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BSNL & Hungama Launch Broadband Content Service: Music @Rs. 149/Month, Casual Games @ Rs. 49

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Update:  Siddharth Roy, Chief Operating Office for Digital and Allied Business at Hungama, told Medianama that is will be a “download to rent” model and the music is entirely DRM protected. More in the interview later.

Original story: In what is a pathbreaking move for the music business in India, BSNL has launched a content download service offering unlimited music downloads to broadband subscribers, at a subscription fee of Rs. 149 per month. The service has been powered by Hungama. This is BSNLs second subscription service – in the past, they have tied up with Indiagames for Games on Demand. According to the site, it gives users access to over 50,000 songs, latest movie albums, more than 1000 music videos for download.

Given Hungama’s partnership with T-Series, Yash Raj Films, Eros, among others, it isn’t too difficult for them to provide users access to the the latest content. However, will this content be DRM protected? What will happen if a user does not renew his or her subscription? Since BSNL operates circle by circle, we’re not sure if this is a pan-India launch. We’ve contacted Hungama for details, and will update as we have it.

Do note that this is not the first time that legal downloads have been offered to Indian users. Soundbuzz, now owned by Motorola, has had an online music store for quite some time, but offering singles for between Rs. 9-20 ; Saregama had also launched a music store selling singles at Rs. 12 each, it appears that the store is no longer operational. However, this is the first attempt at a subscription based service, and hence pathbreaking. Nokia’s Music Store was announced late last year, but it is yet to be launched. It was expected to launch in the first quarter of 2009, but the Indian site isn’t listed here. In any case, the music store is expected to be tied to the handset.

Casual Games At Rs. 49/month?

For some inexplicable reason, BSNL and Hungama are also offering casual games at Rs. 49 per month. We don’t think they should have bothered – several free casual games sites exist – Zapak, Games2Win, MiniClip, and indeed GamingHungama among others, and Indiagames also offered casual games on its games on demand service, with BSNL.

Why BSNL?

BSNL has last mile access, and is the largest ISP in India. We had explained the importance of BSNL and MTNL in a previous post – as of July 2008, the accounted for 88% of the wireline market; BSNL had 99.78% of the rural market wireline connections, and 70.91% of urban.

What Hungama Needs To Do

— Expand Telecom Operator Base: Hungama needs to expand this service to other telecom operators – else this might be a source of pirating content.

— Dual Delivery Model: Hungama should perhaps also consider a dual delivery model, like Soundbuzz has for the South East Asian market, where the music is delivered both via email and mobile. We’re not sure if mobile carriers would be as open to a mobile music subscription model, but this broadband launch could be a step in that direction.

Issues with Previous Attempts

— Saregama Wasn’t An Independent Entity: Unlike Soundbuzz, Mauj or Hungama, Saregama owned rights to music, and was bidding for the same. Other content owners could have been unwilling to share their content with an entity that competes with them for rights.

— Singles Were Expensive: Rs. 12 per song is just too expensive, when there are other, albeit illegal, avenues for content like download sites and torrents

— Cumbersome Purchase Process: the process of searching for and buying a track or a selection of tracks was cumbersome; too many steps involved in the purchase process. With a subscription model, the conversion rate becomes irrelevant.

What do you think of the broadband music on demand service? In case you have any questions, do let us know in the comments, or at nikhil@medianama.com

Updated: Hungama says it is 50,000 + songs, not 30,000

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