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Television in India

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Television in India is a huge industry which has thousands of programs in many languages. The small screen has produced numerous celebrities. More than half of all Indian households own a television. As of 2016, the country has a collection of over 857 channels of which 184 are pay channels.



Terrestrial television in India started with the experimental telecast starting in Delhi on 15 September 1959 (official launch date) with a small transmitter and a makeshift studio. The regular daily transmission started in 1965 as a part of All India Radio. The television service was extended to Bombay and Amritsar in 1972. Up until 1975, only seven Indian cities had a television service. SITE was an important step taken by India to use television for development. The programmes were mainly produced by Doordarshan which was then a part of AIR. The telecasts happened twice a day, in the morning and evening. Other than agricultural information, health and family planning were the other important topics dealt with in these programmes. Entertainment was also included in these telecasts in the form of dance, music, drama, folk and rural art forms. Television services were separated from radio in 1976. National telecasts were introduced in 1982. In the same year, color TV was introduced in the Indian market. Indian small screen programming started off in the early 1980s. At that time there was only one national channel Doordarshan, which was government owned. The Ramayana and Mahabharata (both Indian spiritual and mythological stories) were the first major television series produced. This serial notched up the world record in viewership numbers for a single program. By the late 1980s more and more people started to own television sets. Though there was a single channel, television programming had reached saturation. Hence the government opened up another channel which had part national programming and part regional. This channel was known as DD 2 later DD Metro. Both channels were broadcast terrestrially. In 1997, Prasar Bharati, a statutory autonomous body was established. Doordarshan along with AIR was converted into government corporations under Prasar Bharati. The Prasar Bharati Corporation was esablished to serve as the public service broadcaster of the country which would achieve its objectives through AIR and DD. This was a step towards greater autonomy for Doordarshan and AIR. However, Prasar Bharati has not succeeded in shielding Doordarshan from government control.

PAS-1 and PAS-4 are satellites whose transponders help in the telecasting of DD programs in half the regions of the world. An international channel called DD International was started in 1995 and it telecasts programs for 19 hours a day to foreign countries-via PAS-4 to Europe, Asia and Africa, and via PAS-1 to North America.

TV Programs: The eighties was the era of Doordarshan with shows like Hum Log (1984),Wagle Ki Duniya (1988), Buniyaad (1986–87) and comedy shows like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi (1984), Mythological dramas like Ramayan (1987–88) and Mahabharat (1989–90) glued millions to Doordarshan and later on Chandrakanta. Hindi film songs based programs like Chitrahaar, Rangoli, Superhit Muqabla crime thrillers like Karamchand, Byomkesh Bakshi. Shows targeted at children include Divyanshu ki Kahaniyan, Vikram Betal, Malgudi Days, Tenali Rama.

It is also noted that Prabir Roy, had the distinction of introducing colour television coverage in India in February - March (1982) during the 1st Nehru Cup which was held at Eden Gardens, Kolkata with 5 on-line camera operation, long before Doordarshan started the same during the Delhi Asian Games in November 1982.

The central government launched a series of economic and social reforms in 1991 under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. Under the new policies the government allowed private and foreign broadcasters to engage in limited operations in India. This process has been pursued consistently by all subsequent federal administrations. Foreign channels like CNN, STAR TV and private domestic channels such as Zee TV, ETV and Sun TV started satellite broadcasts. Starting with 41 sets in 1962 and one channel, by 1995, TV in India covered more than 70 million homes giving a viewing population of more than 400 million individuals through more than 100 channels.

Broadcast mediums

There are at least five basic types of television in India: broadcast or "over-the-air" television, unencrypted satellite or "free-to-air", Direct-to-Home (DTH), cable television, and IPTV.

Over-the-air and free-to-air TV is free with no monthly payments while Cable, DTH, and IPTV require a monthly payment that varies depending on how many channels a subscriber chooses to pay for. Channels are usually sold in groups or a la carte. All television service providers are required by law to provide a la carte selection of channels.

Broadcast television

In India, the broadcast of free-to-air television is governed through state-owned Prasar Bharati Corporation, with the Doordarshan group of channels being the only broadcaster. As such, cable television is the primary source of TV programming in India.and then private channels were started since about 1995.

