Skip to main content

The State of Video Streaming Services in India

It's been about 2 years since online video streaming caught on in India. There were some services here and there that tried their hands on this format of content delivery. But nobody really nailed it. Nobody really pushed hard; they were just experiments. Not until Hotstar came into the scene. With the launch of Hotstar in 2015, thing started rolling. And now everybody wants a piece of these huge market. Here are my top 3 picks from the bevy of streaming services in India.

Screenshot for MKBHD's Ask MKBHD video
Yes, my posts are biased! (Video link)
As you go through the rest of the post, you will realize that this review isn't from a neutral standpoint. So in that sense this post is biased. Well, of course it is! The review is based on my experiences with the services. The devices I use had a lot to do with it. I use an OnePlus One running Cyanogen OS 13.1 and a Lenovo G50-80 running Ubuntu 16.04.3. With that out of the way, let's dive in!

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is the most affordable video streaming service in India at just ₹499 per annum. But the best part is that it's Amazon Prime you're subscribing to and not to Amazon Prime Video. Amazon hasn't launched all the Prime benefits in India at this point of time. As more benefits are launched, the deal will only get sweeter. Now on to the service itself. My initial reaction for the service was mixed; mostly anger. When I found out Prime Video has Mr. Robot in its library, I was super excited. But the excitement didn't last long. The episodes were censored and that got me really pissed. I was so mad that I wrote an entire blog post about it. Fortunately, as I found out, other than the first couple of episodes, the rest of the episodes was uncensored. There are many movies and shows which have been censored. But there are also those which haven't been touched. I don't know what's Amazon's play here. Even though I don't like how Amazon deals with the whole censorship thing, it has the best overall experience. The library is quite large. Both the website and the mobile app are well built. The video quality is very good. The video player is really nice and the content delivery system is optimized for spotty connections. Videos start playing instantly. It's the "frustration free packaging" Amazon talks about 😉. And by the way, Prime Video has animes too! Need I say more? 😁


India's online streaming landscape really started shaping after Hotstar was launched. Let's start with the good bits. Hotstar has a polished website. It's nice and responsive. The mobile website is good too. Things are well organized into categories. The search is subpar though. Searching for an actor or actress doesn't yield the movies they have acted in. Hotstar's catalogue is quite big.

Screenshot of Hotstar's languages page
Hotstar's Library
Hotstar's biggest advantage is live sports broadcasting and its license to broadcast IPL; which is a big deal in India. It even has all the latest content from the Star network. And it's also the only platform where one can watch hit TV shows like the Game of Thrones, Ballers, Silicon Valley etc in India. And unlike Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar doesn't censor its content. The pricing is simple and affordable at ₹199 per month. Hotstar often collaborates with banks to offers discounts.

The biggest disadvantage of Hostar is its choice of video playback technology for its web app. Even though it's written with a relatively new technology, AngularJS, it still uses the crappy old Adobe Flash. And seemingly Hostar has chose to block playback on GNU/Linux systems. According to them it's because Adobe has ended support for Flash on GNU/Linux. This is just a straight up lie! Not only does Flash work on my Ubuntu system (works on Crunchyroll), but Adobe has also resumed support for GNU/Linux systems. But that's not the point. It's 2017, and nobody should be using Flash! It's a like plague on the web and I hate it. Sure the mobile app works well and all but one does not simply hold a phone for 2 and a half hours.

"One does not simply..." meme
Go ahead, try it
I have been pestering Hotstar to move to a better playback solution, but they don't seem to be bothered. But there's hope though. Now that Adobe has announced the end of life for Flash and the browser developers have also declared that Flash support will be completely removed in 2020, I do hope Hotstar will soon move away from Flash.

Now here's the question of the day: which Indian video streaming platform uses HTML5 video playback on its mobile website but uses Adobe Flash on its desktop website?

Hint: Wink wink 😉

There are other issues with Hotstar. Video resolution maxes out 720p which is unacceptable in 2017. Most of the pages on the website are transmitted over an HTTP connection; even the sign in page is served over an unsecure connection! This is just a security nightmare. Hotstar also doesn't have a watchlist to save shows and movies for later. The service doesn't save playback positions. You can not start watching a video on one device and resume it on an other. The video starts playing from the beginning on the second device. Even with all these drawbacks, the overall package brings a lot to the table.


I was really excited when I heard the rumours of Netflix launching in India. I've been a no-piracy guy for a few years now. Video streaming services like Netflix are the only place I could watch shows and movies legally. But Netflix turned out to be a disappointment. Netflix is the least affordable video streaming service in India. The base pricing start at ₹500 per month! That too for SD quality videos! Are you kidding me Netflix? And honestly, who charges extra money for "extra screens"?! Netflix's catalogue in India is limited. But there are some gems though. And now that Disney plans to abandon the platform, the catalogue is going to shrink further. Netflix has also hiked its charges in several countries. If they try to do the same thing here in India, it'll be the end for 'em here.

