The latest entrant in this space is Hooq, which was launched in January this year as a joint venture between Singtel, Sony Pictures, and Warner Brothers entertainment. On Wednesday, the company launched its beta program in India, and plans to roll out the service to consumers sometime in June. Unlike most services of this type in India, Hooq will not have any free content – you’re either a subscriber, who can watch all the content on the service by paying Rs. 199 for a month, or you watch nothing at all.
Co-founder and Chief Content and Distribution Officer Krishnan Rajagopalan told NDTV Gadgets that Hooq plans to be a destination for premium videos, adding, “by premium content I mean video content that you will not find on any free sites.”
This means, for example, that popular Hindi TV shows which have been uploaded by the content owners to YouTube will not be a part of Hooq’s catalogue. The 15,000 titles that the company is launching with right now will include a mix of local and International content, including Hollywood films and US TV shows, along with Thai, Korean, and Japanese films. This makes sense considering that Hooq earlier launched in the Philippines and Thailand.
15,000 films and counting
The service launches with over 5,000 Hollywood films, and over 15,000 films in total, adding many more each day, says Bithos. This content is being curated using a combination of algorithms, and human intervention.
“So for example, right now, you can see a category called ‘guy movies’, which has films like Inception and GoodFellas and the Hangover,” he says. “That’s not something that an algorithm would do. Others would say, ‘hey, you’ve seen this film, so you might want to see that film,’ which is a little limited you know? They can’t say, ‘hey, you haven’t seen this film, but it’s Mother’s Day so you could watch it with your family’.”
Although Hooq’s investors include Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers Entertainment, its library is drawing on a lot of other studios as well, and its presence in the market won’t affect other streaming services’ relationship with those two studios either.
“We’re a completely neutral service,” adds Rajagopalan, saying, “and we’ve tied up with a number of content providers including Miramax, Dreamworks, Yash Raj Films, Disney-UTV, Rajsrhee, and more.”
Interestingly, Rajagopalan says that Hooq does not plan to modify content for Indian broadcast standards, unless there is a legal requirement to do so.
“The laws aren’t clear on this matter, and while we will comply with all laws, right now we don’t believe we should be altering content,” he says. Given the often crazy level of censorship on TV in India, this could be one good reason to subscribe to Hooq, though one wonders if this honeymoon period might end if and when the service becomes more popular.
However, while the service’s library is fairly robust, and Hooq is adding lots of new content on a daily basis, there’s no question that much of the new and interesting TV content is still missing. Older, but hugely popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy aren’t in the library either. Shows like Agents of Shield, Community, and Game of Thrones are all showing up on Indian TV channels, and are of course available via other means on the Internet.
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