DreamDTH Explains: A guide to lifestyle and infotainment channels in India
Like the kids’ genre, these two genres have several common factors: multilingual audio feeds, a niche urban audience and a large presence by Warner Bros. Discovery.
Infotainment (knowledge) channels
While Warner Bros. Discovery has had a recurring presence throughout this article with a wide range of channels across the kids’ and lifestyle genre, it is the infotainment or knowledge genre where WBD’s grip is the strongest, with as many as five channels covering various interests: the flagship Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery (which had a short-lived disastrous experiment as Discovery Jeet/Jeet Prime), Discovery Science and DTamil (known until 2019 as Discovery Tamil) — which, similar to Travelxp Tamil, is its only language-specific channel. All of its shows, past and present, are available on the Discovery+ streaming service, in addition to several original Indian series.
But it is not without competition, which comes from equally well-established channels: National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild from Disney Star, History TV18 from Reliance through its AETN18 joint venture and the six-year-old Sony BBC Earth from Culver Max Entertainment, a partnership with BBC Studios. In addition, Epic TV from IN10 Media has various original productions on Indian culture and heritage, making for a contrast to the above channels with their shows based on nature and wildlife as well as science, technology and society.
Note: All shows mentioned on these channels are as per the April 2023 programming lineup.
|Broadcaster||Current channels||Audio feeds||Former channels|
|Disney Star||• National Geographic (HD)|
• National Geographic Wild (HD)
|• English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu (all channels)|
• Bengali, Kannada (Nat Geo)
|Nat Geo Adventure (HD) (2010–2015)/|
Nat Geo People (HD) (2015–2019)
|Warner Bros. Discovery||• Discovery Channel (HD)|
• Animal Planet (HD)
• Investigation Discovery (HD)
• Discovery Science
• DTamil (fmr. Discovery Tamil)
|• English, Hindi (all channels)|
• Tamil (Discovery, Animal Planet) +
dedicated channel, DTamil
• Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali,
Marathi (Discovery only)
|Predecessor of Investigation Discovery:|
Discovery Jeet/Jeet Prime (HD)
|Culver Max Entertainment|
(partnership with BBC)
|Sony BBC Earth (HD)||English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu|
|Reliance (AETN18)||History TV18 (HD)||English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu|
|IN10 Media||Epic TV||Hindi and English||Epic TV HD|
WBD: Discovery, Animal Planet, Discovery Science, Investigation Discovery, DTamil
Discovery has had the longest presence in the Indian infotainment/knowledge genre, with the main Discovery Channel being launched on Independence Day (15 August) 1995. Its HD version, Discovery HD World, was the first-ever HD channel in India, being launched all the way back in March 2010 on Sun Direct HD, the country’s first HD DTH service. Its latest rebrand was on 8 August 2019, shortly before the premiere of a special Man vs. Wild episode with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the HD version became simply Discovery HD. It airs a number of Indian and foreign productions — mostly veering towards exploration in remote locations — with the lineup consisting of both American shows like Man vs. Wild and Ultimate Survival Guide, and India-specific ones like Walking the Himalayas and India Uncovered. In October 2022 it launched The Journey of India, a finite series narrated by Amitabh Bachchan. Impressively, Discovery is the only Indian infotainment channel to have audio feeds in as many as 8 languages, including Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi, which no other infotainment channel has.
Its most well-known sister channel in this genre is Animal Planet, which has also been around since the 1990s — 29 March 1999 to be precise — and launched its HD feed on 2 June 2014 along with TLC (originally named Animal Planet HD World before the latest elephant logo was introduced on 15 July 2019). Its programming naturally leans towards wild, unexplored flora and fauna, with some show names including Wild Africa: Rivers of Life, Incredible Earth and Masters of the Jungle. Another sister channel is Discovery Science — launched in 2010 along with Discovery Turbo, with neither of them having any HD feed — whose shows are similar in nature to many of those on National Geographic, including Factory Made, How The Universe Works, Deadliest Tech and You Have Been Warned, catering to those with an inquisitive spirit.
Investigation Discovery and the failed experiment of Discovery Jeet/Jeet Prime
WBD also has two smaller niche channels, which have also been around for a long time. Investigation Discovery was originally launched in August 2014 as a Hindi entertainment channel focusing on true crime documentaries, with American shows dubbed in Hindi such as Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry? and True Conviction, which served it well for a few years. However, on 12 February 2018, it was completely transformed into a mainstream male-oriented Hindi GEC, Discovery Jeet, with original programming including the factual Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh and 21 Sarfarosh: Saragarhi 1897, as well as a few Hindi serials like Mere Papa Hero Hiralal — in addition to signing a content deal with Netflix for the same.
In less than three months it was evident that this strategy had turned out to be disastrous for ratings, and by June 2018 all original programming stopped and the channel reverted to American shows dubbed in Hindi, from both Investigation Discovery’s crime library and TLC’s food-based shows. In February 2019 there was a name change to Jeet Prime, but it was clear that the channel had no future whatsoever in this form, and so it reverted to Investigation Discovery on 13 January 2020, which remains classified as a Hindi GEC by DTH operators instead of an infotainment channel. (As far as the HD feed is concerned, it was launched along with Discovery Jeet in February 2018 before returning to its Investigation Discovery avatar. Only Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct have it; Tata Play does not.)
