DreamDTH Explains: A guide to devotional, music and youth channels in India
None of the devotional channels are from major national broadcasters. Most big networks have also been exiting the music/youth space, with some exceptions recently like Vijay Takkar and Bindass.
Hindi music channels
Having covered one of the most serious and least materialistic genres on the previous page — and the one least likely to have a popular social media following among the younger generation, being preferred by senior citizens instead — we now move to the other end of the age spectrum: music and youth channels. However, despite the existing channels boasting of a large popularity among Generation Z users, this genre has been shrinking fast over the years, as we will see now.
Hit by multiple shutdowns over the past decade
Much as other genres have grown in scale over the years, music channels — typically targeted at young viewers from 15 to 35 — have sadly moved in the opposite direction for nearly a decade now, as multiple channels have shut down due to continued losses and the increasing expansion of music streaming services like Spotify, Gaana and JioSaavn, not to mention YouTube. These have also been explored in our article on the launch of Vijay Takkar, before its nature as a Tamil youth channel was revealed.
Moreover, it has far fewer HD channels than most other genres except devotional, with Viacom18 and Sun running the only HD music channels in the country (MTV/MTV Beats/Vh1 HD; Sun Music HD/Gemini Music HD) after other networks exited. Many of the oldest and largest Hindi music channels have unfortunately never bothered about launching HD feeds, including 9XM, Mastiii and Zoom — the last of which is run by the Times Group, the country’s largest news media house, which also operates several HD channels like Movies Now HD and Times Now World. Some examples of shuttered music channels in Hindi alone include:
- Both of Sony’s Hindi music channels: the long-running Sony Mix (2011–2020), one of the most popular in its genre, and its short-lived HD sibling Sony Rox HD (2017–2018), which could not reach its second birthday as it was abruptly closed on New Year’s Eve 2018 along with two other niche HD-only channels, Sony Ten Golf HD and the English premium movie channel Sony Le Plex HD.
- Bindass Play (2014–2017), which was owned by Disney India (before its acquisition of Star) and converted into the English youth GEC Disney International HD, which is still on air despite its sibling Star World channels shutting down soon. Bindass Play itself was a replacement of the Bollywood gossip channel UTV Stars, which was launched in 2011 and — a rarity for its time — even had an HD feed.
- MTunes HD, the first true HD music channel in India, and one of very few HD music channels in the country. It suddenly disappeared around 2017. Even during the Hindi music genre’s peak of 2017, the only other Hindi HD music channels were Sony Rox HD and MTV Beats HD, of which only the latter stands today along with its youth-oriented counterpart MTV HD, since the likes of 9XM and Zoom have not bothered with HD feeds.
- Another channel, MTunes+, operated by the PEN group — which purchased the rights to the MTunes brand and also owns the I Love music channel — is on air on C-band satellite, but not viewable on any TV platform. In 2018, PEN launched another music channel, WOW Music, but by December of that year its frequency was practically replaced by that of I Love, and in November 2019 the WOW Music brand ceased to exist altogether.
- Pepsi MTV Indies, a collaboration between Viacom18 and Pepsi, which was launched in 2014 and was dedicated to indie artists (of the kind that appear on Coke Studio) instead of the typical Bollywood music that is normally shown on Hindi music channels. As such, it was a highly niche channel, and — despite this — it had an HD feed, with MTunes HD being the only HD music channel showing popular Bollywood music as UTV Stars HD had shut down. But in 2016 Viacom18 decided to replace this niche indie music channel with MTV Beats, which is dedicated to popular Bollywood music and, six years on, is the only one in the Hindi music genre with an HD feed. There were brief rumours in 2019 that MTV Indies might return, but this did not materialise.
- Zee ETC Bollywood, a veteran in the Hindi music genre, which was launched in 1999 as ETC and became Zee ETC Bollywood in 2011. Besides a Hindi music channel it was also known as the home of the movie industry analysis show ETC Bollywood Business, hosted by the renowned Bollywood analyst Komal Nahta. In October 2020 it was shut down in favour of a new Marathi music channel, Zee Vajwa, but Zee Vajwa could not last for much more than a year and, shockingly, was itself axed in March 2022. Fellow Hindi music/youth channel Zing is now Zee’s only music channel in any language.
- Last but definitely not the least, Channel V, Star’s legendary youth channel — then owned by Fox and the Murdochs — which, along with MTV, redefined television for Indian youth in the 1990s and early 2000s, when satellite television and the Internet were starting to rapidly gain traction among urban Indian households. From its Lola Kutty avatar of that period, it slowly transitioned as Star’s youth channel with dramas such as Sadda Haq, Gumrah and Paanch, but in 2016 it transformed into a pure music channel. Its shutdown was announced in late 2017, but it was only in September 2018 that Channel V finally made its exit, being replaced by the multilingual Star Sports 3.
