Below are the major free-to-air GECs airing in India today, all of which are available on DD Free Dish in addition to pay TV platforms. They primarily target audiences in rural and semi-urban areas across the Hindi Speaking Markets. (Azaad TV shut down in August 2022.)
- Enterr10 Network: Dangal, Dangal 2
- Shemaroo: Shemaroo TV, Shemaroo Umang
- IN10 Media: Ishara TV
- QYou Media: The Q
- Others: Atrangii
Arguably the trendsetter in this genre is Dangal, which is operated by the Enterr10 Network that also owns Bhojpuri Cinema and Enterr10 Bangla (formerly also Fakt Marathi). Dangal reached the peak of its success in 2019 after Star Bharat — which ruled the roost at the top of the BARC ratings chart throughout 2018 — was removed from DD Free Dish.
For a year and a half, Dangal became the most popular TV channel in India, even after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even today it is among the top five most popular TV channels in India as per the BARC ratings, though it has been overtaken by Star Plus as well as the Hindi FTA movie channel Goldmines and the South Indian GECs Sun TV and Star Maa.
Dangal rose to popularity on the back of shows that were originally aired on Imagine TV. This was a defunct Hindi GEC that was launched in 2007 as NDTV Imagine, a joint venture between NDTV and Turner India; when NDTV quit the partnership in 2010, Turner took control and renamed it to Imagine TV, before it shut down in 2012 due to continued losses. The original shows of Imagine TV found a new lease of life on Dangal. Later Dangal shifted its focus to its own original historical and mythological series like Devi Adi Parashakti, and afterwards launched its own fiction series with romantic storylines that are similar to those on pay GECs — especially Colors, whose Naagin inspired a similar show on Dangal.
To accommodate the old shows of Imagine TV that continue to be popular with DDFD viewers, Enterr10 Network rebranded its existing Hindi movie channel Enterr10 Movies to Dangal 2 in April 2022. Another popular show on Dangal and Dangal 2 is Crime Alert, which is modelled upon Crime Patrol on Sony TV and Saavdhan India on Star Bharat/Life OK. It is no wonder that Dangal has made the most of its presence on DD Free Dish and its unmatched traction and popularity among the Tier II/III audience, where certain OTT platforms like ALTBalaji and the Times Group’s MX Player have made a mark with their focus on shows from the hinterland.
Inspired by Dangal’s runaway success, other broadcasters have also tried their hand at launching similar rural-focused Hindi GECs. Shemaroo Entertainment, one of India’s largest content aggregators and distributors for nearly 60 years, launched Shemaroo TV in the initial days of the pandemic in May 2020, and followed it up with the female-centric Shemaroo Umang in April 2022. These channels mostly air repeat telecasts of old shows syndicated from Star Plus and the erstwhile Life OK, such as Devon Ke Dev… Mahadev, though Shemaroo TV made headlines in June 2022 with its stand-up comedy show Waah Bhai Waah that is anchored by Shailesh Lodha of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah fame. Shemaroo Umang too will launch its own original shows in due course. While not as tremendously popular as Dangal, Shemaroo TV has also found its own niche among DDFD viewers.
Other broadcasters have been somewhat less successful on DD Free Dish. IN10 Media, which operates channels such as Epic TV, ShowBox Channel and Gubbare, launched Ishara TV in March 2021, but it has struggled to be available on DD Free Dish for a long time. While it was added on DDFD in August 2021, it was removed the following month and added again in April 2022. Another company named Beginnen Media tried its hand with this market and launched Azaad TV in April 2021, and its shows were also made available on MX Player, but it failed to attract any ratings and eventually shut shop earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Vibhu Agarwal — whose Ullu OTT platform has found a name for its adult-rated, provocative content — launched the Atrangii channel in June 2022 with much fanfare, boasting of a lineup of shows featuring famous actors. Initially it was added by private DTH platforms, but it struggled to get any advertisers whatsoever, and ultimately Tata Play and other private DTH platforms decided to remove the channel in August. This is also when DD Free Dish (which did not originally carry the channel) added Atrangii, more for the channel’s own benefit than for the viewers, since it has barely managed to make any impact within a few months of its launch.
In the midst of these channels on DDFD is a unique channel called The Q, which has adopted a digital-first approach and shows content from social media influencers on TV. It was added on DD Free Dish a year ago and aims to tap into the increasing swathes of youngsters below 30 across Tier II/III cities that make up a huge proportion of India’s social media users. The Q’s schedule consists of sketch comedies, food shows hosted by popular digital creators, animation and lifestyle/travel shows, and this has led it to witness some growth among the younger generation, similar to the existing youth/lifestyle channels like Zing or Bindass. Its parent company QYOU Media even launched a Marathi sister channel, Q Marathi, in March 2022, which aims to replicate the channel’s strategy in Maharashtra.
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