DreamDTH Explains: A detailed guide to East Indian TV channels (Part 1: Bengali channels)

Being the biggest language in the East, Bengali not only has more channels than others in the region, but Bengali serials are also highly influential across the country through remakes.

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By Soham Bhadra

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Bengali channels

Bengali remains the largest and most important language in eastern India: all the more so since Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, is by far the largest economic driver in that part of the country — with not as many large cities, since Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Patna and Ranchi are all somewhat smaller — unlike the west of the country, where Mumbai is supplemented by Pune, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and other key cities. Accordingly, its TV industry is the most well-developed of the four major East Indian languages, with Zee having a presence since 1999 (originally Alpha TV Bangla before rebranding to Zee Bangla in 2005) — as well as ETV before it sold its non-Telugu channels to Reliance in 2014, upon which ETV Bangla rebranded to Colors Bangla.

Having already been present in Bengali news via Star Ananda (now ABP Ananda) since 2005, Star entered in September 2008 with the launch of Star Jalsha — its first non-South Indian regional GEC — as well as the first to be launched directly by Star from the ground up, instead of being acquired from other companies (as was the case with Star Vijay, Asianet and Suvarna) — and it has almost singlehandedly ruled the Bengali market since then. In November 2008, only two days before the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, it launched its Marathi counterpart, Star Pravah.

However, it is only since 2020 that Star Pravah has completely dominated Marathi TV — even being a permanent member of the BARC national weekly top 10 — dethroning Zee Marathi which had ruled for a decade, whereas Star Jalsha has almost uninterruptedly (bar some brief periods ruled by Zee Bangla) been the leader in Bengal for over a decade. Moreover, Star launched Jalsha Movies in December 2012 — three months after Zee Bangla Cinema in September 2012 — but it took a decade more to launch a Marathi movie channel, Pravah Picture, in May 2022.

Bengali is also one of only two markets where Sony has a regional channel, in the form of Sony Aath — originally launched as Channel 8 in 2009 and renamed in 2010 — with Sony Marathi (launched 2018) being its only other regional channel before the Zee merger. Its programming is very different from other Bengali GECs, since it is powered by both dubbed Hindi shows from Sony TV and original Bengali animation shows, without its own serials. South India’s Sun TV Network entered a decade later, in 2019, with Sun Bangla — which shows nothing but serials, with no movies or non-fiction shows — and repeated this template with the launch of Sun Marathi in 2021. Both Sun Bangla and Sun Marathi are set to launch HD versions in early 2024, along with the new channel Sun Neo (possibly a Hindi GEC), but Sony Aath and Sony Marathi have no such plans — in fact, Sony Marathi surrendered its plans for an HD feed.

Small local GECs with equally tiny viewerships have also been present for a long time: Aakash Aath (originally Aakash Bangla) was launched back in 1999 and remains one of the longest-running Bengali TV channels, while CTVN AKD Plus has also been around since 2006 — it launched Calcutta News much later, in 2016 — and the then-Rose Valley Group (now Brand Value Communications) launched Rupashi Bangla in 2009 followed by News Time Bangla and Dhoom Music in 2010. Many Bengali channels are available in overseas regions, ranging from Europe and the US to Bangladesh closer by.

Table of major Bengali broadcasters

Broadcaster↓ Genre→GECMoviesNewsTotal
Disney Star1Star Jalsha (HD)Jalsha Movies (HD)4
ZeeZee Bangla (HD)Zee Bangla CinemaZee 24 Ghanta24
Viacom18/Network18Colors Bangla (HD)Colors Bangla CinemaNews18 Bangla4
Culver Max (Sony)Sony Aath1
SunSun Bangla (HD)32
ABP NetworkABP Ananda1
TV9 NetworkTV9 Bangla1

Small national and local multi-channel Bengali broadcasters

Broadcaster↓ Genre→GECMusicNewsTotal
Brand Value CommunicationsRupashi BanglaDhoom MusicNews Time Bangla3
Media Worldwide4Sangeet Bangla1
Enterr10 NetworkEnterr10 Bangla1
Republic Media NetworkRepublic Bangla1
Calcutta TelevisionCTVN AKD Plus, Uttar BanglaCalcutta News3
SST MediaKolkata LiveKolkata TV2
R PlusR Plus GoldR Plus News2

