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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Singapore streams Bollywood to the world

Watch Bollywood blockbusters on your computer on Spuul, streaming website by a home-grown start-up
The Straits Times - April 11, 2012
By: Tan Chong Yaw
| More
Singapore streams Bollywood to the world Catch blockbusters like Ra.One on Spuul. -- PHOTO: WWW.SPUUL.COM

Watch Bollywood movies online, mostly for free and, better still, legally. Do it anywhere in the world on a Windows or Mac computer.

It takes only a few seconds to set up and you can start viewing a movie almost immediately.

This is no pipe dream. Spuul, a video-streaming service at spuul.com, aims to take Bollywood movies to the world. The home-grown start-up opened the doors to its cybercinema last Friday.

Its chief product officer, Mr Michael Smith Jr, said: 'We feel that the Indian video content market is underserved and has vast opportunities for quality content and a great user experience.'

The billion-dollar Bollywood industry churns out a thousand movies a year. More than 40 per cent are in Hindi. They are almost matched by the total of Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam movies combined.

Surely such a prodigious motherlode of content would have many cyberbusinesses sniffing at its heels? But it is not an easy market to penetrate.

'Content owners guard their content jealously and unless one has credibility, it is difficult to convince them to work with one,' he explained.

Spuul - a play on the word 'spool' on which physical copies of films are stored - has a secret weapon. The founder of Sony Entertainment TV in India, Mr Sudesh Iyer, is also a founder of Spuul.

Leveraging on his extensive contacts and fame in the industry, Spuul began working with content owners in December 2010 to secure the rights from all the major studios.

Singapore was a natural choice for its headquarters.

Mr Iyer, Mr S. Mohan and a third unnamed founder of Spuul are all Singaporeans. They feel that Singapore is a vibrant community with the critical companies, entrepreneurs and techies all on one island.

The barely week-old site has almost 200 movies on offer, with another 300 being processed for uploading in the next couple of months.

Most of the movies on Spuul can be watched for free. An all-you-can-watch subscription is offered at US$4.99 (S$6.29) a month. It includes premium movies such as the 2010 comedy Tees Maar Khan and 2009 drama Kurbaan.

Newer blockbusters such as the 2011 sci-fi movie Ra.One, one of Bollywood's highest grossing movies, are dubbed specials. These can be rented for 72 hours for US$0.99. You can watch it any number of times within the rental period.

Advertisements undergird the entire service, including premium and special movies.

The target audience are Indian expatriates and also those in major Indian cities with broadband or 3G networks. With tickets at an Indian multiplex costing

124 rupees (S$3) on average, having the Spuul catalogue of movies on a monthly subscription is cheaper than buying three movie tickets.

No queues. No crowds. Fingertip access.

Mr Smith says he does not see websites such as YouTube or Viki, which also offer some Bollywood content, as Spuul's rivals. 'We believe that Indian users or those seeking Indian content want a dedicated experience and a deep catalogue of premium content,' he said.

Movie piracy is a stiffer threat.

The start-up of just 12 employees is now focused on building up its catalogue and extending the devices on which it will work.

For now, Spuul works on desktops and laptops.

Next up: apps for iPhone and iPad. Coming soon: Android apps and access via smart TV.

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