On Thursday (14 April), three years after Disney completed its acquisition of Star India and several other assets from the erstwhile 21st Century Fox in March 2019, the country’s largest broadcaster has officially rebranded to Disney Star, a name that was unofficially used for the past couple of years by journalists and enthusiasts alike in the Indian media sector. While the combined properties with their various brand names — ranging from Star and Disney to Asianet, Nat Geo, Fox Life, Hungama and UTV, among others — have officially been under the same umbrella for three years, this change was not clearly communicated to the general public until today. Though the RIO documents issued by the company over time clearly indicate both Star’s and pre-acquisition Disney India’s channels in their price lists, it was still far from clear to the general public as regards their relationship at the corporate level.
Even though most people knew that Star is now part of Disney, as has been communicated through the brand name of the Disney+ Hotstar streaming service, it was not so clear until now how Star-branded properties (as well as those using other Star-owned brands such as Asianet and Nat Geo) were related to Disney India’s pre-acquisition properties such as Disney Channel, Hungama, Disney International HD and the UTV-branded properties. This has finally changed as Star’s website and social media handles have formally incorporated the Disney name and logo, and launched a social media campaign to better inform the public about the union. This comes as the broadcaster prepares to launch its Marathi movie channel Pravah Picture and its Odia entertainment channel Star Kirano in the next couple of months after repeated delays, though other launches and shutdowns remain indefinitely postponed since late 2021.
Disney Star’s channels come together on Twitter to start a new beginning
Disney Star has Tweeted the announcement of its new brand name, and its flagship channels and properties have all come together to reply to this Tweet and mark the beginnng of a new era for the company.
These properties are: Star Plus, the flagship Hindi GEC (general entertainment channel) and the centrepiece of Disney Star’s offerings; Star Bharat, the secondary Hindi GEC; Star Gold, the flagship Hindi movie channel; Star Movies, the flagship English movie channel; Star Sports, India’s largest sports broadcaster; Nat Geo India, Star’s infotainment and knowledge channel; the flagship regional channels of the broadcaster — namely Star Vijay (Tamil), Asianet (Malayalam), Star Maa (Telugu), Star Suvarna (Kannada), Star Jalsha and Jalsha Movies (Bengali) and Star Pravah (Marathi); the streaming service Disney+ Hotstar; and the Disney India account, which is mainly in charge of kids’ channels and intellectual properties related to the Disney brand.
Most of the replies have been in English or Hindi, including those from several South Indian channels, but Star Jalsha, Jalsha Movies, Star Pravah and Asianet have chosen to reply in their respective languages instead.
Pravah Picture and Star Kirano to expand Disney Star’s family, but other changes still on hold
Disney Star has been planning the launch of a bunch of new channels for many months now across a variety of genres. Originally announced in October 2021, the plan to launch 15 channels and shut down 10 along with one rebrand was indefinitely postponed in the next month. This was because it was waiting for the outcome of the NTO 2.0 case. However, the broadcaster did proceed with the rebranding of the kids’ channel Marvel HQ to Super Hungama in March 2022. In early April, during the Star Pravah Parivar Puraskar award ceremony, it announced the launch of its Marathi movie channel Pravah Picture, which will take place on 15 May in both SD and HD versions. The long-delayed Marathi movie channel will boast of a library of over 200 movies at launch, along with a new premiere every week, and will play a key role in breaking the near-monopoly of Zee Talkies.
Now, a new notice has been issued by the broadcaster, which mentions that it intends to launch its much-awaited Odia GEC Star Kirano on 1 June 2022, in both SD and HD feeds. This new channel, which was originally supposed to have launched on 24 January 2022, will be Disney Star’s first regional channel outside the big six regional languages — the four South Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam) plus Bengali and Marathi — and throw new light on the fast-growing state of Odisha, which has a sizeable TV-watching population that is served by other national broadcasters such as Zee and Viacom18. Moreover, Star Kirano HD will be the first-ever Odia HD channel, and therefore the first satellite HD channel in a regional language other than the big six languages. We have elaborated on the significance of this launch in our dedicated article on the launch of Star Kirano.
However, the other proposed new channel launches have been put on ice once again, and there is no word as to when the broadcaster intends to launch them. These include the Hindi movie channels Star Gold Romance, Star Gold Thrills and Star Gold 2 HD; the SD feed of the currently HD-only English niche/premium movie channel Star Movies Select; the new HD versions of existing kids’ channels, namely Disney Channel HD and Hungama HD; the new HD versions of regional movie channels, namely Vijay Super HD (Tamil) and Asianet Movies HD (Malayalam), as well as Star Sports 1 Tamil HD and Star Sports 1 Telugu HD; and the new Bengali sports channel Jalsha Josh. All these changes should have taken place in December 2021, but they will have to wait for several more months at the minimum.
Furthermore, some underperforming channels earmarked for shutdown continue to remain in limbo: the English GECs Star World, Star World HD and Star World Premiere HD, which have been rumoured to shut down for years; the Hindi youth-cum-music channel Bindass; the foreign-operated infants’ and toddlers’ channel BabyTV HD; the regional sports channels Star Sports 1 Marathi and Star Sports 1 Bangla (the latter to be replaced by Jalsha Josh); and the Hindi movie channels UTV Movies, UTV Action and UTV HD, which will be replaced by Star Gold Romance, Star Gold Thrills and Star Gold 2 HD. Disney Star is still keeping the details of these changes under wraps, and taking decisions about channel launches at a glacial pace.
Nevertheless, the launches of Star Kirano and Pravah Picture are a good start, and in fact they are perhaps the most important out of all the upcoming launches by Disney Star, as it marks its foray into the Marathi movie and Odia GEC sector to bring much-needed tough competition. It is something to celebrate for the country’s largest broadcaster as it embarks on a new journey with a new name, bringing together the global legacy and expertise of Disney with the brand recognition and trust of Star, one of India’s most well-regarded and progressive companies across all sectors.
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