DreamDTH Explains: A guide to North Indian channels (Punjab, Haryana, Urdu, J&K/Ladakh)

Punjab is one of India’s smallest regional markets in terms of scale, but it has a strong, established local broadcaster — PTC — that has ruled for years. Other North Indian languages’ TV channels are small in number.

Avatar of Soham Bhadra

By Soham Bhadra

13 minutes read

No comments

Share article:

Follow us

Almost the entire country has been covered with our previous articles on the Indian television industry across languages and regions, and now only one region is left: Northern India, where Punjabi is the predominant non-Hindi language — but it is nowhere as big as the South Indian languages, Bengali or Marathi. Punjabi television is dominated by the PTC Network, owned by the politically powerful Badal family which also operates Fastway Cable in several North Indian states. PTC has several Punjabi channels across genres and even has HD versions for most of them, but those are confined to Fastway Cable — in addition to several other local HD cable channels — and are not satellite channels, and hence there are no Punjabi satellite HD channels.

Besides PTC, Zee is the only other broadcaster with a GEC in Punjab, but there are a bunch of music broadcasters like 9X Media and the local MH One that operate Punjabi music channels. In addition, Punjab has its own dedicated religion — Sikhism — and therefore it is natural that there are a number of Sikh channels as well. Moreover, the Punjabi diaspora outside India is one of the largest in the world — centred mostly in Canada and the UK, besides the US and several other countries — and so it goes without saying that PTC channels have a number of overseas feeds as well, in addition to local Punjabi channels in those countries which are not available in the Indian territory.

Other than Punjabi, there are a couple of small languages in northern India: Haryanvi, a dialect of Hindi which is spoken in Haryana; and Urdu, a variant of Hindi with an Arabic-influenced script, spoken in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, as well as Hyderabad, Lucknow and certain other places. These have a small number of mostly news channels, which are often also shared with other states in the region like Himachal Pradesh. These will provide a definitive conclusion to DreamDTH’s coverage of the Indian TV industry as 2023 draws to a close.

Punjabi channels

Punjab has not been a very popular state for national broadcasters. Star and Viacom18 (previously ETV) have completely steered clear of Punjab, and even though Zee has had a presence here since 1999, it did not have a Punjabi GEC from 2013 — when Zee Punjabi was converted into the news channel Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal — to 2020 when Zee Punjabi was revived as a GEC. These circumstances have allowed PTC to take the lion’s share of the market in Punjab, with the help of multiple channels as well as sister company Fastway Cable. Still, there is no shortage of music, movies and news channels since Punjabi is a music-loving language — but there are no satellite HD channels.

Some Punjabi channels have their base in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, which serves as the capital of both Punjab and Haryana, while others are based in the adjoining city of Mohali — since Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula are collectively referred to as the Tricity. Sikh channels, in contrast, are based in Amritsar, the home of the famous Golden Temple (Harimandir Sahib) and the global centre of Sikhism.

Table of major Punjabi broadcasters

Broadcaster↓ Genre→GECMoviesMusicSikhismNewsTotal
PTCPTC PunjabiPTC Punjabi GoldPTC Chak De, PTC MusicPTC SimranPTC News6
ZeeZee PunjabiZee Punjab Haryana Himachal2
Network18News18 Punjab Haryana1
ABP (digital-only)ABP Sanjha (digital-only)1
ITV NetworkIndia News Punjab/Himachal1
9X Media9X Tashan1
MH OneMH OneMH One News (Haryana)2

Independent Punjabi channels and other channels from national broadcasters

  • GEC: Formerly Maha Punjabi before rebranding as Tabbar Hits.
    • Government: DD Punjabi
  • Movies: Pitaara, Manoranjan Movies
  • Music: Balle Balle, Punjabi Hits, Tabbar Hits, plus several Fastway-exclusive channels.
  • Sikhism: Chardikla Time TV (part-time) as well as several online Sikh channels and others that are exclusive to Fastway, including in HD.
  • News: Chardikla Time TV, Living India News, ANB News Punjabi, Daily Post Punjab Haryana Himachal and others.