Independent Bengali channels and other channels from national broadcasters

  • GEC: Aakash Aath
    • Government: DD Bangla; also DD Agartala (Tripura)
  • Movies: Khushboo Bangla
  • News: Bangla Time, Onkar Only Truth, NKTV Bangla (sister of the Assamese NKTV 24×7 and Spondon TV) plus a few others.
  • Kids: Rongeen TV

Notes:

1Disney Star operated Star Sports 1 Bangla from 2019 to 2023, which along with Star Sports 1 Marathi — which was never added by TV platforms — was replaced by HD feeds of Star Sports 1 Tamil and Telugu on 15 March 2023, along with the launches and shutdowns of other Disney Star channels. While Star Sports 1 Bangla was supposed to be replaced by Jalsha Josh, the new channel’s launch was eventually cancelled along with that of Hungama HD.

2Launched in 2007 as 24 Ghanta, as part of Zee Akaash News Pvt. Ltd., where Zee was only a partial stakeholder. Rebranded as Zee 24 Ghanta in March 2018, as it was only then that the channel adopted the Zee brand.

3In late November 2023, Sun Bangla HD and Sun Marathi HD were added on the Sun Direct DTH platform as test transmissions, and they are expected to have a full-fledged launch in early 2024, along with Sun Neo and Sun Neo HD, which will likely be Hindi GECs.

4Previously also Bangla Talkies, which was a music channel — unlike other channels with ‘Talkies’ in the name, which are movie channels: particularly Zee Talkies, Zee’s Marathi pay movie channel. Rebranded to Woman TV, a niche English GEC/lifestyle channel, on 28 July 2023.


As seen here, Bengali does not have a single devotional channel, nor does it have any big local broadcasters like ETV in Telugu, Ortel in Odia or PTC in Punjabi — but it does have an independent kids’ channel, Rongeen TV, which is not owned by any big broadcaster; we have touched upon it in our guide to kids’ channels. Unlike South Indian channels, which have enough local broadcasters (like Sun, Raj, ETV and Manorama) to dissect and analyse, for Bengali channels we will instead briefly cover the history of some Bengali channels, past and present, on this page. On the next page, we discuss the programming lineups of the two biggest GECs, given the profound impact of Star Jalsha serials on Disney Star’s other GECs in the form of remakes.

Also, interestingly, Star Jalsha does not incorporate traditional Bengali cultural elements in its graphics package like several other Disney Star channels. Instead, Sony Aath is the best example of using Kolkata- and Bengal-specific motifs like fish, sweets, the Howrah Bridge and Durga Puja in its on-air appearance: first in 2017 and again with the Sony network’s mega-rebrand in October 2022. Meanwhile, Zee Bangla introduced fish scales in its graphics in October 2023 on the occasion of Mahalaya — a red adaptation of Zee TV/Tamil/Telugu’s new ‘orange marigold’ graphics launched in 2023, replacing the previous ‘orange ripple’ graphics launched with the Zee network’s mega-rebrand in October 2017.

Many Bengali channels were launched and closed in the 2010s

While Star Jalsha and Zee Bangla have ruled the Bengali market for the longest time, it is worth noting that there were a handful of Bengali channels from other broadcasters that had a brief existence and ceased broadcasting thereafter. These include a few like Tara Newz, Tara Muzik and Channel 10 (a news channel) which ceased broadcasting in 2013 due to the Saradha chit-fund scandal, as well as small independent music channels like Orange TV and Music Fatafati — and even Khabar 365 Din, which was dedicated to Tripura, a much smaller Bengali-speaking state in the Northeast of India. But it is a big coincidence indeed that a large number of Bengali channels were all launched, shut down or rebranded in a single year: 2012.

Huge changes in Bengali television in the year 2012 alone

On 1 June 2012, Star Ananda rebranded to ABP Ananda, as did its Hindi and Marathi counterparts, which became ABP News and ABP Majha. On 17 June, ex-sister channel Star Jalsha underwent a huge revamp, introducing the white-and-red ‘diamond star’ graphics package — heavily influenced by Star Plus’ Rishta Wahi, Soch Nayi rebrand in June 2010 — which was eventually retired on 17 February 2019, as mentioned, when the red colour (now identifiable with Zee Bangla) was replaced by the current green, yellow and orange graphics package featuring colourful clouds and confetti sprays. (However, Star Jalsha’s slogan Chalo Paltai — ‘Let’s Change’ — has remained the same ever since its launch in 2008!)

