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Hungama and MTNL partner for content and shoving ads into user Internet connections

Hungama

Hungama has partnered with government owned ISP MTNL to provide entertainment content to users in Delhi and Mumbai. MTNL has only 1.10 million broadband subscribers, but remains the third largest wireline ISP in the country. Hungama has similar partnerships with BSNL (9.9 million), ACT (0.96 million), Hathway, Videocon and Tata Photon in India.

The partner site, hosted at mtnl.hungama.com, appears to be a mirror of Hungama.com. Subscription plans range from Rs 199 per month for access to streaming from a library 3.5 million Songs, over 20000 Videos and 500 short films. The company has two movie plans, offering Standard Definition (SD) movies at Rs 199 per month, and High Definition (HD) and SD movies at Rs 299 per month. At Rs 99 per month, Hungama also offers access to games. In comparison, on Hungama.com, users can view HD movies at Rs 249 per month, and can view a single SD movie at Rs 60, for 3 days of access. Finding pricing information on Hungama.com is remarkably complicated. We couldn’t find any online games on Hungama.com

If accessing content is cheaper on Hungama.com, why would anyone go via MTNL. However, Hungama has every reason to tie up with MTNL, or any other telecom operator: if a user subscribes (or is subscribed) to a service, the charges will be added to the broadband bill.

Shoving ads into user Internet connections

What they’re also doing is shoving ads into MTNL users Internet connections, promoting this service. A Hungama advertisement has popped up on my MTNL Internet connection at least thrice in the past few weeks. For example:

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mtnl-hungama

This is unsolicited and spam, and MTNL, as an ISP shouldn’t be spamming users, and Hungama shouldn’t be endorsing this. Users haven’t given their consent to being advertised to, and MTNL provides users no means of opting out. This could also be a privacy concern, since the insertion of advertising is on all non-https connections. MTNL claims that its vendor has given it a certificate that no user data is being captured. However, the vendor, believed to be Adphonso/Abeer Media, says on its website that they track “Machine Details, browser and OS information and Customer Behavior along with location”. The company mentions that this meant for creating relevant ad impressions.

A screenshot from the website:
adphonso

Abeer Media’s website, which owns Adphonso says that it provides “Behavioral Patterns” services under its “Advertising” operations “Data Capturing” under its “Mobile and Web Tools” offerings.

MTNL has been non-cooperative about this spamming, refusing to respond to RTI requests for details on

– the technology used for this
– the provider of the technology and a copy of the agreement made with the said company to get this service
– name of the company operating the service on behalf of MTNL and the charges MTNL paid for it
– a copy of the agreement of revenue sharing if there was one such in place
– the number of ads delivered and revenue made through the platform and
– the details of user data and who has access to this user data

In the past I’ve seen advertisements from companies like Micromax and Snapdeal in my connection. As of June last year, MTNL was charging Rs 150 per 1000 impressions from the advertisers/brands, with the maximum number of pop-up ads per device per day restricted to 5.

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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