PTC has a stranglehold on Punjabi television, with little competition — all over the world

Multi-state regional broadcasters in the 2000s, like ETV, stayed out of Punjab, despite having channels in plenty of other states. The main exception was Zee, whose Zee Punjabi (originally Alpha TV Punjabi; rebranded in 2005) was launched in 1999, but it rebranded to the Hindi–Punjabi news channel Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal in 2013. (There was a separate feed of Zee Punjabi in the UK, but this closed in 2018. Zee also had another Punjabi channel, Zee ETC Punjabi, which was launched in 2000 as Alpha ETC Punjabi (later ETC Punjabi) and renamed in 2011, but it shut down in 2014.) Zee decided to relaunch Zee Punjabi on 13 January 2020, breaking the monopoly of PTC among Punjabi GECs — but another defunct regional GEC, Zee Gujarati, has not been revived similarly and Colors Gujarati continues to have a monopoly there. Zee Punjabi and Zee Sarthak (Odia) are the only Zee regional GECs not to have a supporting movie channel.

It was only later that Punjab’s biggest and most popular broadcaster, PTC, made its entry. First, PTC News was launched in January 2007, followed by PTC Punjabi on 6 August 2008, which remained the only GEC in Punjab between 2013 — when Zee Punjabi was replaced by the news channel Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal — and 2020, when Zee Punjabi was revived as a GEC. It goes without saying that PTC Punjabi is the most popular Punjabi channel by viewership — not only in India but also in Punjabi diaspora strongholds like Canada, the US and the UK — followed closely by Zee Punjabi. Besides serials and reality shows, PTC Punjabi also dedicates much of its schedule to Gurbani proceedings from Amritsar’s Golden Temple.

In 2010 a music channel, PTC Chak De, was launched for popular Punjabi film songs. Nearly a decade later, on 15 February 2019, three new thematic channels were launched: PTC Music, another music channel (which focuses more on traditional folk music with some live concerts, compared to PTC Chak De and others like 9X Tashan, MH One and Balle Balle, which mainly show popular songs); PTC Simran, a Sikh devotional channel; and PTC Punjabi Gold, a movie channel with some music programming as well. PTC also has a couple of digital-only channels, PTC VR and PTC Dhol. Most PTC channels have HD feeds on Fastway, but none of those HD channels are satellite channels and so cannot be present on any other platform except Fastway.

However, PTC — much like ETV in Telugu, another strong language-specific broadcaster — has never cared much about the on-air appearance and graphics packaging of any of its channels, and indeed none of them have ever changed their logos since they were launched. In contrast, Zee Punjabi unveiled its logo and look a month before its relaunch in January 2020, with a maroon-pink and gold colour palette inspired by the phulkari textiles of Punjab. It stands distinct from other Zee regional channels — many of which copy-paste the same graphics template used by Zee TV, with minor variations — and similarly, other Zee GECs in smaller languages, namely Zee Sarthak (Odia) and Zee Ganga and Zee Biskope (both Bhojpuri), have their own graphics instead of copying their bigger siblings.

Punjabi movie, music and news channels from other broadcasters

Outside PTC and Zee, several other Punjabi channels have been launched, particularly in the music and news genres, but not GECs. The oldest Punjabi music channel is MH One, dating back to 2003, which later launched MH One News (for Haryana) and MH One Shraddha (Hindu devotional) in 2007, followed by MH One Dil Se (Bhojpuri movies) in 2022. 9X Media is another small but well-established broadcaster dedicated to music with its set of four channels. In August 2011 it launched 9X Tashan in Punjabi, two months before its Marathi counterpart 9X Jhakaas went on air in October — and these two complement its Hindi music channels 9XM (popular film music) and 9X Jalwa (retro/classic songs). Other Punjabi music channels include Balle Balle, which was launched in 2016, and Punjabi Hits, which went on air in 2021.

