(By Preethi J & Nikhil Pahwa)
Digital entertainment company Hungama is set to launch its content subscription service, offering consumers access to music and Bollywood-related content like wallpapers and ringtones. Hungama has fallen a tad short of its goal to “reincarnate as a complete entertainment portal with some mind-altering deals”. Unlike the deployment the company did for BSNL earlier this year, Hungama.com does not feature Flash-based games. It does not offer wallpapers for desktops, a lounge where users can discuss latest movies, nor any particularly striking social features – what it is is a shop, period.
The site has ensured most of the basic amenities are available such as a search, ratings & reviews, a playlist (called wishlist) and a shopping cart; it has also added a few extra touches in the form of a preview for songs (radio and lyrics sites such as Songfacts.com offer a similar button that streams songs); video previews are 30-second clips. It also has a news section, where BollywoodHungama.com is being streamed.
Its showcase window for songs is a blatant imitation of music player iTunes’ cover flow, which lets you elegantly slide through album covers of songs. Since it is the first site to offer Indians legal music and video downloads, it will be interesting to observe what traction it receives.
Content, Formats, Lyrics, Discovery
Hungama.com’s library has over 100,000 music tracks, dialogue snippets & ringtones, 20,000 videos and 50,000+ mobile wallpapers. Besides Bollywood, it includes regional content from 8 film and music industries – Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri and Gujarati. Songs are available in MP3 and WMA formats – the choice is not yours and you can not convert it into any other format.
Videos for desktops in WMV (Windows Media Video) and mobile videos in 3gp format, wallpapers are in JPEGs. Dialogues can also be viewed by searching for actors, who come under the category of artists. The artists category has a biography and a list of the content tagged with the artist, “similar artists”, and a playlist of all the songs/ dialogues by her. Lyrics also appear in a pop-up in the album view, a very useful feature that music lovers will appreciate.
Hungama will also offer a toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. This is a pretty simple route to content discovery.
Pricing, Payment & E-Coupons
There are three pricing options available – one is a per-song price of Rs. 10 called Single Download option which allows only one download of either a music track, video, ringtone or mobile wallpaper. It’s a little strange that the price for all content – whether music, ringtones or wallpapers is Rs. 10. A single pricing makes it simple for the consumer, but is it really fair on the artists?
The second is a value pack – Rs. 20 for a mix of any 4 pieces of content. And finally the unlimited downloads plan, which is priced at Rs. 99 per month – users are given access to DRM-protected music, apart from wallpapers and ringtones.
The user’s credit/debit card will be automatically charged Rs. 99 on a monthly basis to ensure continuous access to the library and the subscription has to be stopped manually. This is a good idea because we wouldn’t want our music to become inaccessible suddenly. Users will be notified that their music subscription is being renewed every month through an e-mail intimation.
Conditions For Transferring Content
Mobile wallpapers and ringtones purchased under any of the three plans are controlled using DRM and can be downloaded only onto a mobile phone a maximum of three times. In case of music tracks and videos – users who have chosen the Single Download and Value Pack plans can transfer them to and fro between mobiles and PCs. For those who have chosen the unlimited option, they need to use the Hungama MyPlay, the player by the company, to transfer content between PCs and mobile devices, else the files will not work.
E-coupon, Trying It Out: Preethi, who signed up to try out Hungama.com as did many others, was sent an e-coupon in the form of a 16-digit code that entitled her to one month’s free subscription using the Unlimited Downloads option. The downloading process was straight forward and the mp3 downloaded without any issue onto the desktop. It was in a WMA format and played with most music players, though not iTunes. Transferring it to a phone using a PC suite was a failure – the file was ‘corrupted’.
Multiple downloads of any piece of content purchased is also discouraged: a file can be downloaded only thrice.
Poor Search, No Old Movies, Language
The search option, in our opinion, could be improved significantly. The first thing a user would do is search for their favourite artist, or a movie name. Type in ‘Shaan’, but don’t be taken in by the 1430 results found. The album tab, which is what shows up first contain “Jag mein oonchi maa”, “Shaan aur Samadhi” etc. Why does it not take you directly to the artist’s tab, where his profile and songs are listed. Reaching a song of his is a 3 -step process and can be simplified. Movie names are not included the search, so if you type in one, Hungama will deliver results where the movie’s name is again part of some album. It also does not digest numbers very well.
Hungama should have an option for the user to perform an ‘advanced search’, put in more categories such as the title of a song or a movie, language etc. It could also add a small “Did you mean” to correct minor typos by the user.
Search for latest movies might work but legendary ones seem to have been ignored. Why has Hungama left out catalog content – is it targeting only the youth? Of the 31 results for Chupke Chupke, the only album was ‘Chupke Se’ by T-series. Two unrelated videos – both of a song ‘Jaaneman Chupke Chupke’ by a 2004 movie Muskaan were also offered.
Though Hungama offers content in 8 languages besides Hindi, its search does not offer details of the language in the results. A search for Telugu movie Pokiri churned out 416 results – but included song titles with no relation to it – ‘Mora Pichhuarwa Jamiriya’???? ‘Brahm Pakhare’? Maybe it should seek some help with getting the keywords right.
Web, Mobile Web & Applications
What works for Hungama is that the store that has been launched it on the web, the mobile web and as downloadable applications for both media which are named Hungama MyPlay. The web and mobile based deployment ensure that the content is accessible to a larger base – even those accessing it possibly from cybercafes.
We have not been able to download the desktop application yet (it is Coming Soon) but are wondering why exactly is it burdening users with one? Most PC users already have a plethora of music players to choose from – Winamp, Windows Media Player, iTunes, etc. It’s a chore to download a specific player for a new service.
Mobile Application: We had some initial issues with the mobile application – on Nikhil’s N95, the Hungama MyPlay application requested confirmation to access mobile Internet. However, the problem didn’t recur when the application was used a second time. A search for the film “Jab We Met” didn’t yield the desired results, even though it worked on web and mobile web. The application is simple and rather limited – it provides access to a few Ringtones, Music and Videos.
Hungama.com has got most of the large labels and entertainment companies on board including T-Series, Yash Raj Films, Big Music, Think Music, Adlabs Films, Pritish Nandy Communications, B. R. Chopra Films, Balaji Telefilms, K Sera Sera, Mahesh Bhatt, Mukta Arts, Percept Picture Company and Shemaroo Entertainment.
It doesn’t yet have Saregama on board, and this will be a challenge for the company. Saregama might be a competitor as it has been reported that it is in the process of relaunching its own website as a store and offer consumers SD cards and pen drives with bundled music.
By virtue of their partnerships with T-Series, Eros and Yash Raj Films, Hungama will have most of the new content, but the long tail Bollywood content is still largely owned by Saregama. This is where Nokia Music store has a relative advantage. At the same time, the choice will be Saregama’s – if Hungama manages to get a large enough user base on board, would Saregama want to miss out?
Hungama has set up a call center service for customer service issues: Nikhil called up and had a new password issued for Hungama.com access. One of the key issues that telecom operators have with Mobile VAS, is dealing with customer care issues. With this deployment, Hungama is taking on the onus of customer care. At the same time, this will benefit telcos because music downloaded on the mobile over GPRS will result in the consumer being billed for data usage.
We have contacted the company to learn about partnerships with operators and will update the post with their response.
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