Just in time to match Apple’s rollout of the iTunes Store service in the Indian market, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment has officially launched the updated version of its music, movie and video content portal Hungama.com. The site has been live for almost a week though, as per the company. The major change, however, is that the updated website now allows users to stream content in addition to offer the ability to buy them. So, in a way it’s joining the league of free music streaming services like Gaana.com, Saavn and Dhingana.

The site has been built with HTML5, and offers a better user interface, multiple music applications and social connect options; allowing users to sign on through various social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and receive real-time social feeds. It also offers HD quality streaming and downloading options for music and movies.

Note that Hungama monetizes majorly through mobile content such as ringtones, video downloads, wallpapers, among others, and has tie-ups with all major telcos for content on operator portals. It has record deals with T- Series, YRF Music, Universal Music, EMI Warner, Ananda Audio, Lahiri Audio, JS Audio, among others, and monetises virus universal, and movie titles from studios like Yash Raj Films, T-Series, Reliance Home Video, Ananda Video, Ultra, Shemaroo, Krishna, Kavitalaya, among others. It claims to offer 2.5 million content pieces and 5,000 movies, with a user base of 20 million across all platforms, and 50,000 users paying for its movie on demand service, in India.

New Interface: The site now offers a list of Top Songs, a slider based display of poplular and promoted music albums and movies, artist wise movie listings, and member’s activity feed on the homepage, in addition to navigation controls for accessing Music, Videos and Movies. Music and movies are classified across categories/genres, regional and HD/Non-HD, in addition to offering the trending titles. A music player bar is omnipresent, allowing users to listen to music while navigating the site. The artist radio feature, at the moment, adds music related to a particular artist in the queue, but it looks like Hungama will also add more radio channels in the future. There’s also a music discovery feature that allows users to discover new music based on their preferences across Mood, Tempo, Category, Genre, and Era.

Cloud Storage: Another interesting new feature is support for cloud storage through Hungama Music Cloud – users can add their music library to the cloud and access it through their Android, BlackBerry and Java devices. Hungama informed that they’re going to launch an iOS app in the next 7-10 days and a Windows Phone app in the next 2 weeks, for the Music Cloud service. The service is being offered free of charge, at this point in time, and comes with unlimited storage space, as an introductory offer.

In addition to the digital platforms, the content of Hungama.com can also be assessed through its retail touch points -‘Hungama Oxigen’ retail points across the country.

Pricing: Unlike iTunes or Flipkart Flyte, Hungama also offers different payment plans, in addition to the fixed a-la-carte content pricing of Rs 10 for one music track or ringtone, music video or mobile wallpaper. It offers a Rs 99/month Super Value Pack, under which users can download 99 items – music tracks, ringtones, music videos or mobile wallpapers within 30 days. It also offers a Rs 20 value pack which lets users buy any 4 items. There’s also an unlimited pack, available for Rs 99 but items downloaded under this plan are DRM protected, and cannot be transferred to another device. Hungama movies streaming services allows consumers to stream unlimited HD movies for Rs. 249 per month and unlimited SD movies for Rs. 149 per month.

Our Take: It’s interesting to see Hungama switch to a free streaming model. This, we believe, would help the company in getting more users on board, which in turn will also promote paid music downloads. We found that Hungama allows users to download music 3 times after purchasing it, and the highest quality offered is 128kbps bit-rate. We feel that Hungama should get rid of that limit and allow higher quality downloads. Flipkart’s Flyte and Apple iTunes do not impose any limits. However, both of these don’t offer a music streaming service.

We also felt that Hungama could improve its catalogue  by adding labels like Sony Music, which are missing from the catalogue, at the time of writing this post. While we do understand that Hungama also monetizes by premium listings and promotions but seeing a promoted album on a totally unrelated search result page can be a little intimidating. The site was a little slow but Hungama informs that the site’s still in Beta and the glitches will be ironed out by 15th December. There’s never been a better time for users who want to download content, legally, in India!

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