Bindass, the long-established music (formerly youth) channel of Disney India (now Disney Star), would also have entered this graveyard — and indeed this had been planned for years — if not for the broadcaster’s about-face in December 2022, when its impending shutdown was cancelled and it was handed a new lease of life as Disney Star’s Hindi music channel. Nevertheless, Bindass had to shed its identity as a youth-drama channel, and shifted completely towards Bollywood music. Even Channel V’s youth dramas had been similarly axed before it turned into a music channel in mid-2016, but Channel V was not as lucky as Bindass, and eventually it went off air in 2018 — nearly a year later than originally planned.
Hindi is far from the only language where music channels have been axed left and right, as many more music channels in other languages have gone off air as well, such as the English channels 9XO and Nat Geo Music, as explained on the next page. Even in regional languages, there have been a number of restructurings and shutdowns, such as Tamil, where Vijay Music is one of many music channels to have disappeared. More examples include Music Fatafati (Bengali), Zee Vajwa (Marathi, as mentioned above) and PTunes (Punjabi), which was owned by the ITV Network that also operates the English news channel NewsX and the India News group of news channels.
Which broadcasters are left standing in the Hindi music genre?
Viacom18 still the numero uno with MTV and MTV Beats
As pointed out in our article on the closure of Vijay Music, Viacom18 is the predominant national broadcaster in this genre, as it has not one but three strong music/youth-oriented channels: MTV (Hindi youth dramas, with some music shows), MTV Beats (popular Bollywood film music) and Vh1 (English music). Since MTV primarily focuses on its established shows like Roadies, Splitsvilla and Kaisi Yeh Yaariaan, most of the music programming is shouldered by MTV Beats, though MTV also has its own music reality shows like MTV Hustle, a rap/hip-hop talent show. In fact, Viacom18 is the only network to have HD music channels in any language (except Sun, with Sun Music HD and Gemini Music HD): all three of its music/youth channels are available in HD, further reinforcing its commitment to this genre and catering to millennials/Generation Z with its diverse range of channels.
However, distribution is a different story, since Tata Play is the only DTH to have MTV HD; Tata Play and Sun Direct are the only ones to have Vh1 HD; and these two plus Dish TV have MTV Beats HD, but not Airtel Digital TV or d2h, which indeed have none of these three HD channels. Non-availability of its niche channels is a long-standing issue with Viacom18: it was not until shortly before the FIFA World Cup 2022 that Sports18 1 SD and HD were added by all DTH platforms, and many other Viacom18 channels remain missing. (Most of the Colors-branded channels are present on all major TV platforms, but this cannot always be said for those using the Nick, MTV, Vh1 or Sports18 brands.)
Other long-running channels like Zoom, 9XM, B4U Music, Mastiii
Given that Sony completely exited the music genre in 2020, other national broadcasters like Disney Star and Zee have very limited presences in Hindi music: Bindass and Zing, respectively. These aside, there are many other Hindi music channels that have been running for nearly two decades and have been popular among the masses — especially youngsters, and now the countryland, due to their availability on DD Free Dish — but unfortunately they have never considered launching HD versions. These include Zoom from the Times Network, 9XM and 9X Jalwa from 9X Media, Mastiii from Sri Adhikari Brothers (SABGroup), B4U Music from the B4U Network, Music India from Media Worldwide Pvt. Ltd. (which also operates Sangeet-branded channels in Bengali, Marathi and Bhojpuri) and most recently ShowBox Channel from Anand Mahindra-promoted IN10 Media, which has been far more successful than the rest lately. Finally, there are some smaller channels like I Love from PEN Studios (as mentioned above) and Insync.
Of these channels, some, like 9XM, MTV Beats, Zoom and ShowBox, focus completely on popular Bollywood hits from the latest movies. Others, however, like 9X Jalwa, are dedicated completely to classic/retro Hindi music from the 1980s/1990s, and for that matter B4U Music and Mastiii — which otherwise show popular chartbusters — have segments at night (Awaaz De Kahaan Hai and Raat Ke Humsafar/The Golden Era with Annu Kapoor, respectively) for older Hindi film songs, as did the erstwhile Sony Mix with its Raina Beeti Jaaye segment. There are also a few channels, like Zoom and E24 by BAG Films & Media (which also owns News 24 and Darshan 24), which air news related to Bollywood gossip and movies — which was also the case with the now-defunct Zee ETC Bollywood.
The recent success of ShowBox since its addition on DD Free Dish in mid-2021 certainly serves as an aberration in the Hindi music genre, given that many of the others have been struggling to keep going in terms of paying carriage fees to TV platforms. 9X Media, for instance, was unable to prevent the removal of its Punjabi music channel 9X Tashan and Marathi music channel 9X Jhakaas from Tata Play, and the latter was removed from Airtel Digital TV as well. Nevertheless, despite all the recent negative developments in this genre, Hindi music channels command an important part of the Indian TV landscape — thanks in no small part to endearing cartoon characters like 9XM’s Bade Chote and Bakwaas Bandh Kar campaign, which have been running for well over a decade.
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