Cable television

As per the TAM Annual Universe Update - 2015, India now has over 167 million households (out of 234 million) with television sets, of which over 161 million have access to Cable TV or Satellite TV, including 84 million households which are DTH subscribers. Digital TV households have grown by 32% since 2013 due to migration from terrestrial and analog broadcasts. TV owning households have been growing at between 8-10%. Digital TV penetration is at 64% as of September 2014. The growth in digital broadcast has been due to the introduction of a multi-phase digitisation policy by the Government of India. An ordinance was introduced by the Govt. of India regarding the mandatory digitization of the Cable Services. According to this amendment made in the section 9 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Ordinance, 1995, the I&B ministry is in the process of making Digital Addressable System mandatory. As per the policy, viewers would be able to access digital services only through a set top box (STB). It is also estimated that India now has over 823 TV channels covering all the main languages spoken in the nation.

Star TV Network introduced five major television channels into the Indian broadcasting space that had so far been monopolised by the Indian government-owned Doordarshan: MTV, STAR Plus, Star Movies, BBC, Prime Sports and STAR Chinese Channel. Soon after, India saw the launch of Zee TV, the first privately owned Indian channel to broadcast over cable followed by Asia Television Network (ATN). A few years later CNN, Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel made their foray into India. Later, Star TV Network expanded its bouquet with the introduction of STAR World India, STAR Sports, ESPN, Channel V and STAR Gold.

With the launch of the Tamil Sun TV in 1992, South India saw the birth of its first private television channel. With a network comprising more than 20 channels in various South Indian languages, Sun TV network recently launched a DTH service and its channels are now available in several countries outside India. Following Sun TV, several television channels sprung up in the south. Among these are the Tamil channel Raj Television and the Malayalam channel Asianet, both launched in 1993. These three networks and their channels today take up most of the broadcasting space in South India. In 1994, industrialist N. P. V. Ramasamy Udayar launched a Tamil channel called GEC (Golden Eagle Communication), which was later acquired by Vijay Mallya and renamed as Vijay TV. In Telugu, Telugu daily newspaper Eenadu started with its own channel called ETV in 1995 later diversified into other Indian languages. The same year, another Telugu channel called Gemini TV was launched which was later acquired by the Sun Group in 1998.

Throughout the 1990s, along with a multitude of Hindi-language channels, several regional and English language channels flourished all over India. By 2001, international channels HBO and History Channel started providing service. In 1999–2003, other international channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, VH1, Disney and Toon Disney entered the market. Starting in 2003, there has been an explosion of news channels in various languages; the most notable among them are NDTV, CNN IBN and Aaj Tak. The most recent channels/networks in the Indian broadcasting industry include UTV Movies, UTV Bindass, Zoom, Colours, 9X and 9XM. There are several more new channels in the pipeline, including Leader TV.

Conditional access system

CAS or conditional access system, is a digital mode of transmitting TV channels through a set-top box (STB). The transmission signals are encrypted and viewers need to buy a set-top box to receive and decrypt the signal. The STB is required to watch only pay channels.

The idea of CAS was mooted in 2001, due to a furore over charge hikes by channels and subsequently by cable operators. Poor reception of certain channels; arbitrary pricing and increase in prices; bundling of channels; poor service delivery by Cable Television Operators (CTOs); monopolies in each area; lack of regulatory framework and redress avenues were some of the issues that were to be addressed by implementation of CAS

It was decided by the government that CAS would be first introduced in the four metros. It has been in place in Chennai since September 2003, where until very recently it had managed to attract very few subscribers. It has been rolled out recently in the other three metros of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

As of April 2008 only 25 per cent of the people have subscribed the new technology. The rest watch only free-to-air channels. As mentioned above, the inhibiting factor from the viewer's perspective is the cost of the STB.

Analog switchover

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a notification on 11 November 2011, setting 31 March 2015 as the deadline for complete shift from analogue to digital systems. In December 2011, Parliament passed The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act to digitise the cable television sector by 2014. Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai had to switch by 31 October 2012. The second phase of 38 cities, including Bangalore, Chandigarh, Nagpur, Patna, and Pune, was to switch by 31 March 2013. The remaining urban areas were to digitise by 30 November 2014 and the rest of the country by 31 March 2015.