In terms of movies, Punjabi has comparatively fewer channels, but there are still a couple of names in addition to PTC Punjabi Gold. Pitaara was launched in September 2017 as an independent Punjabi movie channel, and there is also Manoranjan Movies, owned by the same company that runs Khushboo Bangla and Manoranjan-branded Hindi free-to-air movie channels. Moreover, the free-to-air Maha Punjabi went on air in 2019 (originally as T TV, or Taur Te Punjabi) before rebranding to a hybrid music/movie channel, Tabbar Hits, in 2023. All of these channels are or were available on DD Free Dish.

For news, besides the market leader PTC News, Zee and News18 have channels for Punjab (Zee PB/HR/HP and News18 PB/HR) combined with Haryana or Himachal Pradesh and other states — as explained in our table of channels for Haryana on the next page. ABP Sanjha was launched in 2014 as an online-only channel, but in Canada and the UK, it was added to TV platforms there. Only in late 2021 did it become a satellite channel in India, but in July 2023 it and ABP Ganga (for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand) discontinued their broadcast feeds and shifted — or, in the case of ABP Sanjha, returned — to being digital-only.

Another established independent Punjabi news channel is Chardikla Time TV, launched back in 2007 — the same year as PTC News — which balances its news programming with live Gurbani broadcasts. Some more Punjabi news channels include ITV Network’s India News Punjab Himachal — with Haryana getting its own dedicated channel — and the independent Living India News, ANB News Punjabi and Daily Post Punjab Haryana, the last of which went on air in early 2023.

Airtel Digital TV has become the leading DTH for Punjabi channels, more than Tata Play

A noteworthy fact about Punjabi TV channels’ availability is that Airtel Digital TV has always had the maximum number of Punjabi channels out of all the DTH operators, far more than Tata Play. Even though Punjabi channels from important broadcasters like PTC have always been present on all DTH platforms, Airtel has taken the lead in adding those from smaller broadcasters — in contrast to most other regional languages where Tata Play is the leader. Additionally, Tata Play removed both 9X Tashan (Punjabi) and 9X Jhakaas (Marathi) in April 2022 due to the non-payment of carriage fees, and though Airtel also removed the latter, it continues to have the former — which is further aggravated by the fact that Tata Play also removed Balle Balle, another popular Punjabi music channel, which Airtel continues to have.

By way of an example, ITV Network — which operates India News- and NewsX-branded channels — briefly had a couple of Punjabi channels named PTunes and PPlus around 2017–18, and in fact, an HD feed was even promised for the former (which would have been the first Punjabi satellite HD channel) but never materialised. At no point did Tata Play — then Tata Sky — add any of these short-lived channels before their closure, whereas Airtel had them until the very end. For a long time, PTC Music (the newer of PTC’s two music channels, with PTC Chak De being the older and more popular one) was missing from Tata Play, and it was added a long time after Airtel. Though all PTC channels are now present on Tata Play, Airtel still remains at the forefront in terms of adding smaller Punjabi channels.

On the next page, we will talk about channels in Haryana and those in Urdu and Kashmiri, and since there is very little to talk about, that will be our shortest analysis by far to bring an end to this series and 2023.

Share article:

Follow us
Avatar of Soham Bhadra

Soham Bhadra

Television Analyst

77 articles published
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.

Related articles

Visit our forums

Join the discussions with thousands of active members who share the same interests as you and learn something new…

Comments (0)Forum replies (0)

No replies yet

Loading new replies...

Punjab is one of India’s smallest regional markets in terms of scale, but it has a strong, established local broadcaster — PTC — that has ruled for years. Other North Indian languages’ TV channels are small in number.

DreamDTH Explains: A guide to North Indian channels (Punjab, Haryana, Urdu, J&K/Ladakh)

Reply Like

Leave a Comment