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Idiot box faces the 'online' challenge

With apps and online TV streaming becoming popular, the idiot box is facing tough competition from new mediums.

tv Updated: Nov 20, 2013 16:02 IST

On March 15, 2012, YouTube announced the launch of Indian television content on the video-sharing website. Over 19,000 episodes of 300 programs were made available in six languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi. On their blog,, their post said, “India is one of world’s largest producers of TV series… we wanted to offer our Indian viewers an updated shows page at to help them better follow serials they love and even discover new favourites.”

Back then, not many were impressed. However, cut to 2013, and it’s a whole new story. These days, online channels and apps offering movies and TV shows are a rage among telly lovers. Several are known to catch their daily dose of the tube on tablets and smartphones while commuting. “Our subscriber base has witnessed a steady rise on YouTube. Almost 35 per cent of the consumption happens through mobile devices,” says Nikhil Madhok, senior vice president, marketing and programming strategy, Star Plus.

He adds that the channel does try and minimise the gap in time between when the show is aired and when the episode is posted online “as a large number of online viewers are intense loyalists and start looking up online to catch up on their favourite shows”.

Vital stats
According to a study by mobile video and media firm, Vuclip, that came out last month, a majority of Indians, especially the youth, said that they would prefer consuming long-form videos such as movies or TV shows on their cell phones, despite the cost and buffering concerns. “Eighty nine per cent of all respondents say that they would watch their favourite movies on their cell phones if they were made available,” the survey said.

TV shows emerged as favourites with 81 per cent of the respondents preferring to watch their preferred TV serial on a mobile device. That would explain the sudden explosion of apps that provide a TV-viewing experience on smartphones and tablets. So the Tata Sky app, available for Android and iOS, allows its existing customers to watch over 50 channels on their mobile phones for `60 per month.

On the other hand, Spuul, a popular online streaming service for Indian movies and television shows has joined hands with IndiaCast, to offer shows from Colors, MTV India and the ETV bouquet of channels to its subscribers on their PCs and iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. The platform also has popular Star Plus shows such as Mahabharat and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai along with a premium library of movies, evergreen TV shows and the latest blockbusters.

Social networking
There are also apps like iCouchApp that bring social networking into the life of television junkies. Using the app, TV viewers can discuss their favourite shows or movies while they are live on air, set reminders for programs and even participate in contests. “The online medium provides viewers with the opportunity to watch varied content from around the world. It opens up multiple avenues for television channels to expand their audience base,” says Vivek Srivastava, commercial and digital head, Colors. However, he does admit that the good old idiot box will not fall behind so soon or so easily. “There are 750 million TV viewers in India, as compared to 125 million Internet and 50 million smartphone users. So we are still some time away from viewership shifting from TV to second screens such as laptops and mobile devices,” says Srivastava.