DreamDTH Explains: A guide to English GECs, movie and news channels in India

Here we take a look at English GECs, movie channels, news channels (including business channels) and international channels that are available in India.

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes, 5 seconds

After our previous explainers on Hindi GECs and Hindi movie and news channels, we now turn to English TV channels in India, which are essential due to the near-universal usage of English in urban areas and increasingly in rural areas of the country. Some English channels (such as GECs and news channels, and historically movie channels) have only an English audio feed, while others have had multiple audio feeds (most commonly Hindi, Tamil and Telugu) to cater to wider demographics — a trend that has been increasingly observed with English movie channels over the past few years.

This article focuses on English GECs (general entertainment channels), movie channels and news channels, which typically have only an English audio feed, while multilingual channels — including kids’, lifestyle, sports and knowledge/infotainment channels — as well as music channels will be covered separately. You can navigate to each section using the Table of Contents.

English GECs

There are currently three major broadcasters in the English GEC space: Disney Star with Star World, Star World Premiere HD and Disney International HD, Viacom18 with Colors Infinity and Comedy Central, and Zee with Zee Café. Sony Pictures Networks was also a major player in this sector in the form of AXN for 20 years until its closure in 2020. The below table shows some important English GECs in India, both past and present, from these four major broadcasters.

BroadcasterDisney StarZeeViacom18Sony
Current channelsStar World (HD),
Star World Premiere HD,
Disney International HD
Zee Café (HD)Colors Infinity (HD),
Comedy Central (HD)
none
Former channelsFX (HD), Fox CrimeAXN (HD)

Struggles of the Star World channels

Star World and Star World Premiere HD have been struggling for years, and were earmarked for closure for a long time. Indeed, they should have shut down in December 2021, but these and many other launches and shutdowns by Disney Star have been frozen for many months without any end in sight. The broadcaster’s only launches/rebrands to have got the green signal in 2022 are Super Hungama, Pravah Picture, Star Kiran and most recently Vijay Takkar. Nor have the Star World channels changed their logo and on-air graphics in many years — unlike the Middle Eastern version of Star World and the now-defunct Southeast Asian version, which rebranded to Fox Life in 2017 and shut down in 2021 along with many other Disney and Fox Networks Group channels in that region.

And they are not alone, because the English GEC sector as a whole has been severely affected and rendered almost redundant by the onslaught of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and other OTT platforms with their clutch of Western and other foreign (especially Korean) shows.

Our article from a year ago explains how Star World and Star World Premiere HD have been comatose for long, which is further justified by the fact that the latest season of the Bollywood celebrity chat show Koffee With Karan — perhaps Star World’s most famous show for a decade and a half — was aired exclusively on Disney+ Hotstar from July to September 2022, instead of linear TV. Star, under the ownership of the erstwhile 21st Century Fox, also operated the masculine-oriented channels Fox Crime and FX (which also had an HD feed) until they were shuttered in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Once the Star World channels shut down, Disney Star will be left only with Disney International HD in this genre, which targets a distinctly different demographic of teens and young adults with its offering of Disney Channel’s original live-action series such as Hannah Montana, Liv and Maddie and Austin and Ally. It has been somewhat successful in this regard, given that it will reach its fifth anniversary at the end of October without the fear of being axed. Disney Star’s commitment to the channel is a sign of its acknowledging that such content has been able to find an audience, however small, among urban Indian teenagers.

Comedy Central, Colors Infinity and Zee Café

The other two broadcasters are only slightly more successful. Comedy Central is supported by a host of reruns of classic American sitcoms, including FriendsThe Big Bang TheoryYoung Sheldon and The Middle, which are highly popular for their comfort value. Colors Infinity and Zee Café, meanwhile, air a variety of American series — including the popular medical dramas The Good Doctor and Grey’s Anatomy, respectively — often shortly after their US premiere. They also have previously hosted a couple of Indian reality shows, such as the music reality show The Stage on Colors Infinity and the dance reality show Dance with Me on Zee Café, hosted by singers Shakti and Mukti Mohan.

More recently, as far as Indian non-fiction shows are concerned, Colors Infinity launched The Inventor Challenge, a competitive reality show for inventors that is hosted by actress Aahana Kumra. Meanwhile, Zee Café launched Not Just a Chat Show, hosted by teenage social media sensation Anushka Sen, who — with nearly 40 million Instagram followers — is among the most-followed Indian influencers and is looking to enter the Korean entertainment industry. Zee Café itself is no stranger to Korean dramas, as it has aired K-dramas like Boys Over Flowers and Descendants of the Sun before.

The future of English GECs is bleak, but they have a long history

Even before the current plight among major Indian broadcasters in this genre, foreign broadcasters had short-lived presences in India such as BBC Entertainment, ITV Granada (which was present only on Airtel Digital TV, and removed before its rebrand as ITV Choice in 2013), Big CBS Prime/Spark/Love and Big RTL Thrill in the early 2010s. Nevertheless, in spite of the steady fall into obsolescence that English GECs have faced due to the streaming boom — with channels like AXN pulling out altogether — they have had a long legacy of entertaining urban Indian households with Western and Indian shows for over two decades. It is because of these channels that sitcoms like The Office and How I Met Your Mother, and reality shows such as MasterChef Australia and The Voice, gained popularity among the upper-crust Indian elite before they switched to streaming services.

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Avatar of Soham Bhadra
Soham Bhadra

Soham is a Computer Science graduate from NTU, Singapore, with an active interest in the Indian TV and entertainment industry. He publishes freelance articles and shares his insights primarily on the Indian TV industry and DTH operators. He has a passion for words and reflects that through his articles.

Forum replies (2)Comments (0)

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In feature English movies channels have only english audio feed??

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I hope this article will be a trip down memory lane for many of our older members, especially @dino29 and @shawl_who bhai. I have covered a number of closed channels including:

  • Big CBS Prime/Spark/Love
  • Big RTL Thrill
  • ITV Granada
  • BBC Entertainment
  • Lumiere Movies
  • TCM
  • MGM Channel
  • HBO
  • WB
  • HBO Defined
  • HBO Hits
  • Sony Le Plex HD
  • UTV World Movies
  • Star Movies Action

Hopefully someone will remember these channels and talk about them. There are others that I didn’t include such as Hallmark Channel, Zone Reality and others.

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