Spuul, an ad-supported subscription-based online video streaming service that provides legal Indian content in a freemium model, has gone live in Beta mode. It offers a mixture of free-to-view and paid content, but makes money on all streaming through ads. It joins a slew of such legal online video streaming services for full length Bollywood movies launched by BigFlix, YouTube, Yahoo and ErosNow among others.
So, the business model is not mint fresh so to say. But Spuul's founders come with the right pedigree which can make a difference.
Spuul Pvt Ltd is a Singapore-based startup founded in 2010 by Sudesh Iyer (founder of Sony Entertainment TV in India) and S Mohan (the founder of companies like Accellion and buUuk, among others). Michael Smith, former head of global tech initiatives at Yahoo! Southeast Asia, also has a key role in the company. So the top execs bring with them a mix of technology and content experience.
What's It About
"We believe that streaming video will become the most popular way for people to watch movies and TV shows. It will allow people everywhere to use mobile devices, PCs, connected TVs and game consoles to watch their favourite content whenever and wherever they want," reads a message on the site.
For creating an account on the site, users have to log-in using their existing Facebook accounts; Spuul then extracts the user's basic profile information for completing the registration process. On one hand this is good since it saves the time spent on filling out registration forms and verifying e-mail addresses, but what about the people who don't have Facebook accounts in the first place? They will have to create a Facebook account just to access Spuul (which brings back the pain point). At the same time, some Facebook users tend to avoid using Facebook logins for the fear of privacy issues of accessing personal details.
With a free account, users can watch any of the free movies that include movies like Yuvraaj, Action Replayy, Game, Karz, Pardes, Maine Pyaar Kiya and Yamla Pagla Deewana among others. Although to watch unlimited premium movies, users have to upgrade their accounts by paying $4.99 (~Rs 260 at present which is around the same money you pay your cable or DTH operator on an average), which is an introductory price as against the regular price of $7.99 for monthly membership. Some of the premium movies include Shaadi Se Pehle, U Me Aur Hum, Mausam, Tees Maar Khan, Paathshaala, Housefull and Kambhakt Ishq, among others.
Probably it's just us, but we found the collection of free movies to be much better than the paid ones (please don't judge our choice by the names mentioned above).
Additionally, there are a few movies on the site that are offered under a 'Specials' section and users will have to pay $0.99 for watching those films irrespective of the fact whether they do or do not have a premium account. What makes it different from free and premium movies (as long as you are on auto subscription) is that there is a time limit within which users have to watch 'Specials'- 3 days. Some of these include Wake Up Sid, Ra.One, Desi Boyz, Ready and Chillar Party, among others.
At the same time what is better than a typical pay-per-use movie on TV is that a user can watch it as many times within that 3 day period. The purchases are non-refundable. Users can choose to pause or stop the movie whenever they want and Spuul will resume the movie from where the user left off the next time they play the movie again. These movies are saved as 'Unfinished' movies.
Users can also mark a movie as 'Favourite' or 'Like' a movie or a particular song or sequence in the movie and post it on their Facebook account along with a comment. All the watched movies are automatically added to the user's 'History' list.
The movies are divided into separate sections like free, recently added, featured and most popular and they can also be filtered according to genres (like action, adventure, comedy, crime and romance etc), ratings, alphabetically, newest first and oldest first. The rating system (1 to 5 stars) works by the number of views a movie has (higher the views, higher the rating for the movie and vice versa).
When a user selects a movie, details on the movie (length, year of release, stars etc) and a synopsis is provided by the site. Users can also watch the trailer of the movie and the site also makes recommendations of other movies that can be watched.
Movies cannot be downloaded from the site and last we checked, 5,875 movies had already been watched. As of now, Spuul is only available for laptops and desktop PCs but the company is in the process of launching iPhone and iPad applications which will be in the Apple app store. The company will also launch an Android app in the future.
The freemium model is probably to hook a user as there are other online channels which offer free but ad-supported 'legal' online streaming including Yahoo's Movieplex and YouTube's Box office.
On the paid side Spuul will compete with BigFlix and the recently launched ErosNow, among others. In comparison to Spuul's monthly membership of $4.99, the Eros Now premium membership is at $4.99 per month (but as an introductory offer it is available for a discounted price of $2.99).
BigFlix on the other hand offers multiple subscription options. The unlimited movies subscription on BigFlix is available for Rs 249 ($4.8), while the quarterly subscription pack costs Rs 747 ($14.5) and a 7 day trial pack costs Rs 99 ($2). While the movies on Eros Now are advertising free (within subscription), BigFlix is ad-supported but users who opt for BigFlix+ membership can also watch their movies without ads.
So in terms of costs, Spuul is just a tad higher than the immediate competition, but the key for users would be content. As of now, the website has around 200 movies and even as the company will keep updating its library, the competitors are much ahead. BigFlix has over 1000 movie titles and ErosNow has over 2000 titles (since Eros digitised its film library comprising of 2,000 films last year).