DreamDTH Explains: A guide to West Indian regional channels (Marathi and Gujarati)

While Marathi is one of India’s biggest regional markets — with Star Pravah the leader amid intense competition — Gujarati channels never reached that scale, with Viacom18 the only non-news broadcaster.

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By Soham Bhadra

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As 2023 draws to a close, so does our DreamDTH Explains series of articles covering the Indian television industry in great detail across every language, state and genre. We are now down to the last few regional languages after our analytical pieces on South and East Indian channels over the past few weeks. Now we explore two important regional languages in West India — one with a huge, well-established viewership with plenty of channels, Marathi, and a much smaller one in terms of TV viewership (but not other factors) with several news channels and almost nothing else: Gujarati. Our final article will be on the channels of Northern non-Hindi states, namely Punjabi and Urdu, with some amount of Haryana thrown in as well, which will conclude our exploration of the Indian TV industry.

Marathi has all the ingredients of a mature, large-sized market, with all the big broadcasters — Star, Zee, Viacom18, as well as Sony and Sun more recently, plus several small free-to-air networks — vying for a slice of the viewership pie. Zee in particular has thrown much more weight behind Marathi than other regional languages, launching far more channels in the language than the typical one GEC and one movie channel seen in other states. However, in terms of viewership and popularity, Zee has been completely laid bare by Star Pravah, which has singlehandedly knocked off Zee Marathi from its longtime numero-uno perch and stormed to the top — reaching the BARC national top 10 channels (where no non-Hindi, non-South channel had ever been before), where it has remained since 2020, and even briefly entered the top 5 in November 2023.

Gujarati, however, is an extremely rare example of a language being almost completely ignored by non-news broadcasters, with many news channels — more than Marathi — being on air, but almost nothing otherwise. Viacom18 is the sole commercial broadcaster in Gujarat, with Colors Gujarati and Colors Gujarati Cinema being the only GEC and only movie channel in the language. There are also two Hindu devotional channels, something not seen in Marathi (or Bengali, for that matter), but every other Gujarati channel — other than the state-owned DD Girnar and the Vande Gujarat educational channels — is bound to be a news channel, and that even includes a business channel, CNBC Bajar, which no other regional language has. However, unlike Assamese where News18 is the only national news network present so far, Gujarati has news channels from multiple national players, including News18, Zee, ABP, TV9 and ITV Network.

This is despite Gujarat being one of the most important political and economic drivers for the whole country, all the more so since the Prime Minister is from there. The reason, strangely, is that Gujaratis actually prefer Hindi channels to those in their own language — something that is reflected in the BARC top 5 channels in Gujarat, where Hindi GECs predominate. Below we explore how Marathi channels grew to the size and scale that they have reached today — and how Gujarati channels never did.

Marathi channels

With India’s financial, trade and entertainment centre of Mumbai as its capital, in addition to other major cities like Pune and Nagpur, it is no wonder that Maharashtra’s TV channel industry is one of the largest regional markets in India — so much so that it constitutes one of the ‘Big Six’ regional languages, along with the four South Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam) and Bengali in the East. In fact, the great majority of national broadcasters, from Disney Star to Zee to Sony to Viacom18 and Network18 — as well as others like Times Network, part of The Times Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate — are all headquartered in Mumbai. (News broadcasters, however — other than The Times Group — tend to be headquartered in Delhi instead, since it is the national capital and the political and journalistic nerve centre.) Compared to other regional languages, Marathi has comparatively fewer news channels — around 10, like Malayalam — whereas others often have around 15.

Here, though, we will focus only on Marathi-language channels from these broadcasters, with the competition in recent years having risen drastically with the launches of Sony Marathi and Sun Marathi in the GEC space, and Pravah Picture among movie channels — though there have also been some shutdowns like that of Zee Vajwa, Zee’s short-lived Marathi music channel — while the long-planned grand merger of Zee and Sony will likely lead to the axing of one or two more Marathi channels, since there are too many of them currently.

Most Marathi channels are naturally headquartered in Mumbai, but some like Saam TV — the news channel of the Sakal daily newspaper — are based out of Pune instead, and only Zee Marathi has a dedicated international feed since the Marathi diaspora is not as strongly concentrated like the South Indian, Bengali or Punjabi overseas populations. Moreover, not only Maharashtra but India’s smallest state, Goa, is predominantly Marathi- and Konkani-speaking — with Konkani being a small regional dialect — the state’s colonial Portuguese history aside.

Table of major Marathi broadcasters

Broadcaster↓ Genre→GECMoviesNewsTotal
Disney Star1Star Pravah (HD)Pravah Picture (HD)4
ZeeZee Marathi (HD); Zee YuvaZee Talkies (HD); Zee Chitramandir2Zee 24 Taas7
Viacom18/Network18Colors Marathi (HD)News18 Lokmat3
Culver Max (Sony)Sony Marathi1
SunSun Marathi (HD)32

Small national and local multi-channel Marathi broadcasters

Broadcaster↓ Genre→GECMoviesMusicNewsTotal
Enterr10 NetworkFakt Marathi1
ShemarooShemaroo MarathiBana1
Sri Adhikari Brothers (SABGroup)Maiboli1
Media WorldwideSangeet Marathi1
9X Media9X Jhakaas1
ABP NetworkABP Majha1
TV9 NetworkTV9 Marathi1

Independent Marathi channels and other channels from national broadcasters

  • GEC: Q Marathi
    • Government: DD Sahyadri; also DD Goa (Marathi and Konkani)
  • News: Saam TV (Sakal group), Jai Maharashtra, Lokshahi News, Pudhari News, News State Maharashtra/Goa; upcoming in 2024: NDTV Marathi

Notes:

1Previously also Star Sports 1 Marathi, launched in 2019, but this was never added by TV platforms and was hence discontinued on 15 March 2023 alongside Star Sports 1 Bangla and several other Disney Star channels, while many others were launched or rebranded. Star Sports 1 Bangla was supposed to have been replaced by Jalsha Josh, but its launch was cancelled along with that of Hungama HD.

2Zee Chitramandir was launched exclusively for DD Free Dish and so is not available on any other platform.

3Sun Bangla HD and Sun Marathi HD were added by Sun Direct on 30 November 2023 as a test transmission, and by Tata Play on 5 December 2023. Both channels are expected to be officially launched in early 2024 along with Sun Neo in both SD and HD, which will likely be a Hindi GEC.

Note: The only kids’ channels to have been launched in either Marathi or Gujarati were the respective versions of ETV Bal Bharat in 2021, but these shut down a few months after their launch along with non-South Indian ETV Bal Bharat channels — though Marathi, Gujarati and 10 other language feeds remain available on the ETV Bal Bharat SD and HD channels. That said, several kids’ channels like Pogo, Nick and Sony YAY! have Marathi — but not Gujarati — audio feeds, in addition to many other regional languages. Discovery Channel also has a Marathi audio feed.


On Page 2 we will outline the history of the major Marathi channels, across four main genres — GEC, movies, music and news (there being no Marathi devotional channels) — and on Page 3 we will look at how, despite having so many Marathi channels, Zee has completely lost the plot in Maharashtra while Star Pravah’s dominance rises from strength to strength. Finally, we will touch upon Gujarati channels on Page 4, since there is comparatively little to talk about them — even though there are plenty of Gujarati news (including business) channels.

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Soham Bhadra

Television Analyst

78 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.

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It's strange that gujarati has nothing to watch but news.

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@Just Tv @Shantanu @Mylanji @Akshay Nanaware @Aryan Patil Would appreciate your views on this, since you all know a lot about Marathi channels and serials. :tup:

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