DTamil (formerly Discovery Tamil): a regional channel with a tailored lineup
Additionally, Discovery has long operated a dedicated Tamil channel: it launched Discovery Tamil on 15 August 2011 with dedicated shows for the regional channel, and changed its name to DTamil on 28 March 2019 — similar to DSport, now known as Eurosport — with a golden logo introduced with the Tamil New Year in April 2021. In November 2019, DTamil repositioned itself as an entertainment channel with new original shows, but these seem to have been retired. Today DTamil mostly has dubbed American shows from the global Discovery library, some retaining their American names like Toddlers and Tiaras and Star vs. Food, and others with Tamil names like Samayal Khilladies and Arusuvai Express — though there are also a few Indian ones like The Great Indian Factory. It also has a few animation shows for kids such as Doki.
Disney Star: National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild, with many more in the past
Star India, then owned by Fox and the Murdochs, was also an early entrant into the infotainment space, with the launch of National Geographic Channel (NGC) on 1 July 1998 that was the first competitor to Discovery. Later it launched The History Channel in 2003 — which was renamed in 2008, as seen on the previous page, while History TV18 was launched in 2011 — and Nat Geo Wild on 31 July 2009. Nat Geo has built an impressive library of content over the years, both Indian (India’s Mega Kitchens, Snakes SOS: Goa’s Wildest, as well as several past documentaries like Lockdown: India Fights Coronavirus and Megastructures) and foreign (e.g., Air Crash Investigation, Banged Up Abroad, Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted). Meanwhile, Nat Geo Wild (which last rebranded on 27 January 2020, with a longer ’National Geographic Wild’ name) has mosty American content similar to Animal Planet. Both are available in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, with NGC also having a Bengali feed — though strangely Tata Play does not have Nat Geo Wild’s Telugu feed — but NGC’s Kannada feed, launched in 2021, is not present anywhere.
Several new channels were launched in 2010–11, including Nat Geo HD and the foreign-operated Nat Geo Adventure (later Nat Geo People), Nat Geo Music and BabyTV in both SD and HD feeds. Of these, Nat Geo People was a lifestyle channel with foreign food and travel shows, similar to Fox Life, except it was completely an international channel with no Indian shows. While NGC’s SD feed has always had a localised Indian feed, NGC HD and Nat Geo Wild (SD and HD) were Southeast Asian feeds until Indian versions were launched in February 2016. Nat Geo People/Music (SD and HD) and BabyTV SD were withdrawn from Indian shores in June 2019, while BabyTV HD managed to last until March 2023, when it was replaced by Disney Channel HD.
Interestingly enough, all of these channels from Star/Fox — including the erstwhile The History Channel — use or used the top left corner for their on-screen logo, which is mostly used by the Zee network since its mega-rebrand in 2017 and also by a handful of other channels. Today, Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild are the only Disney Star channels to use the top left corner, now that BabyTV and the other Nat Geo channels are gone. All other Disney Star channels use the top right — the standard for most Indian broadcasters — and the Star-branded channels have not used any other corner since 2000, though the erstwhile Channel V did briefly use the top left for some time, while Disney Channel used the bottom left.
History TV18: originally entered in 2003, relaunched in 2011
With the previous version of The History Channel having left India in 2008, Network18 launched History TV18 on 9 October 2011 — including in HD, a rarity at the time, along with CNBC-TV18 Prime HD — with campaigns featuring Salman Khan, some weeks before Fox Traveller went on air on 30 October. It is the only channel of AETN18, a joint venture between A+E Networks and Reliance’s Network18 — with Viacom18 not involved — after the closure of FYI TV18. Since Disney holds a stake in A+E Networks, there are chances that History TV18 may have to find a new Indian partner, if not shut down entirely like Sony ESPN did in 2020 due to Star’s acquisition by Disney, which owns the ESPN brand.
History TV18 has an especially large number of Indian shows, with OMG! Yeh Mera India, an exploration show hosted by Krushna Abhishek, being the most well-known one, as well as Small Budget Big Makeover that originally aired on FYI TV18. There are also several international shows that are aired on global feeds of History, including Pawn Star, Kings of Restoration and Storage Wars, which cater mostly to men like Discovery Turbo. Like Nat Geo and Discovery, History TV18 has also had a number of Indian special documentaries, including Saving the Ganga and Modern Marvel: Statue of Unity. Its latest graphics refresh was in April 2022.
