Television on Demand

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Heard of hulu.com? It’s a streaming TV service in the US. They make available TV shows online for small payments. It sounds innocuous enough, but it’s a revolution. And you are already part of it. In India, this was led by YouTube who first introduced us to on-demand video. Then came the pirates who recorded and put anything they could find on TV online. Then came the suits who figured this could be profitable and are now making money by the truckloads letting us see on the computer what we may be missing on TV.

In India – a decidedly immature market for such content – there are many vying for a piece of your credit card. And it’s all really confusing at the moment. At one end of the spectrum are DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) like Tata Sky+ that let you record TV programmes so that you may watch them at your convenience. And they offer a decent library of on-demand programming too. So why should we bother with online streaming?

It’s simple. Second and third screens are taking over our lives. Your tablet and mobile phone are more than mini computers and calculators. They are entertainment centres. And face it: you are bored of the apps! So the next thing you’re looking for is entertainment. And here it is.

In India, the options at the moment are limited. Box.tv is making the most noise. Of course there’s YouTube and Hungama. iTunes is now offering Indian content – both movies and music, but no TV shows. Starsports.com is going strong with free cricket. Spuul is interesting in that it’s got a lot of latest movies (iPad and iPhone only) and has a pretty good library too. But in the pipeline are some more that should make this an interesting area to watch.

The typical model followed by these services is a freemium model. Some stuff is free, but the really good stuff is normally paid for. Box.tv is offering a Rs 199 monthly package for now. Unlimited viewing. It’s cheaper than TV, but the content library isn’t that vast yet. If the screen size if not what you want, though, you could tinker around and stream this to your big screen TV.

Before making a decision, do refer the specific pricing and other options. For example, Hungama and iTunes offer HD option for movies and most services let you ‘rent’ the movie for a fixed period. So yes, it’s a good idea to read the fine print.

On paper, these are great services. A tablet or phablet with Wi-Fi or 3G (or 4G) and you can stream a movie you like on-the-go. It sounds great. The challenge will be to get the best connectivity… something all of us India still don’t have too much.

While there is uncertainty about the uptake of these services, we feel it’s a matter of time before they take off in a big way. What the typical user will want, though, is a vast content choice and the ability to get it for cheap. I hope the service providers are listening and can give us what we really want!

Originally published in The Goan.

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