DreamDTH Explains: A detailed look at South Indian channels (Part 1: Tamil and Telugu)

The immense size and scale of Tamil and Telugu broadcasters like Sun and ETV, in addition to local ones like Jaya, Raj and Kalaignar, makes these two the biggest regional languages in India by viewership.

Estimated reading time: 37 minutes, 10 seconds

Tamil channels

While the Sun network remains the largest broadcaster in Tamil Nadu, the state has a vast presence from both national (Disney Star, Zee, Viacom18) and local (Jaya, Kalaignar, Raj, Polimer, Mega, etc.) broadcasters. Their origins are diverse and varied: some channels are run by newspapers, notably Thanthi TV — owned by the largest Tamil newspaper, Dina Thanthi — which was launched in 2012, replacing NDTV Hindu, a Chennai-centric channel that was a joint venture between NDTV and the English-language The Hindu national daily. One channel is even run by an electronics retailer: Vasanth TV was launched in 2008 by the late H. Vasanthakumar, owner of the Vasanth & Co electronics chain. Besides, there are several Tamil channels across Singapore and Malaysia, given the large native Tamil population in those countries — including Mediacorp Vasantham, the Tamil channel of the Singaporean state-run public broadcaster Mediacorp, which is the only terrestrial broadcaster in the city-state.

Table of major Tamil broadcasters

Given the large number of Tamil broadcasters and channels, totalling almost 100 including non-satellite channels, it is difficult to pigeonhole them all into one table. Still, below we provide a table of the main Tamil broadcasters in multiple genres, and independent channels in each genre, plus solitary channels owned by national broadcasters like Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery without any other regional channels, are listed separately. Note that Zee Tamil News is not included here, since it is available only on digital platforms, like Zee Malayalam News — and unlike Zee Telugu News and Zee Kannada News, which proceeded to launch satellite versions after their digital débuts in 2022. All these channels are headquartered in Tamil Nadu’s capital, Chennai, historically the largest and most important city in South India before being overtaken by Bangalore or Bengaluru.

SunSun TV (HD)KTV (HD)Sun Music (HD),
Sun Life1
Adithya TVChutti TVSun News10
StarStar Vijay (HD)Vijay Super (HD)Vijay Takkar
(fmr. Vijay Music)
Star Sports 1
Tamil (HD)
ZeeZee Tamil (HD)Zee Thirai (HD)4
Colors Tamil (HD)News18 Tamil
JayaJaya TV2 (HD)J MovieJaya MaxJaya Plus5
KalaignarKalaignar TVChithiram TV3,
Murasu TV4
Isai AruviSirippoli TVKalaignar
RajRaj TVRaj Digital PlusRaj Musix TamilRaj News Tamil4
PolimerPolimer TVPolimer NewsJothi TV53
MegaMega TVMega 246Mega Musiq3
New Generation
CaptainCaptain TVCaptain News2
ETV (kids only)ETV Bal Bharat

Independent Tamil channels and other channels from national broadcasters

  • GEC: Vasanth TV, Vendhar TV, Tamilan TV, Imayam TV, Makkal TV, MK TV, MK Six (Madurai Krishna network)
    • Government: DD Podhigai
  • Music: Tunes 6, MK Tunes, 7S Music
  • News: Thanthi TV, News 7 Tamil, Sathiyam TV, Cauvery News, News Tamil 24×7, News J, etc.
  • Devotional:
    • Hinduism: Sai TV, SVBC 2, Peppers TV (formerly a music channel; converted to a bhakti channel in 2022) plus Jothi TV above.
    • Christianity: Angel TV, Aseervatham TV, Nambikkai TV, Madha TV (Nambikkai TV is owned by the Telugu channel Subhavaartha TV which also operates Christian channels in other languages)
  • Sports: Sony Sports Ten 4 (HD) — bilingual (also Telugu)
  • Lifestyle/Infotainment: DTamil (formerly Discovery Tamil) by Warner Bros. Discovery; Travelxp Tamil
  • State educational: Kalvi TV


1Originally a classic music channel showing songs from old movies — which is still the case for Gemini Life in Telugu — Sun Life was repositioned as a secondary youth entertainment channel in October 2018 with a blue logo. This was not successful, and in April 2020 it reverted to a channel showing old movie songs.