Sony BBC Earth: running for six years and counting
Launched on 6 March 2017 in SD and HD feeds as a partnership between Sony Pictures Networks India (now Culver Max Entertainment) and BBC Worldwide (now BBC Studios), Sony BBC Earth saw SPN’s foray into factual entertainment with the slogan of ‘Feel Alive’. It has a number of mostly foreign shows that air on the international feeds of BBC Earth that are mostly about exploring untamed corners of the planet — similar to Animal Planet and Nat Geo Wild — such as David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, Blue Planet, Where the Wild Men Are and Animal Impossible. Sony’s commitment to the channel for over six years is commendable, especially as the broadcaster has axed a large number of niche channels in the past — Sony Rox HD, Sony Mix, Sony ESPN SD/HD, AXN SD/HD, Animax, Sony Le Plex HD, Sony Ten Golf HD, as well as cancelling the launch of Sony Marathi HD — and it continues to be a worthy competitor to the Discoverys and Nat Geos of the genre.
Epic TV from IN10 Media: celebrating Indian culture, heritage and cuisine
IN10 Media, promoted by Anand Mahindra, has steadily established itself as a strong, independent Hindi broadcaster, operating two free-to-air GECs (Ishara and the newcomer Nazara) on DD Free Dish; ShowBox Channel, now the leading Hindi music channel; the kids’ channel Gubbare; and Filamchi Bhojpuri. It was, however, Epic TV that was the first channel of the broadcaster, being launched back on 19 November 2014, with original productions like Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyaan and Stories by Rabindranath Tagore that are also available to watch on Netflix.
Epic TV has a rich treasure trove of cultural, historical, mythological and culinary shows that celebrate Indian heritage and culture far better than the state-owned DD Bharati’s limited-budget shows can. These include Adrishya, Indipedia, Parikrama and Exceptional Engineering. The channel was briefly available in an HD feed — available only on the then-Tata Sky — before it shut down in October 2018, while the broadcaster launched its streaming service Epic ON in 2017 that has a number of shows from both Epic TV and other IN10 Media channels. Originally available only in Hindi, an English feed was launched in July 2021, and a new logo and look went on-air on 16 December 2021 with the slogan Soch Se Aage (Ahead of Thought).
Teleshopping channels: almost dead
In the 2000s the teleshopping genre had started to gain traction, with channels and teleshopping blocks like Telebrands and HBN taking over late-night hours, though many viewers considered them to be a nuisance. Over the years, the genre has drastically declined, with most channels exiting altogether thanks to the availability of superior products and services on Amazon and Flipkart. Still, there are a handful of teleshopping channels left, including one by Zee, and they are discussed here for the sake of completeness.
Current channels: Today there are only two teleshopping channels left, Naaptol — which used to operate several regional-language channels in the 2010s, and even one in HD — and EZ Mall, which is owned by Zee. They are available on several DTH and cable platforms but have a very limited viewership.
Defunct channels: The following teleshopping channels used to operate in India but have been forced to down the shutters. Though HomeShop18 may no longer be a TV channel, its website continues to operate. Interestingly, one of these channels, Best Deal TV, was owned by A-list Bollywood actors like Akshay Kumar and Shilpa Shetty but could not operate for a long time.
- HomeShop18: Launched in April 2008 by the Network18 group, HomeShop18 claimed to be India’s first digital commerce player. It merged with its competitor Shop CJ in September 2017, but both channels ceased transmission in 2020, though HomeShop18 continues to exist as an online store and app.
- Shop CJ: This channel was launched in 2009 as Star CJ Alive, a joint venture between the Star network and South Korea’s CJ O Shopping. In 2014, Star exited the joint venture, to be replaced by Providence Equity Partners, and in April 2015, Star CJ Alive was renamed to Shop CJ with CJ O Shopping taking a controlling role. It joined forces with HomeShop18 in 2017 with the Shop CJ brand ceasing to exist.
- Naaptol regional and HD channels: DTH platforms added a large number of regional-language Naaptol teleshopping channels starting from the mid-2010s, and there was even a Naaptol HD channel, but this shut down in 2017. Over the last few years the number of Naaptol channels has drastically decreased, though its teleshopping shows are also aired on free-to-air Hindi movie channels like Cinema TV India and Wow Cinema One, which are owned by the same group.
- Gemporia/Indology: Gemporia, a teleshopping channel dedicated to jewellery, was launched in early 2016, replacing Travel Trendz. In 2019 it was renamed to Indology, but ceased broadcasting in March 2020 with the advent of the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
- Best Deal TV: This channel was launched with great fanfare in March 2015, owned by Bollywood celebrities Akshay Kumar and couple Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty, but its tumultuous journey came to an end in December 2016 due to financial difficulties and non-payment of dues.
This picture of Indian infotainment and lifestyle channels is useful to understand their position in an Indian TV landscape where their affluent, urban target audience is rapidly shifting to streaming platforms, as WBD has understood with its numerous original series on Discovery+. These channels may not contribute to a huge share of the viewership or revenue pie, but they are nevertheless necessary for providing diversity and relaxation for viewers, with shutdowns like that of FYI TV18 hurting regardless. Teleshopping channels, meanwhile, are barely hanging on by a thread, and within the next few years they may well bid adieu from Indian TV. This being the last set of genres for national channels, our DreamDTH Explains articles will henceforth turn to regional-language channels, starting with the largest and most popular region: South Indian channels.
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