The building blocks are all falling into place. Telecom operators are rolling out high-speed 4G services, home broadband speeds are increasing and there is greater demand for entertainment services across the country, not just in the big cities. More importantly, India’s youth population is quite open to consuming entertainment while on the move. And, with the Indian diaspora spread across the world, there is demand for video content across continents.
Video on demand (VOD) services are today the new battleground for content and services. Says Rajiv Vaidya, CEO of Singapore-based studio-neutral aggregator Spuul India: “While everyone believes that content will be the differentiator, it all finally depends on the overall user experience and brand loyalty.” Spuul acquires Indian film content for download across platforms – (iOS, Android), Web, TV (Samsung, Panasonic, LG), Airplay on iOS, Apple TV and Chromecast on Android.
The difference with Spuul is that its focus is on subscription revenues and not advertising like other platforms. It has 18 million subscribers who usefree content at least once a month. Of that, 1 million are paid subscribers. Half of these subscribers are in India, while the rest are scattered across the world. Vaidya argues that advertising spoils the user experience. As a result, a paying subscriber on the Spuul platform can see an ad-free movie. In India where bandwidth has been an issue, it launched the download feature called offline fit. Vaidya points out that Spuul did it a year before YouTube. The other differentiator for the Indian market is Tiny downloads, that help in slow download areas. The user can download a 1GB movie in 60MB with the right resolution for a mobile screen. That’s one service that has caught on.
Right now it is a growth phase for VOD and the big challege has come with the launch of Netflix in India. Netflix entry is good for competition. Its good for the consumer. Right now, its focusing on the top 1% of the market. Vaidya points out that at Spuul they analyse data, day in and day out. “We see what people are watching. It’s not just the blocbusters that do well. Most people get to see blockbusters in cinema halls.” A lot of the focus in Spuul has been on regional content – Punjabi and Malayalam for now. That’s because there are expats from these two states across the world. But, the focus on regional content will grow over time with the introduction of Tamil, Bengali and Marathi content soon.
Despite the focus on movies, Spuul does not have TV serials in its content repetoire. Vaidya points out they had all the TV serials, but failed to monetise it. As a result, it changed one of its contracts seeking movies for the same value instead of TV serials.