Video via Web comes of age in India

18th January 2016
Video via Web comes of age in India
Internet TV lets families decide what to watch -- and when

The India entry  of Netflix last week ,   marks  the global  coming-of-age  of Internet TV. Will it change  the  way  the world's most movie-crazy nation  does its time-pass ?
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, January 18 2016: The simultaneous  addition  of 130 countries  (including India) to the global footprint of  the Netflix service,  last week,  was a landmark in the decade-long history  of Internet TV.  It marks a  large-scale lurch away from  the tune-in and   consume-what-we-feed model of conventional  cable or satellite television, to an   on-demand  era.   "With the help of the Internet, we are putting power in consumers’ hands to watch whenever, wherever and on whatever device",  said  Netflix CEO Reed Hastings,  as he virtually 'switched on'  the company's expanded service during  a  CES keynote in Las Vegas. Netflix is available on  any device that has an Internet connection-- PCs, tablets, smartphones, Smart TVs and game consoles.

The world's most movie-crazy nation  could hardly ignore a development like this. Indeed,  it was first off with an agile TV-industry response: Elsewhere at the same CES mela,  Devita Saraf, the young CEO of the desi-talent-driven, US-based,   home entertainment  player Vu Technologies , was unveiling a slate of  HD and UHD smart TV sets, with dedicated  Netflix and YouTube buttons on the remote -- and some of the most disruptive price-tags in the business.

On-demand,  content  is not exactly new in India.  Some  dozen agencies  already offer  India-centric  TV or cinema content , either free   or   paid, with  subscriptions  which are among  the lowest in the world. Their sharp nose for  Indian tastes, will ensure that they are not about to roll over and die simply  because a big gorilla like Netflix has entered the competition. The opposite in fact:  "Netflix’s entry to India is a big positive as it validates the potential of Video On Demand in our country",   says Abhayanand Singh, founder of, "Customers will have a lot more choice, in terms of the content."

There are other, more earthy reasons why the Netflix model, far from wiping out the competition, will have to work hard to find a foothold: Gaurav Gandhi, COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, pin points the basic challenges. Cost:  Netflix is charging  between Rs 500 and Rs 800 for its three tiers of service here-- 2-4 times costlier than the domestic competition. Till it ties up with some  cable providers in India, the only way Netflix will find customers is via  the customer's own broadband.  4G is here but  the vast majority of users  haven't got it yet  and in any case broadband speeds  in India are a  cruel joke  with customers rarely getting what they paid for.   They have to pay for the additional cost of jitter-free speed on top of Netflick's subscription price. Lastly, Gandhi points to the 'Content Conundrum': Netflix has an impressive English content library (which) in the Indian context, will be considered niche. Like MacDonalds and Dominos before them, they  may learn the hard way, what India is ready to pay for.

Technology-wise Video on Demand,  unless bundled by your cable or dish provider, requires a  hardware or software video player.  A smart TV will also  do the job. So will a USB  dongle  like Google's ChromeCast  or Indian equivalents like Lukup Media's Lukup Player which plugs into your TV and offers a large library of movies and shows  plus 500 GB of storage.  Premium VoD services    that offer Ultra HD ( 4K) content, don't  make sense unless you havee a TV set of 36  inches or more. But it looks like the real Internet TV revolution will take place with content of lower resolution , on portable devics. This is why YouTube and Facebook  on one hand -- and the on-demand services of TV channels like Sony and  Hotstar ( of the Star TV channels)  or Airtel's Wynk, enable  so much free content in manageably small chunks that  work with smart phone Internet speeds of  around 1 MBPS or less. Indeed, the global leader in  video for mobiles -- Vuclip --  is fuelled by Indian innovation  and boasts  content in 20 languages, from 160 top studios. That  is jugaad for you!
Netflix will have to compete with  the above -- and with:

- Eros, whose  content is  mainly its own DVD  library and  costs Rs  49/month
- Box TV  with its repertoire in  of English and  10 Indian languages  at Rs 199/month
- Hooq, the  Asian VoD leader  with a  large  film- TV combo  of over 30,000 hours including  some classic DD serials,   at Rs 199/month
- Hungama's repertoire of films and music videos  in about 10 languages at Rs 249/month
- YuppTV, the world’s largest Over-The-Top (OTT) provider for Indian content, with 200-plus Indian channels in 12 languages, starting at Rs 99/month
- Spuul's Hindi, Telugu, Punjabi, Malayalam and Bhojpuri  movies from a trio of Singapore-based Indians at Rs 300/month
- Muvizz, the place for 'cinema that matters' -- documentaries, shorts and cult movies at $ 4.99/month
- Ogle  from Pritish Nandy group which promises  Hindi and international films,   free from ads, with a smooth play even at 0.5 MBPS.

 Netflix, swagatham. May  the best video-wallah  win!