Television in India

Get to grips with TV standards, and find out what's available to the viewer in India…

The television transmission standard in India is PAL B. Foreign television sets will work only if they are compatible with this standard. There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world:

  • NTSC: used in the USA, Canada, Japan and some other countries
  • PAL: used in most of western Europe, Australasia and South Africa
  • SECAM: used in France, Africa and eastern Europe

The three systems are not compatible with each other. It is not possible to watch television on an NTSC or SECAM appliance in India, or to use a DVD or video player that is configured for either of these systems. Multi-standard televisions are compatible with PAL (or NTSC) video recorders, DVD players, games consoles and other video equipment.

Terrestrial TV Channels

Doordarshan is the national TV channel broadcasting in Hindi. It has 12 national channels. Some shows may be broadcast in English or a mixture of Hindi and English. There are also regional channels broadcasting in state languages.

Cable and Digital Television

There are many providers of cable, satellite and digital television. There are hundreds of channels to choose from, with many in English and a few in Arabic, French and German. Monthly fees depend on the package, but vary between Rs1,500 and Rs7,000.

A cable television connection offers at least 100 channels at an affordable price, but requires that the area has cable laid. Checking with the main companies or with local people is the best way to determine whether cable has been laid.

Digital television is very quickly replacing cable. Although more expensive than cable, digital television services offer superior picture quality and a wider range of channels. It is received through a set-top box connected to an external aerial, so it doesn’t require the installation of a cable or a designated Internet/telephone line. The cost of the connection includes the purchase and installation of the set-top box by the service provider.

Some digital television providers, such as Airtel, also offer Internet packages.

Satellite Television

Satellite TV offers a wide variety of channels and is a good option for those who prefer to watch channels from a particular region. The satellite TV providers will install a satellite dish for a fee.

How to Subscribe

Orders can be placed online or by calling the television service provider. Within a few days, a company representative will visit the residence to install the device. TV is available everywhere in India, even in small towns. It is advisable to seek the landlord’s permission before installing a satellite dish. Payment is made on a monthly basis by credit card, cheque or Internet banking, or by cash to a company representative who will visit at the start of each month. Proof of ID and residence is required to subscribe to a service.

Landlords and neighbours are the best source of information about which television providers serve a particular area. The biggest companies include:


There are different schemes in India because of the variety of languages. Subscribers can choose from any pack that suits their needs. There are quite a few English channels. News broadcasts can also be found in English on many channels. Each provider’s website details the channels and packages available.

The English-language channels available in India include:

  • BBC World Service
  • BBC Entertainment
  • National Geographic Channel
  • Animal Planet
  • Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Science
  • Fox Traveller
  • History TV
  • The Learning Channel
  • CNN
  • CNBC
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney Channel
  • HBO
  • Sony Pix
  • ESPN
  • Star Sports

For further information on Airtel’s packages: Click here

For further information on Tata Sky’s packages: Click here

Television Licences

A television licence is not required in India.