It has been barely a week since the Sun network’s long-delayed non-South Indian regional HD channels Sun Bangla HD and Sun Marathi HD started satellite transmission — with their launch being rumoured for many years, but repeatedly deferred — and not only has their home platform of Sun Direct added both channels on Thursday (30 November), but on Tuesday (5 December) Tata Play has now also gone ahead and done the same. The country’s largest DTH operator has added Sun Marathi HD on LCN 1216, and Sun Bangla HD on LCN 1316. Meanwhile Sun Direct has Sun Bangla HD on LCN 890, and Sun Marathi HD on LCN 895. Currently, neither platform has Dolby Digital audio on these channels, but all other HD GECs from the Sun Network do — and those even stream in Dolby Vision on the Sun NXT app.
For the record, Sun Bangla was launched in February 2019 — marking the Sun network’s first expansion beyond South India — and Sun Marathi in October 2021, and both are free-to-air channels, unlike the Sun network’s other channels as well as other Bengali and Marathi GECs from major national broadcasters, which are all pay channels. In fact, Sun Marathi was also originally available on DD Free Dish, which has the great majority of its viewership from West and North India. Their HD versions were always in the pipeline but there was no news of their unveiling until now.
The HD feeds have not yet been officially launched, and this will likely happen along with the launch of Sun Neo, an upcoming Hindi GEC, in both SD and HD in January 2024. This adds to a long list of new HD channels added by Tata Play in the past couple of months, also including a bumper addition of seven Zee and Star HD channels at the end of October — as well as DD Sports HD, DD National HD and DD India HD from Doordarshan, which were thus far confined to DD Free Dish — with more to come shortly.
These are Sun’s first HD channels to be launched since 2017
Compared to other broadcasters, the Sun network — historically the largest in South India, particularly Tamil Nadu — has been conservative with its expansion, with the past five years seeing only a small number of channels being launched or rebranded. The last time Sun launched any HD channels was in March 2017, when Gemini Movies and Gemini Music (Telugu), Udaya TV (Kannada) and Surya TV (Malayalam) launched their HD feeds. Before that, Sun had been India’s first broadcaster to launch any regional HD channels, with three in Tamil (Sun TV, KTV, Sun Music) and one in Telugu (Gemini TV) being launched all the way back in December 2011. However, it had not launched any more HD channels until Sun Bangla HD and Sun Marathi HD.
Of note is the fact that Sun Bangla HD is the first new Bengali HD channel to be launched since 2016. The three largest Bengali GECs and one movie channel all launched HD feeds in that year: Star Jalsha and Jalsha Movies on the Bengali New Year in April, Colors Bangla in May (along with Colors Kannada and Colors Marathi) and Zee Bangla in November (along with Zee Marathi) — as discussed in our recent article covering Bengali channels. However, since Zee Bangla Cinema, Sony Aath, Colors Bangla Cinema, etc. have refused to launch HD feeds, Sun Bangla HD is the first new Bengali HD channel in 7 years.
The situation is similar in Marathi, where Star Pravah became the first Marathi channel to launch an HD feed in May 2016, followed by Colors Marathi, with the movie channel Zee Talkies becoming Zee’s first regional HD channel in any language in October 2016, and Zee Marathi and Zee Bangla doing so together in November. It was only in 2022 that Star launched its Marathi movie channel, Pravah Picture, in both SD and HD — with the result that Marathi has two HD movie channels, Pravah Picture HD and Zee Talkies HD, whereas Bengali has only Jalsha Movies HD since Zee Bangla Cinema (unlike any other regional pay movie channel from Zee) has not bothered to launch an HD feed. In any case, Sun Marathi HD is the first Marathi HD GEC in a long time, since Sony Marathi abandoned plans for launching an HD feed in 2021.
As broadcasters have largely exited the COVID phase in 2023 and returned to normal budget strategies — as seen with Disney Star’s bunch of new channels in March 2023, which were also deferred for many years — one can only hope that the Sun network, which has thus far stayed within its comfort zone of the Indian regional space, expands its horizons further with Sun Bangla HD, Sun Marathi HD and Sun Neo in the months to come.