Premium subscribers of Spuul can now download up to 10 Indian movies at a time on to their Android devices. The Indian movie streaming service launched the download feature last night, making it easier for low-bandwidth users to enjoy movies in an offline mode.
The service is limited to Android users as of now, and would be extended to iOS too soon. Why the preference for Andoid over iOS, even when, as per Spuul, iOS users have a more propensity to get converted into paid consumers?
“The ease of interactivity in the Google Play Store and seeking feedback from users just makes Android the first choice of development for many app developers,” says Michael Smith, Chief Product Officer, Spuul.
While the iOS too is on the radar, but it’s not coming any time soon. When asked if Windows and Blackberry users too will get the offline-viewing feature, Smith while sounded iffy about Windows, Blackberry was a big “no”.
“Blackberry is dead,” says Smith categorically.
Unlike Google’s Play Movies, which allows users to either ‘Rent’ or ‘Buy’ at two different prices, Spuul’s download and view offline feature comes with a 72-hour lease limit. “The movies are encrypted to prevent piracy and come with a 72 hours lease window. Users will have to log into Spuul to verify their membership to extend the lease for another 72 hours,” informs Smith.
While Play Movies only allow users to choose between two formats for viewing – one normal and another in HD, Spuul users can choose the quality of the video depending on their speed of internet. “We are not going to follow the Play model. Their prices for renting about five movies is equal to our unlimited movies for a month’s subscription,” says the Chief Product Officer.
Spuul claims to have a repository of over 900 Indian movies across languages and a tie-up with almost all the major production houses in India. The largest movie pool, of course, is of Hindi. All movies come with English subtitles.
It also streams nine shows from the Star TV network. Spuul doesn’t have any immediate plans to introduce more channels into the service. “TV channels have different license agreements with various other networks around the globe, which may restrict us to show them in those markets. It becomes a little challenging to talk to all the concerned parties,” he says.
The premium packages cost US$4.99 a month and US$49.99 for a year. All paid movies are free of ads. Free subscribers still can watch movies as a stream, and will continue to see ads, but will be unable to download the movies. “We hope that the download and view offline feature will work as an incentive for free subscribers to upgrade to a premium package. It will also allow slow internet speed users to put the high quality movie on for download overnight and watch in the morning, as the Spuul can save and continue downloads after internet breaks too,” says Smith.
Spuul plays about 30-second ads in the beginning of the movie and and every 10 minutes in. The time gap may go down depending on the ad inventory. It has tie-ups with various video advertising agencies on an exchange basis that can stream geo-targeted ads.
About 70 percent of the Spuul users are from India. “Quite a big chunk of users is also coming from Pakistan and the Middle-east,” he says.
While Smith refused to divulge Spuul’s subscriber base, but revealed that it was growing at 30 percent. How about conversions to paid subscribers? “If we can have three to five percent conversions to paid, we will live the dream,” he adds.
The quest for funders
Spuul competes with Bigflix and BoxTV in India. Its marketing efforts are limited to social media, particularly Facebook. “The app stores too do a good job for us. Unlike BoxTV and Bigflix, which spend a lot on brand building, we cannot spend that much as we are a small team still and dependent on founder funding.”
According to Smith, not spending money on marketing hasn’t had much impact on its subscriber base. “If you see ComScore data, both Spuul and BoxTV figures would be around very close,” Smith says. e27 could not confirm Smith’s claim.
Spuul is scouting for a funder for its next round of investments and hopes that brand building will happen at this stage.
It also has tied up with Micromax, one of the leading mobile manufacturers in India to bundle Spuul with the gadgets – mobile, phablet and tablet.
EDIT: The story inadvertently said that download feature in iOS “not coming soon”. Smith clarified to e27 that he “just said iOS was not shipping at the same time as Android.” The article has been subsequently changed and the misrepresentation is regretted.