2Jaya TV is natively available only in HD, and TV platforms downscale it to an SD feed. Tata Play is the only DTH operator to have Jaya HD (in addition to several cable platforms); it does not have Jaya SD. Other DTHs have only the downscaled SD feed.

3Chithiram TV was originally the kids’ channel of the Kalaignar network, but in late 2022 its licence was renamed to Blacksheep TV, a new Tamil channel launched by the Blacksheep digital media company. However, in July 2023, Blacksheep TV was once again converted into Chithiram TV, but this time as a movie and music channel. It is the only Kalaignar channel to place its logo in the bottom right corner of the screen — like many Tamil channels (and all Sun Network channels) do — instead of the bottom left which is the norm for the Jaya, Kalaignar and Mega networks in Tamil, and ABP nationally.

4Murasu TV, like Sun Life, originally showed old movie songs, but in October 2021 it was repositioned as a movie channel — a logical move, since Kalaignar (unlike Sun, Star, Zee, Jaya, Raj and Mega) did not have any movie channels until then.

5Previously known as Sahana TV, a music channel, before rebranding as Jothi TV, a Hindu devotional channel, in 2021.

6Despite its name containing the number 24, which is typical of news channels, Mega 24 is a movie channel and not a news channel.

Here we will go over several topics: first the Sun TV Network, the grande dame of Tamil broadcasting, on this page, followed by other Tamil broadcasters like Raj, Jaya and Kalaignar, and finally national broadcasters — Star Vijay and Zee Tamil — and their sister channels on the next page.

Sun TV Network: the predominant Tamil broadcaster

Brief overview of the Sun Group

It is only proper, when discussing Tamil channels, to begin with Sun TV: launched on 14 April 1993, this is the channel which has single-handedly maintained the lion’s share of the viewership in Tamil Nadu for 30 years, staving off competition from Star Vijay and Jaya TV until the 2000s, as well as Zee Tamil and Colors Tamil thereafter. The Sun network operates 10 channels in Tamil alone, and a grand total of 33 channels (25 SD + 8 HD) across six languages including Sun Bangla and Sun Marathi — which is more than Culver Max Entertainment (Sony Pictures Networks India)’s total of 26 channels (16 SD + 10 HD) before its merger with Zee. It also has the Sun Direct DTH service, which was the country’s first DTH platform to provide HD broadcasting back in 2010, but had a very limited presence outside South India with abnormally few HD channels until the late 2010s, when it added many channels and became a stronger pan-Indian competitor to Tata Sky (now Tata Play), Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV–d2h. Its OTT platform, Sun NXT, was launched in June 2017 and remains rooted to regional languages, not reaching the nationwide scale that the likes of Disney+ Hotstar, SonyLIV and Zee5 have.

Outside TV broadcasting, the Sun Group operates Suryan FM within Tamil Nadu and Red FM in many other states on 93.5 MHz, as well as the Dinakaran daily newspaper and Sun Pictures, which has produced several Tamil blockbusters like Enthiran or Robot (2010), Beast (2022) and Jailer (2023) — though Enthiran’s spiritual sequel 2.0 (2018) was instead produced by Lyca Productions. Moreover, it owns the Sunrisers Hyderabad T20 cricket franchise in the Indian Premier League, which won the tournament in 2016 — replacing the erstwhile Deccan Chargers (2008–2012) owned by the Deccan Chronicle newspaper — as well as more recently Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the SA20 tournament in South Africa. For a few years, the Sun Group also owned the private low-cost airline SpiceJet, which has now fallen into disarray while IndiGo and the Tata Group’s airlines (including Air India and Vistara) have controlled the aviation sector.

