Bollywood on demand; a ‘Spuul’ full of entertainment

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Most of us look to online video streaming services like SideReel and Megavideo for watching the latest seasons of or beloved Western shows. But till recently, Bollywood fans did not enjoy such luxury, with DVDs being the sole alternate to watching movies in theatres. However, with the continual rise of video streaming sites providing Indian content, the trend is fast changing. One such player looking to penetrate into this relatively unchartered territory with a blend of differentiated content and customer experience is Spuul.

Spuul, founded in 2010, but in operation since three months, is a cloud-based streaming video service that allows consumers the world over to watch Bollywood movies via web and mobile devices.

This Singapore-based startup was founded by Sudesh Iyer (founder of Sony Entertainment Television in India) and S Mohan (Founder of Palo Alto-based Accellion and buUuk). It is an ad-supported subscription-based service that provides a concoction of free-to-view and paid movies. It currently has around 1000 titles in its library, which is refreshed on a regular basis.

The recent past has seen players entering both the linear and non linear space, with some offering their own content and others grabbing it from a number of platforms. Spuul faces competition from brands like ErosNow and Big Flix, on the paid side, along with YouTube’s Box Office Channel to name a few.

Prakash Ramchandani

Prakash Ramchandani, South-Asia & India Head, Spuul

For Prakash Ramchandani, South-Asia & India Head of Spuul, however, presence of more players will only help in growing this nascent category in the country. In terms of its format though, Ramchandani compares it to that of Hulu, an international OTT subscription service offering on-demand streaming video of shows and movies. To create an account on the site, users need to log-in using their facebook accounts. There is free video- on-demand, which is freemium (free and premium) content to generate a user base, a monthly subscription model wherein users need to pay $4.99 per month to watch unlimited premium movies, and pay per view-available at US$ 0.99 per movie for 72 hours of unlimited views.

The affordability and availability of broadband speed and the phenomenal rise in the number of smartphone users in the country have provided impetus to the development of this industry. “There are around 40 million broadband users in India, out of which 10 million have 1 mbps plus connection. At the same time, smartphones have come to occupy 10 per cent of the total market and are likely to grow up to 4 times in the next few years,” adds Ramchandani.

While, Spuul does not cater to any specific target audience in terms of demographics, it is eyeing both cell phone users and the ones who consume content online. While India represents a huge opportunity to the company, it also operates in several NRI countries. “In the international market, consumption on direct to home and satellite is very expensive and there are no legal Indian content sites,” says Ramchandani.

Countries like UK, Australia, Middle East, and USA are some of the markets where Spuul is concentrating its focus. India, at present, is contributing 40 per cent to the site’s total revenue.

To create awareness and connect in India, Spuul is relying on a digital led marketing strategy. It has deals with CricketInfo and Howzatt among others. It is also looking to forge partnerships with telcos. Among traditional media, it is considering a radio campaign in the near future.

To further expand options for watching movies on the go, Spuul recently launched an Ios app for the iPhone, iPad users and is in the process of launching an Android one as well.

Ramchandani did not divulge details about the investments that have gone into this venture in India or the marketing budget.

In terms of the challenges that digitising Bollywood faces, while Ramchandani pegs piracy as the greatest obstacle, he also considers content cost to be a constraint.

Spuul is also looking at offering television content and live news in the near future.

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