Star Gold Romance, Star Gold Thrills and Star Gold 2 HD in the Hindi movie genre, replacing UTV Movies, UTV Action and UTV HD; Disney Channel HD, its first HD kids’ channel (the outgoing BabyTV HD was not an Indian channel); the new regional HD movie channels Vijay Super HD (Tamil) and Asianet Movies HD (Malayalam); the new regional HD sports channels Star Sports 1 Tamil HD and Star Sports 1 Telugu HD; and finally an SD version of the English movie channel Star Movies Select, nearly eight years after its HD feed.

No less importantly, after cheating death for many years, an equal number of channels (nine) have eventually exhausted their nine lives and come to a quiet end: the English entertainment channels Star World SD/HD and Star World Premiere HD, leaving only Disney International HD in the genre; the foreign-run toddlers’ education channel BabyTV HD, which outlasted its SD feed for nearly four years (as BabyTV SD, Nat Geo Music SD/HD and Nat Geo People SD/HD had been withdrawn from India in June 2019); the struggling regional sports channels Star Sports 1 Bangla (which was supposed to be replaced by Jalsha Josh, but that ended up getting cancelled) and Star Sports 1 Marathi (which was never viewable by anyone outside Disney Star); and the UTV brand as a whole, which has ceased to exist now that the three UTV-branded Hindi movie channels have been replaced by Star Gold-branded ones — even though, strangely, UTV Movies International continues to exist overseas.

Sadly, many planned channels from Disney Star have been denied the right to live, and they will not be able to enjoy the relief of finally going on air like their counterparts: Hungama HD and Jalsha Josh (which were supposed to be launched at the same time as the above channels), Star Gold Family (whose trademark was filed back in 2018), Star Sports 3 HD, Star Sports 1 Malayalam and Star Sports 1 Gujarati. They have been consigned to the trash can because Disney Star no longer believes that they are financially viable in terms of serving large sections of the Indian viewing public. Even the Hindi music channel Bindass, which has escaped death so far with the latest changes, has long been tipped to end its journey on air, and rumours are aswirl that it may be replaced by Star Utsav 2, though nothing has been confirmed as of now. Nevertheless, their absence — as well as the departure of several established channels — is minor and is overshadowed by the new channels, whose ordeal for existence has finally come to an end.

On the next page, we outline the availability of the new Disney Star channels on DTH platforms and how they have shaped up in the weeks since their launch. As with our previous articles on these launches, we once again publish the overall portfolio of Disney Star’s Indian broadcast operations below.

Language,
Genre
GECMoviesSportsMusic/YouthKidsLifestyle and
Infotainment
Total
HindiStar Plus (HD),
Star Bharat (HD),
Star Utsav
Star Gold (HD),
Star Gold 2 (HD),
Star Gold Select
(HD), Star Gold Romance, Star
Gold Thrills, Star Utsav Movies
Star Sports 1 Hindi (HD),
Star Sports First
BindassHungama,
Super Hungama
20
EnglishDisney International HDStar Movies (HD),
Star Movies Select (HD)
Star Sports 1 (HD),
Star Sports 2 (HD),
Star Sports 3,
Star Sports Select 1 (HD),
Star Sports Select 2 (HD)
Disney Channel (HD),
Disney Junior
National Geographic (HD),
Nat Geo Wild (HD),
Fox Life (HD)
23
TamilStar Vijay (HD)Vijay Super (HD)Star Sports 1 Tamil (HD)Vijay Takkar7
TeluguStar Maa (HD)Star Maa Movies (HD),
Star Maa Gold
Star Sports 1 Telugu (HD)Star Maa Music8
KannadaStar Suvarna (HD)Star Suvarna PlusStar Sports 1 Kannada4
MalayalamAsianet (HD),
Asianet Plus
Asianet Movies (HD)5
BengaliStar Jalsha (HD)Jalsha Movies (HD)4
MarathiStar Pravah (HD)Pravah Picture (HD)4
OdiaStar Kiran (HD)2
Total21251735677

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Soham Bhadra

Television Analyst

80 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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