Sun Direct adds &pictures, Zing, Zee Zest, Zee Picchar and several other channels

These channels are a welcome addition as Sun Direct was often the only pay DTH operator not to carry them, but this is also the case for other missing channels including many HD ones.

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By Soham Bhadra

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DTH operator Sun Direct has added several standard-definition (SD) channels over the past few weeks, many of them from the Zee network. These include some high-profile channels that were present on every other pay DTH operator but for whatever reason were absent from Sun Direct, such as &pictures — Zee’s secondary Hindi movie channel, complementing the flagship Zee Cinema — and the Kannada movie channel Zee Picchar, along with Zee Zest and Zing. (However, the high-definition (HD) version of &pictures has been present on Sun Direct for a few years now, on channel number 882.) Here we list all the new channels Sun Direct has added so far since the start of 2023, arranged by addition date.

ChannelChannel numberGenreBroadcasterDate of addition
Blacksheep TV (Chithiram TV)084Tamil entertainmentKalaignar14 January 2023
Zee Picchar280Kannada moviesZee31 January 2023
Jay Jagannath490Odia devotional (Hinduism)Sidharth31 January 2023
&pictures345Hindi moviesZee13 February 2023
Ishara TV327Hindi entertainmentIN10 Media16 February 2023
Zing374Hindi music/youthZee16 February 2023
Zee Zest553Lifestyle/foodZee16 February 2023

Note that Blacksheep TV — a new Tamil entertainment channel that Sun Direct added in mid-January, a day before its official launch on the occasion of Pongal — broadcasts on the frequency of Chithiram TV, which was previously a kids’ channel from the Kalaignar network. Though Chithiram TV is still the display name, the programming and content are effectively those of Blacksheep TV. IN10 Media’s Hindi free-to-air general entertainment channel (GEC) Ishara TV has had an on-and-off relationship with DD Free Dish and is present on all pay DTH platforms, now that Sun Direct has added the channel.

Jay Jagannath, an Odia devotional channel launched by the Sidharth network in June 2022, was added by Dish TV shortly after its launch; it remained exclusive there until Sun Direct became the second DTH to do so in January. The Sidharth network also has another Hindu devotional channel, Sidharth Bhakti, which was also added by Dish TV in June 2022 (along with the remaining Sidharth channels, namely Sidharth TV and Sidharth Gold) in addition to Tata Play and Airtel Digital TV, but not d2h or Sun Direct.

Zee Tamil HD, Zee Keralam HD, Zee Talkies HD still missing besides several others

The four Zee channels added — &pictures, Zee Picchar, Zee Zest and Zing — were missing from Sun Direct for many years now, and indeed it was the only DTH not to have them. &pictures was launched nearly a decade ago, in August 2013, as Zee’s secondary Hindi movie channel, and its HD version followed on its first anniversary in 2014. Sun Direct added &pictures HD in 2017 (along with many other missing HD channels) but not the SD version, which remained absent for nine-and-a-half years until it was finally added this week. Similarly, Zee Zest (previously known as Living Foodz until a rebrand in October 2020) and Zing (which most recently rebranded in May 2022) have been running for over a decade, or two in the case of Zing. Zee Picchar is more recent, having been launched in March 2020.

But there are many other Zee channels, particularly HD ones, which are missing from Sun Direct despite their SD feeds being present on the platform — the opposite of &pictures, where the HD feed was present but the SD feed was missing. Some important regional HD channels, such as Zee Tamil HD, Zee Keralam HD (a Malayalam GEC) and the Marathi movie channel Zee Talkies HD, are missing from Sun Direct but present on every other DTH platform. However, Sun Direct does have Zee’s other regional HD channels: Zee Telugu HD, Zee Cinemalu HD (Telugu movies), Zee Kannada HD, Zee Marathi HD and Zee Bangla HD. (Zee Thirai HD and Zee Picchar HD are not considered, since they are not available on any platforms.)

Ironically, Sun Direct is the only DTH platform to carry Pravah Picture HD — the HD version of Disney Star’s new Marathi movie channel Pravah Picture, launched last May — but also the only one not to carry Zee Talkies HD, the sole competitor of Pravah Picture HD. (However, Disney Star has never acknowledged the presence of Pravah Picture SD/HD on Sun Direct.) Pravah Picture HD’s Bengali counterpart, Jalsha Movies HD, is also present on Sun Direct, as it had added all Marathi and Bengali HD channels in September 2019 along with several others, filling up an absence of many years. Moreover, the premium Hindi movie channel &xplor HD is exclusive to Airtel Digital TV among DTH operators — having failed to be added by any other DTH platform — while Zee Zest HD (whose SD version has now been added by Sun Direct) is exclusive to Tata Play.

There are many other noteworthy HD channels which are present on every DTH operator except Sun Direct: Sony Sab HD, a major national Hindi GEC (though it is younger than other HD Hindi GECs, being launched only in 2016); Star Gold Select HD, a premium Hindi movie channel (and even Star Gold HD was not available until September 2019!); Nick HD+, Viacom18’s kids’ HD channel; the English GEC Star World Premiere HD, which Sun Direct removed in 2021 in anticipation of its long-pending shutdown, which has still not been confirmed; and Sony Sports Ten 3 HD (though Sun Direct is also the only one to carry Sony Sports Ten 4 HD).

Sun Direct has grown tremendously from being South-focused to a major national player

Nevertheless, the huge number of HD channels that Sun Direct added in January–February 2017 and September 2019 represents a massive improvement over its measly HD offering earlier. Before, it gave undue emphasis to its own Sun network’s HD channels (at the time: Sun TV HD, Sun Music HD, KTV HD and Gemini TV HD, with four more launched in March 2017) — to the extent that they were exclusive to Sun Direct for the first couple of years since their launch in December 2011 — and had very few HD channels from other broadcasters, totalling just 16 HD channels in all. To put the scenario in perspective, Star Plus HD was the one and only Hindi HD channel on Sun Direct until 2017, a situation that is unthinkable today. Only the erstwhile Independent TV (previously known as Reliance Big TV/Digital TV) had fewer HD channels, and naturally it could not last for a long time.

Sun Direct’s channel additions were part of a major expansion from being only a South Indian-focused DTH operator to a pan-Indian player capable of competing with Tata Play, Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV/d2h. Today, Sun Direct has greatly transformed into a force to reckon with, especially through its economical packages — as against the often more expensive packages on other DTH operators, which include a much higher Network Capacity Fee (NCF) — and this could only have been possible because of its commitment to filling up its channel gaps outside South India, adding large numbers of SD and HD channels and bridging the void with other DTH operators.

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Soham Bhadra

Television Analyst

80 articles published
Soham is a Computer Science graduate from NTU, Singapore, actively interested in the Indian TV and entertainment industry. He publishes articles and shares his insights on the Indian TV industry and DTH operators. He has a passion for words and reflects that through his articles.

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RE: Sun Direct General Discussion

First I start. Puthu Yugum, DD -Gyandarshan 1 removed permanently. Comedy Central removed temporarily. DD - Bharati added on Sun Direct's own tp.
Puthiya Thalaimurai might also be removed.

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RE: Sun Direct General Discussion

Sun Direct changed some of their renewal packages. In Malayalam they stopped Malayalam Cinema Plus Sports Pack. Confirmed. Via chat & CC.

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