Screenshot of Netflix's pricing page
Netflix Pricing
And that's not all, the web video player is one of the worst I have ever seen. It's not optimized for slow connections at all. Even with a 7 mbps Internet connection, I had trouble watching the videos. The most annoying part of Netflix is that the video player removes the previous segments of the video buffer. Meaning, if you try to rewind, those parts will be downloaded again. And the download was slow in the first place. The buffer size is really small and buffering stops the moment you hit pause. If that wasn't enough, I can't even download the Netflix app since they now use Widevine as their DRM technology. There ain't no way I'll pay Netflix for this pathetic service. There is a great article on Wired revealing everything Netflix did wrong in India. You can read it here.

Honorable Mentions

There are a few more streaming services like Sony Liv, Spuul, Eros Now, Hungama, Voot, Ozee etc. But in my opinion, none of  'em stand a chance against the big players. They suffer from limited catalog, confusing subscription model, ugly websites and old school mobile apps. Unless these services do something substantial, they are bound to be doomed.

After Thoughts

It's still too early to tell how things are going to evolve. The way I see it, in the next 10 years online streaming services and Internet TV providers will rule the market. And rightfully so. These services allow you to watch your favourite shows and movies on the device you want, at the time you want. Cable and satellite TV connections will presumably fade away. Now we need the service providers to add more content and keep the pricing affordable. Affordable pricing will hopefully reduce piracy in the country as well. But of course, we need these shows and movies to be made available unedited; the way they were meant to be enjoyed.


Popular Posts

Why I Started Blogging

It's been almost 5 years since I started blogging. This is the 30th post being published. That means over the course of 5 years, I've written 6 posts per year. Although 30 is much less than I would have liked, this is one of those pet projects I have continued even after the honeymoon phase. Today I want take some time and discuss why I started this blog in the first place. I was in my 3rd year of engineering studies when I started out. I had already developed a keen interest towards programming and tech in general by then. Having a blog seemed liked a cool idea. There were couple of more reasons to go ahead with this idea. That's what we are here to discuss today. Setting up a blog seemed like a technically challenging task. I wanted to know how to setup a blog with comments, advertisements and with a custom domain. It sounded like a great way to acquire new skills and learn new things along the way. Back then I didn't know anyone who shared my enthusiasm for tech

The State of Video Streaming Services in India [Part 2: The Aftermath]

It's been a year since I published my post about the state of video streaming services in India (which can be found  here ). I wrote how media companies were trying to get a piece of that market. A lot has changed in a year. For starters, Hotstar has received a revamp and it works on my Kubuntu system now. Prime Video remains the best option for most people. Many more services have launched. Ozee has rebranded itself as Zee5. But a few things have stood the test of time. Netflix's pricing is as expensive as it was a year ago. Yes, that was sarcastic. Now there are lot of streaming services to choose from. Here's a list of some of the popular ones. Amazon Prime Video Hotstar Netflix YouTube Zee5 Eros Now Spuul Voot Hoichoi ALTBalaji Hooq JioCinema / JioTV Sony LIV YuppTV BIGFlix The list goes on and on. It is said that competition is good for the consumer. More the competition, more the aggressive pricing, more the benefit for the consumer. Just lo

Dear edX!

Dear edX, I was in my 2nd year of college when you came to life. And I was ecstatic! No, not to be in college (LOL) but to have finally found my calling. Computer programming. I was browsing through all the resources I could find. Codecademy courses mainly. And right at that moment, you arrived. Your parents hail from the Harvard University and from the MIT. So of course you received my attention. Also, you had an unique selling point: free certificates. This was huge! No one else was doing it. It seemed you were actually trying to help students learn new skills and show off to the world. I was stoked to enroll into the course developed world's top professors. The free certificates were a big motivator to complete the courses. The first course I enrolled into was developed by The Linux Foundation. I have taken several courses since then. Some were on computer programming, some were about a country's history and some provided advice on career growth and personal finance. 2

Notifications, Not Ads

Notifications on our smartphones are pretty common these days. Notifications are designed to provide the user with helpful information and alerts. For example, a reminder notification, an email notification, a download-in-progress notification. According to Google, Notifications provide short, timely, and relevant information about your app when it’s not in use. Source: Material Design | Notifications It's a useful feature offered by modern mobile operating systems. An average smartphone user gets many, many notifications each day. Some of 'em are useful, some of 'em are less so. Many are intruding in nature. The issue is that developers have started to abuse the notification framework. They are using notifications to serve ads and promotions which gets pretty annoying pretty quickly. These notifications are neither timely nor helpful. And almost none of apps allow you to opt out from this crap. The only thing you can do is block all notificat

How to Automate NPS Contributions - A Step by Step Guide with Screenshots

Introduction The National Pension System is a great financial product for creating your retirement kitty. With contribution of just ₹5000 per month, you can accumulate more than a crore! I am a NPS subscriber (through NSDL eNPS) myself. If you have read my previous post  regarding EPF you know I like NPS for the following reasons. 60 year lock-in period Additional tax exemption under section 80CCD (1B) Choice of various assets classes Choice of pension fund managers Option to change your asset allocation or pension fund manager Low cost of fund management Transparency & organization structure Good customer support Online account opening and management Multiple exit options at retirement Screenshot from  Pension Calculator | NPS Trust Some Not So Great Things NPS is far from