Later in 2012, on 23 September, Zee Bangla Cinema was launched as the first 24-hour Bengali movie channel. Not to be left behind, Star launched Jalsha Movies on 16 December 2012, and it does not carry the Star prefix in its name — like its Marathi and Tamil counterparts, Pravah Picture and Vijay Super, and unlike Star Maa Movies/Music/Gold in Telugu and Star Suvarna Plus in Kannada. Jalsha Movies’ violet-and-pink graphics package has been completely unchanged ever since, lasting over a decade, whereas Zee Bangla Cinema has changed its logo and appearance several times — most recently on its 10th birthday in September 2022, as we covered in a dedicated article. Jalsha Movies launched its HD feed in April 2016 along with Star Jalsha on the Bengali New Year, and remains the only Bengali HD movie channel — in fact, Zee Bangla Cinema is Zee’s only regional pay movie channel not to have an HD feed. (Also, Star Maa Gold in Telugu has mostly copied Jalsha Movies’ logo!)

Jalsha Movies HD Star Jalsha HD
Above: Star Jalsha HD and Jalsha Movies HD were the first Indian Bengali HD channels, launched in April 2016.

Also in 2012, a couple of small Bengali GECs ceased broadcasting after barely a couple of years on air. The ABP Group pulled the plug on its Bengali GEC, Sananda TV (named after its women’s monthly magazine), on 7 November, barely a year after its launch on 25 July 2011. ABP, which otherwise has several Bengali magazines, newspapers and the book publisher Ananda Publishers — in addition to the English daily newspaper The Telegraph — has stuck to only news broadcasting ever since. Moreover, Mahuaa Bangla (GEC) and Mahuaa Khobor (news) — sister channels of Mahuaa TV, the first Bhojpuri GEC, which itself shut down around 2017 — also went off the air at the end of 2012. Mahuaa Bangla was known for airing a local version of Kaun Banega Crorepati, something that has been much more successful in other languages, like on Gemini TV (Telugu) and Sony Marathi.

In later years, several new Bengali channels from small (often free-to-air) broadcasters were launched. For example, Enterr10 Bangla — from the same Enterr10 Network that runs the Hindi GEC Dangal, one of India’s top 5 most popular channels, thanks to DD Free Dish — was launched in 2019 and airs dubs of Hindi serials across genres like mythology and drama. Another Bengali channel from a free-to-air (FTA) network is Khushboo Bangla, from the same company that runs the Manoranjan group of FTA movie channels. Also in 2019, Viacom18 launched Colors Bangla Cinema, around the same time as Colors Kannada/Gujarati Cinema — which is not as well-entrenched as Jalsha Movies or Zee Bangla Cinema — in addition to the kids’ channel Rongeen TV as stated above.

In terms of music channels, while Sangeet Bangla from Media Worldwide Pvt. Ltd. remains the oldest and strongest name — launched all the way back in 2005 — others have also gone on air, including Dhoom Music, a sister channel of Rupashi Bangla and News Time Bangla; and Kolkata Live and R Plus Gold, respective sister channels of the independent news channels Kolkata TV and R Plus News. For some years, Media Worldwide also had another Bengali music channel, Bangla Talkies, but in July 2023 this was rebranded as Woman TV, an English GEC with a small footprint that airs mostly foreign reality shows.


On the next page, we will see how Star Jalsha has singlehandedly been the growth engine behind the entire regional portfolio of Disney Star, thanks to its serials that are remade across the broadcaster’s other regional GECs, hence paving the way to them topping the charts in most cases. Other Bengali GECs have hence had to abide by Star Jalsha’s playbook, with Zee Bangla being the most popular.

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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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Another excellent explainer. It's well done.

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Lovely article @JollyLNB bro
Waiting for zee bangla cinema hd
Hope more cult animation show like gopal bhaar in sony aath

Sun bangla recently adding good new serials they just missing good starcast yes they have good partial characters which star jalsha and zee bangla have also production house matters coz blues have two serials and both doing great in star and zee in terms of trp.
Colors Bangla cinema also doing good job by showing isl match.

Sangeet Bangla mising old day's charm since revolution of YouTube as old days howrah bridge was a show we waiting to listen songs also web series took over slowly killing bengali music Channels

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