Rising smartphone numbers spark 'Video on Demand' battle

Free movies, TV shows galore through net-connected mobile apps

Rising smartphone numbers  spark 'Video on Demand' battle

Missed last night’s TV premiere of your favourite movie? Unless you were hooked to the idiot box for a repeat, you’d have no chance of catching it again.

A YouTube search would help only if someone had uploaded it, but the quality could stump you. The only way out: Video on Demand (VoD), a concept still in its infancy in India, but all set for a hyper surge.

Fighting it out on this nascent arena are players such as Spuul, BigFlix, BoxTV and ErosNow, all of which offer movies and on-demand TV shows at the click of an app on your mobile phone or tablet. Offering over 950 films – 600 of them free to view on demand – and with more than 10,000 hours of TV programmes, Spuul takes the same route to connect with its subscribers. 

Rising video appetite  

Rising smartphone numbers (the last count showed over 900 million mobile subscribers in the country) has tremendously boosted the user’s appetite for videos on the mobile platforms. VoD players are betting big on this demand for videos that could be searched and accessed anywhere, any time. Suddenly, you don’t need to be glued to your TV on prime-time to catch that show!

But this liberty to pick and choose a video from a mobile app could take time before it becomes mainstream. Reason: Internet broadband speeds are still slow, data charges are high, leading to poor user experience. Videos tend to buffer or pixelate. Spuul, as its India operations chief Rajiv Vaidya told Deccan Herald, has found a way out by using adaptive bit rate to suit the subscriber’s Internet speed.

This prevents buffering, ensuring seamless video playback. Even if a TV is not smart, WiFi dongles such as Google Chromecast could now help you beam a movie right from a smartphone app to the TV screen. Spuul and ErosNow are both compatible with Chromecast on Android phones and Airplay on iOS.   

Offline videos 

To overcome the challenges of bandwidth and Net connectivity, Spuul has also jumped ion the offline video bandwagon. Vaidya explained how it works: “You can download a movie on your device and keep it for 72 hours, after which it expires. This is possible since the time stamp is coded within the movie codec.” YouTube had launched the offline feature earlier. 

Headquartered in Singapore, Spuul had initially catered to the Indian diaspora in the UK, the US, Australia and the Middle East. “Now, we have a lot of Indian content, mainly Bollywood and regional films from the South. The content is curated and not user-generated. Ninety per cent of the consumption is on mobile phones and tablets,” said Vaidya. 

Hollywood films are right now not in Spuul’s radar. But a Bollywood movie premiered in theatres might just land up on Spuul within two weeks. For TV shows, that lead time could be four to five hours.

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