On Friday, 23 June 2023, DTH operator Airtel Digital TV added the Tamil HD movie channel Zee Thirai HD on LCN 779, becoming the first DTH platform in the country to do so. Zee Thirai HD and its Kannada counterpart Zee Picchar HD (the first and only Kannada HD movie channel) were launched in September 2021 but were added only by some local cable platforms and never by any DTH platforms, severely curtailing their distribution and availability.
This move by Airtel Digital TV is a rare addition of a small regional HD channel, as such niche regional HD channels have scarcely been added by any other TV platforms, and while Zee Thirai HD has finally been added by a DTH platform, the interminable wait continues for Zee Picchar HD and many other such regional HD channels — especially some new launches from Disney Star.
Many new regional HD channels haven’t been lucky to be added by TV platforms
Zee Thirai HD is only the second Tamil HD movie channel to be launched, after KTV HD from the Sun network, which was launched all the way back in December 2011 and is available on all 5 pay DTH platforms. A third, Vijay Super HD from Disney Star, was launched in March this year, along with the Malayalam movie channel Asianet Movies HD (the first HD movie channel in that language) and several others.
However, neither of them have been added by any TV platforms, as is also the case for the Odia GEC Star Kiran HD — the first-ever Odia HD channel, and the first satellite HD channel outside the big six regional languages — which has never been made available anywhere since being launched last June. Star’s Marathi movie channel Pravah Picture HD, a month older than Star Kiran HD, has been somewhat luckier as one DTH platform (Sun Direct) has it, in addition to some cable platforms in Maharashtra.
Nevertheless, all these launches from Disney Star were a much-needed expansion in terms of regional-language movie channels, because, of the six major Indian languages, Telugu is the only one to have as many as four HD movie channels — Gemini Movies HD, Star Maa Movies HD, Zee Cinemalu HD and ETV Cinema HD — though the last one, again, is not on any DTH platform, as is the case with all of the ETV Network’s HD channels barring the main ETV HD channel.
The other languages usually don’t have more than one each: Zee Talkies HD in Marathi (until Disney Star launched Pravah Picture HD last year) and Jalsha Movies HD in Bengali were launched back in 2016 — and are hence present on most or all DTH platforms — while Zee Picchar HD in Kannada and Asianet Movies HD in Malayalam were the first (and, so far, only) HD movie channels in those languages but have not been added anywhere. In Tamil, while KTV HD is present on all DTH platforms, Zee Thirai HD was not on any DTH platform until this addition, and Vijay Super HD remains invisible along with Asianet Movies HD.
Still, this is a small but important step in ensuring the visibility and distribution of niche HD channels, especially since there is another HD channel from Zee — the Hindi niche movie channel &xplor HD — that remains exclusive to Airtel Digital TV (on LCN 235) among DTH operators, as no other TV platform has shown any interest in adding that channel nearly four years after its launch in 2019. One can only hope that, now that the NTO 3.0 order has been implemented, Zee, Disney Star and other broadcasters will make some attempt in getting their niche HD channels added by more DTH platforms and ensuring better visibility and distribution.