DreamDTH Explains: An overview of Hindi entertainment channels (GECs) in India today

In the first of a series of ‘explainer’ articles, this article discusses the various types of Hindi entertainment channels, which ones are more successful than others and which audiences they target.

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Estimated reading time: 20 minutes, 8 seconds

Genres of Hindi TV channels

Now we move to Hindi TV channels, which make up the largest share of Indian TV channel viewership and are also the most prominent in visibility and social media reach. Most of these channels are headquartered in Mumbai, since the main commercial broadcasters operate from Mumbai, but most of the news channels are based in Delhi instead — which is easy to understand since Mumbai is the financial and entertainment centre of India, while Delhi is the political capital of the country.

We cover the following genres of Hindi TV channels in this article:

  • Pay GECs
  • FTA GECs
  • Doordarshan channels

These genres will be covered in separate articles:

  • Pay movie channels
  • FTA movie channels
  • National news channels
  • Regional news channels
  • Music channels
  • Devotional channels
  • Sports channels

Multilingual channels — such as food/lifestyle/travel channels, knowledge/infotainment channels and kids’ channels — will be covered in a separate article on English and multilingual channels, even though many of them (such as Epic TV and Food Food) are Hindi channels without any other audio feed.

Overview of Hindi GECs

Pay GECs

The below table provides an overview of the pay Hindi GECs from the four major broadcasters — Disney Star, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Sony Pictures Networks India and Viacom18 — including rural-focused channels from these broadcasters that have had an on-and-off relationship with DD Free Dish. Though those channels (except Big Magic) were removed from DDFD in April 2022, they may be readded in the future.

BroadcasterDisney StarZeeSonyViacom18
Flagship GECStar Plus (HD)Zee TV (HD)Sony TV (HD)Colors (HD)
Secondary GECStar Bharat (HD)&TV (HD)Sony Sab (HD)
Rural-focused channelStar UtsavZee Anmol,
Big Magic
Sony PalColors Rishtey
Total (SD + HD)5 (3 + 2)6 (4 + 2)5 (3 + 2)3 (2 + 1)

Large pay GECs: Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony TV, Colors, Sony Sab

The largest and most successful pay Hindi GEC is Star Plus, whose most successful serials include Anupamaa, Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Mein, Imlie as well as Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, which has been running since 2009. Most of these shows were launched in 2020; until then, Star Plus had a big focus on female empowerment and had shows with strong women protagonists. Its main competitors are mostly dependent on one or two main ratings-drivers while the other serials make up a smaller share of the viewership. (Sony TV is far more dependent on reality shows than on serials, as explained below.) So Zee TV is driven by for the Bhagya shows (Kumkum Bhagya, Kundali Bhagya and Bhagya Lakshmi), and Sony Sab is synonymous with Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, the country’s longest-running sitcom, which has been on air since 2008. Colors, meanwhile, is especially dependent on Bigg Boss and Naagin, which have a large audience base and fan connect both on TV and on OTT platforms and social media.

In terms of reality shows, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) or Sony TV has the lion’s share of non-fiction properties, ranging from adaptations of international franchises (Indian Idol, Kaun Banega Crorepati, Shark Tank India) to its own in-house properties (The Kapil Sharma Show, Super Dancer, Superstar Singer, India’s Laughter Champion). In fact, some reality shows have even shifted from other channels: India’s Got Talent has moved from Colors, while MasterChef will soon move over from Star Plus. Other GECs do not have as many reality shows: Star Plus has Dance+, Zee TV has its in-house Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Dance India Dance, and Colors has Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Khatron Ke Khiladi as well as Bigg Boss.

In addition, Sony TV does have a reputation for well-written, heartfelt dramas that may not garner a lot of ratings, but strike a chord with audiences for their quality and storyline. Good examples from the past include Kuch Rang Pyaar Ke Aise Bhi, Bade Achhe Lagte Hain and Beyhadh, plus many historical and mythological shows like Porus, Vighnaharta Ganesh, Mere Sai and Chandragupta Maurya. Furthermore, Sony TV is the home of the well-known crime and investigation shows CID and Crime Patrol. These further establish its reputation as a channel known for class and quality instead of melodramatic ‘saas-bahu’ storylines that Star Plus and Colors are known for. No wonder, then, that SET India’s YouTube channel is the third-most-subscribed in the world, with over 140 million subscribers.

On the other hand, Sony Sab was once known as a comedy channel, and indeed it does have a number of sitcoms (like Maddam Sir and Wagle Ki Duniya) in addition to TMKOC, but nowadays it has expanded to include youth-focused superhero programming (such as Baalveer Returns, Dharm Yoddha Garud and Aladdin — Naam Toh Suna Hoga), starring fresh faces in their teens and twenties who often have tens of millions of Instagram followers. This is a departure from its original positioning as a family comedy channel, where its most popular shows besides TMKOC included Lapataganj, F.I.R., Jijaji Chhat Par Hain and Tenali Rama. It has also briefly ventured into weekend stand-up comedy shows, such as Good Night India, which are finite series that last for a few months at most.

Some of the most famous serials on Hindi TV channels — all except Diya Aur Baati Hum are still aired in 2022

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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.

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In the first of a series of ‘explainer’ articles, this article discusses the various types of Hindi entertainment channels, which ones are more successful than others and which audiences they target.

DreamDTH Explains: An overview of Hindi entertainment channels (GECs) in India today

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