Satellite television

1991: Advent of satellite television

The fight for TRPs has led channels to add more and more programs.

It all started with the Gulf War. When the bombardment began on January 17, 1991, the American television station CNN broadcast it live from Baghdad around the world via satellite television. Since the reporters were mostly away from the actual violence, what they broadcast and the world watched was mostly a sound and light show, a bloodless “video game” war served as entertainment .

That winter, Indians too were delighted to see the violent events of distant Baghdad unfold live in their living rooms. Sensing a golden business opportunity, in December 1991 Star TV Network introduced five television channels into the Indian broadcast space that had been monopolized for so long by the state-owned Doordarshan. The following year, Zee TV, India’s first private Indian channel was launched.

With a bunch of channels like STAR Plus, Star Movies, BBC, Discovery, STAR Sports, ESPN, Channel V, Cartoon Network catering to all tastes and cravings, Indians were glued to their televisions. Doordarshan was now outdated: its staid programs were no match for the stellar content broadcast by satellite television. Cable companies, bringing content home, thrived: the skies of cities and towns were criss-crossed by the ubiquitous black wires, which came to symbolize the upward social mobility of middle-class families. All of this was in step with the liberalization of the economy, which made the bigger world a smaller and more accessible place.

The fight for TRPs has led channels to add more and more programs. For the serious adult there was Star Movies, BBC; for the cricketers, there was ESPN, STAR Sports; teenagers swooned over Rahul Khanna singing the latest George Michael or Green Day hit on MTV; the kids went on an adventure with the Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network; night owls watched as models strutted down the ramp at Fashion TV. The 24/7 entertainment model had arrived and set the standard for the internet age.