Sun Group Network Channels and Properties Logos

Growth of the Sun channels, in Tamil and other languages

Sun TV has cemented a place among India’s top 5 most-viewed TV channels for years now, and is very often the number one overall — even though its siblings in other languages have suffered at the hands of Star. It has a massive lead over its closest competitor, Star Vijay, thanks to its serials, with Zee Tamil and others far behind. Channels like Jaya TV, Raj TV and Kalaignar TV are nowhere in the ratings, despite being established for decades. Sun News was launched in 2000, while its movie channel KTV, or Kondattam TV (meaning celebrations), was launched on 22 October 2001 — though it is not the first 24-hour Tamil movie channel, since Raj Digital Plus was launched in March 1998 — and, like Sun TV, has kept its logo unchanged ever since. Sun Music followed in 2004, while the kids’ channel Chutti TV was launched in 2007, the comedy-clips channel Adithya TV in 2009 and the classic film music channel Sun Life in 2013. Previously it also had ‘action channels’ — Sun Action, Gemini Action and Surya Action, plus Suriyan TV in Kannada — but these were axed before long.

In the 1990s, the Sun network expanded to all four South Indian languages, using the brand names of Gemini (Telugu), Udaya (Kannada) and Surya (Malayalam) with new channels over the years — though some of its Tamil channels, namely KTV and Adithya TV, do not use the Sun brand, and none of its kids’ channels in any language do so. Afterwards it expanded beyond South India with the launch of Sun Bangla in February 2019 and Sun Marathi in October 2021, which are free-to-air channels unlike the pay channels in South India, and the latter is also present on DD Free Dish. It has also planned for a new channel, Sun Neo — possibly a Hindi GEC — but has not revealed further information on the same. All of these channels place their logo in the bottom right corner of the screen, which is standard within Tamil Nadu but rare otherwise among Indian channels, with only some channels like Times Now, CNBC-TV18 and Vh1 (formerly also the Hindi national news channel India TV) using it.

Notably, Sun was the first regional-language broadcaster to launch HD channels: all the way back on 11 December 2011, Sun TV, KTV and Sun Music in Tamil and Gemini TV in Telugu launched HD feeds, which were exclusive to Sun Direct for the first couple of years or so. Udaya TV, Surya TV, Gemini Movies and Gemini Music followed suit on 15 March 2017, but while Udaya Movies and Surya Movies (in addition to Sun Bangla and Sun Marathi) were also rumoured to do so, their HD plans have been shelved for the time being. Among other broadcasters, the Malayalam channels Asianet and Mazhavil Manorama launched HD feeds within a day of each other in August 2015, followed by other entertainment and movie channels in the ‘Big Six’ regional languages — the four South Indian languages plus Bengali and Marathi — in 2016–18, but it is only now in the 2020s that smaller regional languages like Odia (beginning with Star Kiran HD and Tarang HD) are starting to launch satellite HD channels.

It may also be noted that Sun TV is one of the very few GECs in India to show news programmes, and its Sun Seithigal has been on air ever since the channel’s inception in April 1993. ETV in Telugu is another important regional channel which airs news, which is almost never the case for Indian GECs (outside Doordarshan) but is the standard in all other countries. In 2000, Sun launched the first 24/7 Tamil news channel, Sun News, and later also launched Gemini News and Udaya News (originally Udaya Varthegalu) — though never a Malayalam news channel — but the latter two ceased broadcasting in 2019 when Sun Bangla was launched, meaning that Tamil is the only language where the Sun network continues to maintain a news presence. Regardless, Sun News has held its own in the face of competition from other Tamil news channels, both from other multi-channel Tamil broadcasters like Jaya Plus, Polimer News (currently the No. 1 Tamil news channel) and Kalaignar Seithigal, and independent ones like Puthiya Thalaimurai, News 7 Tamil and Thanthi TV.

Smaller Tamil broadcasters are discussed on the next page, as well as the two most successful Tamil GECs from national broadcasters: Star Vijay and Zee Tamil, plus their sister channels.

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Avatar of Soham Bhadra
Soham Bhadra

Television Analyst

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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Aside of some odd sentences, it's a very useful guide!

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