Indicates the date when analogue signals were switched off and not necessarily the date when 100% digitisation was achieved.

Phase I

From midnight on 31 October 2012, analogue signals were switched off in Delhi and Mumbai. Pirated signals were available in parts of Delhi even after the date. In Kolkata, on 30 October 2012, the state government refused to switch off analogue signals citing low penetration of set-top boxes (STBs) required for receiving digital signals. The I&B Ministry did not push for switching off of analogue signals in Kolkata. After approximately the Centre estimated that 75% of Kolkata households had installed STBs, the ministry issued a directive to stop airing analogue channels in some parts of the city beginning 16 December and completely switch off analogue signals after 27 December. On 17 December 2012, the West Bengal government openly defied the directive and stated that it would not implement it. The state government then announced that it would extend the deadline to 15 January 2013. The I&B ministry had initially threatened to cancel the license of multi system operators (MSOs) in Kolkata if they did not switch off all analogue channels. However, the ministries softened their stand following a letter from MSOs, explaining how it they were sandwiched between divergent orders from the Central and State Governments.

In Chennai, the deadline was extended twice to 5 November by the Madras High Court. The extension was in response to a petition filed by the Chennai Metro Cable TV Operators Association (CMCOA), who argued at the beginning of November that only 164,000 homes in Chennai had the proper equipment, and three million households would be left without service. When a week later only a quarter of households had their set-top boxes, the Madras High Court further extended the deadline to 9 November. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting stated that it would allow an additional extension to 31 December. As of March 2013, out of 3 million subscribers, 2.4 million continued to be without set-top boxes.

A similar petition, filed by a local cable operator (LCO), to extend the deadline in Mumbai was rejected by the Bombay High Court on 31 October 2012.

Phase II

In the second phase, 38 cities in 15 states had to digitise by 31 March 2013. Of the 38, Maharashtra has 9 cities, Uttar Pradesh has 7 and Gujarat has 5.

About 25% of the 16 million households covered did not have their equipment installed before the deadline. Secretary Uday Kumar Varma extended a 15-day grace period. The I&B ministry estimated that as of 3 April 2013, 25% of households did not have set-top boxes. Enforcement of the switchover varied from city to city. Vishakhapatnam had the lowest rate of conversion to the new system at 12.18 per cent. Other cities that had low figures included Srinagar (20 per cent), Coimbatore (28.89 per cent), Jabalpur (34.87 per cent) and Kalyan Dombivli (38.59 per cent).

Satellite television

As of 2016, over 1600 TV satellite television channels are broadcast in India. This includes channels from the state-owned Doordarshan, News Corporation owned STAR TV, Sony owned Sony Entertainment Television, Zee TV, Sun Network and Asianet. Direct To Home service is provided by Airtel Digital Tv, BIG TV owned by Reliance, DD Direct Plus, DishTV, Sun Direct DTH, Tata Sky and Videocon D2H. Dish TV was the first one to come up in Indian Market, others came only years later.

These services are provided by locally built satellites from ISRO such as INSAT 4CR, INSAT 4A, INSAT-2E, INSAT-3C and INSAT-3E as well as private satellites such as the Dutch-based SES, Global-owned NSS 6, Thaicom-2 and Telstar 10.

DTH is defined as the reception of satellite programs with a personal dish in an individual home. As of December 2012, India had roughly 54 million DTH subcribers.

DTH does not compete with CAS. Cable TV and DTH are two methods of delivery of television content. CAS is integral to both the systems in delivering pay channels.

Cable TV is through cable networks and DTH is wireless, reaching direct to the consumer through a small dish and a set-top box. Although the government has ensured that free-to-air channels on cable are delivered to the consumer without a set-top box, DTH signals cannot be received without the set-top box.

India currently has 7 major DTH service providers and a total of over 54 million subscriber households in as of December 2012. DishTV (a ZEE TV subsidiary), Tata Sky, Videocon D2H, Sun Network owned ' Sun Direct DTH', Reliance Digital TV, Bharti Airtel's DTH Service 'Airtel Digital TV' and the public sector DD Direct Plus. As of 2012, India has the most competitive Direct-broadcast satellite market with 7 operators vying for more than 135 million TV homes. India overtook the USA as the world's largest Direct-broadcast satellite market in 2012.

