English movie channels
Despite the OTT explosion that has greatly battered English GECs, English movie channels still enjoy plenty of viewership for across not only metros but also Tier II/III cities and even rural areas, given the appetite for Hollywood blockbusters in not only English but also Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
The major players in this segment are Star Movies from Disney Star, Sony Pix from SPN, &flix from Zee (known as Zee Studio until 2018) and Movies Now and MNX from Times Network, which have a number of deals with Hollywood studios and show their movies in the above language feeds. (Note that Viacom18 does not have any presence in this genre.) Moreover, Hindi movie channels such as Star Gold, Sony Max and &pictures often show a number of Hollywood movies, and Disney Star even has two Hindi channels — UTV Action and UTV HD — dedicated to Hollywood movies dubbed in Hindi.
There are also a number of niche movie channels like MN+ HD and Romedy Now from Times, &privé HD from Zee and Star Movies Select HD. These channels offer more artistically inclined or arthouse cinema, much like Star Gold Select or &xplor HD do for Hindi movies. In the case of &privé HD, which reached its fifth birthday in September, it also often shows world cinema in foreign languages, which the now-defunct Lumiere Movies and UTV World Movies did a decade ago. Romedy Now lost its HD feed in 2021, which was replaced by the Hindi news channel Times Now Navbharat HD. (All other English movie channels are available in HD, and indeed the other three niche movie channels are HD-only.) Star Movies Select, in fact, has been planning to launch an SD feed for a long time, but this has also been indefinitely postponed.
|Broadcaster||Disney Star||Sony||Zee||Times||WarnerMedia (Turner)|
|Mainstream movies||Star Movies (HD)||Sony Pix (HD)||&flix (HD)||Movies Now (HD),|
|Niche movies||Star Movies Select HD||—||&privé HD||Romedy Now,|
|Former channels||Star Movies Action,|
UTV World Movies
|Sony Le Plex HD||Zee Studio (HD)|
rebranded to &flix
|Romedy Now HD||* HBO (HD), WB|
* HBO Defined (HD)
* HBO Hits (HD)
* Lumiere Movies
Several have shut down over the years
Nevertheless, many English movie channels have been axed over the past decade. The most high-profile exit from this genre was that of WarnerMedia, which launched HBO South Asia in 2000 and was one of the oldest and most well-known players. It along with HBO HD and WB were eventually closed in December 2020, leaving WarnerMedia’s Indian portfolio with only the kids’ channels Pogo, Cartoon Network and CN HD+, and the South Asian feed of the international news channel CNN. (However, after WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery, the new Warner Bros. Discovery entity has a much larger Indian portfolio, given that Discovery has long operated a number of lifestyle, infotainment, kids’ and even sports channels here.)
In the past, WarnerMedia (then known as Turner India) operated a large number of niche English movie channels. These included Lumiere Movies (originally NDTV Lumière, a joint venture with NDTV), which showed foreign-language movies; TCM (Turner Classic Movies), which showed a number of classic Hollywood movies; and the ad-free premium channels HBO Defined and HBO Hits, which were launched in 2013 in both SD and HD feeds and showed acclaimed HBO series such as Game of Thrones in addition to several other movies. HBO Defined (SD and HD) and HBO Hits SD were axed on New Year’s Eve 2015, while HBO Hits HD became the HD feed of HBO (which thus far didn’t have an HD feed, unlike other English movie channels) in September 2016, until the final closure of HBO South Asia in December 2020.
Other broadcasters, too, have had their share of shutdowns in this genre. Star, under Fox’s ownership, operated Star Movies Action until 2017, while Disney India — well before it acquired Star in 2019 — operated UTV World Movies until 2014 that was a world-cinema channel, much like Lumiere Movies. SPN launched the niche movie channel Sony Le Plex HD in 2016 with high-decibel promotions, as a competitor to MN+ HD and Star Movies Select HD, only to shutter it on New Year’s Eve 2018 along with two other niche HD-only channels (Sony Ten Golf HD and the Hindi music channel Sony Rox HD) — as with so many other axed Sony channels. There was also MGM Channel, which was launched in 2000 as Zee MGM (in partnership with the then-Zee Telefilms) and became a standalone channel in 2007 before closing in 2015.
Nevertheless, the remaining English movie channels continue to show big-budget Hollywood premieres — especially Star Movies, which has access to a number of in-house Disney studios such as Pixar and Marvel, along with Star Gold, UTV Action/UTV HD and many regional channels of Disney Star. Given that Times Network doesn’t otherwise have any presence among Indian entertainment and movie channels, it has resorted to signing deals with a range of Hollywood studios, as a result of which its MNX channel — originally launched in 2016 as Movies Now 2 before rebranding a year later — has dethroned Star Movies as the number one English movie channel. The combined Zee-Sony entity will also make use of a similar strategy going forward, given that it has both &flix and Sony Pix in its stable to cater to mass Hollywood movies.
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