In its latest Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) document, ETV Network has announced the discontinuation of six regional-language versions of its ETV Bal Bharat children’s channels, in various non-South Indian languages, on 1 April 2022. The following channels have been earmarked for shutdown: ETV Balya Bharat Assamese, ETV Balya Bharat Bangla, ETV Bal Bharat Gujarati, ETV Bal Bharat Marathi, ETV Balya Bharat Odia and ETV Bal Bharat Punjabi.
This leaves a total of 8 ETV Bal Bharat channels, down from the original 14: ETV Bal Bharat SD, ETV Bal Bharat HD and six dedicated language channels (ETV Bal Bharat English, ETV Bal Bharat Hindi, ETV Bala Bharat Kannada, ETV Bala Bharat Malayalam, ETV Bala Bharat Tamil and ETV Bala Bharat Telugu).
Only one of these 14 channels — ETV Bal Bharat SD — is currently carried on major television platforms, so it is not like customers will be adversely affected by these changes, since no one can watch the other 13 channels anyway, including those that will shut down. It is important to note, however, that ETV Bal Bal Bharat SD and HD will continue to have regional audio feeds in all the 12 languages mentioned above, even in those languages whose dedicated TV channels will be shutting down.
ETV has long suffered from distribution issues
Unfortunately, such a development is not unexpected from ETV Network. The Telugu-language broadcaster has often struggled to make its TV channels available on major Indian DTH and cable platforms. For instance, when the news channel ETV Telangana — originally launched as ETV 3 — was launched in 2014, it took one to two years for most DTH platforms to add it; Sun Direct did not do so until September 2017.
Similarly, ETV launched the HD versions of four specialty channels — ETV Cinema, ETV Plus, ETV Life and ETV Abhiruchi — in December 2018. But aside from a few cable operators in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, none of these HD channels were ever added by any major DTH or cable operators. As a result, the latter two HD channels (ETV Life HD and ETV Abhiruchi HD) were discontinued in October 2020. Not that there was much of an audience anyway for dedicated HD versions of niche lifestyle and food channels, that too in a regional language, where the SD channels more than sufficed. Neither ETV Plus HD (a comedy channel) nor ETV Cinema HD are available on major TV platforms. Indeed, the broadcaster’s only HD channel to be carried by major TV platforms is ETV HD, its flagship Telugu GEC.
The ETV Bal Bharat channels, which were launched in late April 2021 at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, have been no different. With the exception of ETV Bal Bharat SD — since it is the most important channel of the 14, and has 12 audio feeds — none of them have been added by any DTH platforms or major cable operators, including the HD channel. ETV has not been able to get its distribution right for any of them, and there is no word on when, if ever, these channels will be added on TV platforms.
Now six of these ETV Bal Bharat channels will suffer a fate similar to that of Nat Geo Tamil and Telugu, as well as the now-deferred shutdown of Star Sports 1 Marathi: shutting down without ever being added by DTH operators and other TV platforms and apps. However, ETV Network is continuing to maintain dedicated ETV Bal Bharat channels for English, Hindi and four South Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam), though most viewers won’t be able to watch them. This is an expected move since not only is ETV a Telugu broadcaster, but channels in the kids’, infotainment and lifestyle genres typically have audio feeds only in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Even Kannada and Malayalam audio feeds are a rarity, let alone other languages and regions, where the audience for these channels is largely satisfied with English and/or Hindi.
Nevertheless, it is heartening to see the broadcaster continue to maintain dedicated audio feeds in the other six languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Odia and Punjabi), even though their dedicated language channels will cease to exist. Since all these audio feeds are already available on the main ETV Bal Bharat channel, kids in these languages can continue to enjoy cartoons in their preferred Indian language. This only reaffirms ETV’s commitment to catering to Indian kids in as many languages as possible, something that more established kids’ broadcasters such as Disney, WarnerMedia, Viacom18, Sony Pictures Networks and Discovery have shied away from, which gives ETV a distinct advantage. Only time will tell whether it can continue to uphold its commitment.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
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