The rapid growth of DTH in India has propelled an exodus from cabled homes, the need to measure viewership in this space is more than ever; aMap, the overnight ratings agency, has mounted a peoplemeter panel to measure viewership and interactive engagement in DTH homes in India.

Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)

There are currently five IPTV Platforms available for Subscription in India in the main cities as Broadband Internet penetration is confined to urban areas of the country, They are

  • IPTV A joint venture between MTNL and BSNL also in association with Aksh Optifiber a company that also provides FTTH and VoIP services available in some of the main cities in India such as Mumbai which has about 200 Television Channels on offer with Time Shift TV in a number of Basic and Premium Packages including Movies on Demand offered at various Basic, Premium and Pay Per View Rates and other services such as an Interactive Karaoke channel, The IPTV Operator uses the UTStarcom RollingStream IPTV Solution as its end-to-end Delivery Platform.
  • Airtel IPT available in some of the main cities in India such as New Delhi and Bangalore which has about 175 Television Channels on offer with Time Shift TV in a number of TV Packages and a small number of Television Channels offered on Premium Subscription Rates including Movies on Demand offered at Premium and Pay Per View Rates SVOD and other services such as Digital Radio and Games, The IPTV Operator uses the UTStarcom RollingStream IPTV Solution as its end-to-end Delivery Platform.
  • Smart TV Group also Operates an IPTV Platform based on the Sea-Change International IPTV and Cisco IPTV Standards in many parts of India with the following services:
  • 185 TV channels on various basic and premium packages
  • 40 TV channel Catch up TV service
  • 250 Hour Personal Video Recorder
  • A 5000+ Hour Movie Library
  • Digital Radio and Karaoke Service
  • The service is available to MTNL and BSNL Broadband Internet customers.

  • Reliance IPTV is an IPTV service Operated by Reliance Communication the Telco uses the Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV Middleware Software as its end-to-end delivery Platform, with around three TV packages on offer. the service is currently only available in Mumbai.
  • Programming

    The typical Indian soap opera is by-far the most common genre on Indian television. Fiction shows (which also includes thriller dramas and sitcoms) are extremely popular among Indian audiences, as they reflect real family issues portrayed in a melodramatic fashion.

    There are thousands of television programs in India, all ranging in length, air time, genre and language. The Hindi television industry is by far the biggest. However, some have much greater influence on the audiences, and therefore make the annual list of the best Hindi shows. The present status follows:

    List of Top five Hindi GEC television shows in India (Week 24,2016)

    Source: Barc India

    Audience metrics

    Television metrics in India have gone through several phases in which it fragmented, consolidated and then fragmented again.


    During the days of the single channel Doordarshan monopoly, DART (Doordarshan Audience Research Team) was the only metric available. This used the notebook method of recordkeeping across 33 cities across India. DART continues to provide this information independent of the Private agencies. DART till this date is the only rating system that still measures audience metrics in Rural India.


    In 1994, claiming a heterogeneous and fragmenting television market ORG-MARG introduced INTAM (Indian National Television Audience Measurement). Ex-officials of DD (Doordarshan) claimed that INTAM was introduced by vested commercial interests who only sought to break the monopoly of DD and that INTAM was significantly weaker in both sample size, rigour and the range of cities and regions covered.

    In 1997, a joint industry body appointed TAM (backed by AC Nielsen) as the official recordkeeper of audience metrics. Due to the differences in methodology and samples of TAM and INTAM, both provided differing results for the same programs.

    In 2001, a confidential list of households in Mumbai that were participating in the monitoring survey was released, calling into question the reliability of the data. This subsequently led to the merger of the two measurement systems into TAM. For several years after this, in spite of misgivings about the process, sample and other parameters, TAM was the de facto standard and monopoly in the audience metrics game.


    In 2004, a rival ratings service funded by American NRI investors, called Audience Measurement Analytics Limited (aMap) was launched. Although initially, it faced a cautious uptake from clients, the TAM monopoly was broken.

    What differentiates aMap is that its ratings are available within one day as compared to TAM's timeline of one week.

    Broadcast Audience Research Council

    An even newer industry body called the Broadcast Audience Research Council seeks to set up an almost real-time audience metrics system. Plans for this was announced in March 2008 and work is said to be in progress.


    Television in India Wikipedia

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