The current Indian streaming landscape feels like a buffet at a Punjabi wedding. There’s so much everywhere that you feel bloated just thinking about it, and you wish someone could point you in the direction of the good stuff. #ChaatCounter. There are more OTT platforms than ever before, and also more questions. Which platforms should I subscribe to? How many is too many? Which one is the best value for money? Do I have to subscribe to a service if I just want to watch one thing?
Life in lockdown has also meant that a number of big ticket titles are making their way onto streaming services like Netflix (Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl) , Amazon Prime Video (Shakuntala Devi, V, C U Soon) and Disney+ Hotstar (Dil Bechara). But what if you just want to watch one, do you have to subscribe to yet another platform? And how much can you really spend on these services?
Well, there are a number of handy hacks, tricks and tools which may help you make sense of it all and become a streaming specialist on what, where and how to watch stuff at the lowest cost. Here are some strategies to help simplify the streaming space and get the most bang for your buck.
Have You Already Got It?
Wouldn’t that be the dream? To realise that you may unknowingly already have access to OTT platforms? Well, that could well be the case considering how many telecom, TV and internet providers are bundling up with streaming services. So you could have access to sexy content without even realising it.
For example, network providers like Airtel, Jio give and Vodafone give you free access to their streaming platforms Jio Cinema, Vodafone Play and the more impressive Airtel XStream. All you need to login is an OTP from your Airtel/Jio/Vodafone number and you’re done. So it’s worth checking out what your phone provider already offers. And if you’re not with these networks, you can always get an OTP from a friend who is.
If you’ve bought an Apple device recently, you get one year’s free access to Apple TV, as long as you redeem the offer within 90 days of purchase. Similarly, if you’re a Tata Sky customer who’s subscribed to Tata Sky Binge (priced at 299 a month) you get a free Amazon Fire Stick, and premium subscriptions to a number of platforms, including Voot Select and 3 months of Amazon Prime Video. I’d say this is a pretty solid bang for your buck.
Can You Watch It For Free?
Forget what I said earlier. This would be the real dream! Imagine having a killer streaming platform that has every show and movie ever made anywhere ever, all available legally and free. Now, while that may be wishful thinking, there is still a lot of great free stuff out there.
Netflix is offering 10 of their big ticket titles such as Murder Mystery and The Two Popes, as well as the first episodes of popular shows like Stranger Things, all for free. They’ve also put out a number of their acclaimed documentaries for free on their YouTube channel, so there’s a fair bit there to keep you entertained, educated and occupied.
Then, of course, there’s the free streaming service MX Player which has several originals. While they may not be the most high quality shows, there are some worthy titles like the ambitious Tamil series Queen and Marathi comedy Pandu.
Platforms such as Voot, Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5 and SonyLIV also all have free content sections, though it’s largely limited to catch up TV and a few selected movie titles.
Do I Have To Buy A Monthly Subscription To Watch Stuff?
We live in the age where every form of media is trying to tie us down and have us commit. It’s just a whole lot of direct debits and messy password management. As a result, now more than ever, the pay-per-view model – of paying only for what you watch – is coming back into focus.
It’s a simple idea – pay for what I watch and not a whole bunch of stuff I might not. For this there is no better platform than your old pal YouTube. It has one of the largest libraries of Indian and international movies which you can pay-per-view with no need to subscribe. Most titles can be rented for between Rs 100-200 for a month, or they can be bought for between Rs 200-800 depending on the title.
Zee has also just launched a pay-per-view service called Zee Plex which allows you to watch direct-to-digital releases without having to subscribe. The service will be launching on October 2nd with Bollywood title Khaali Peeli, but we don’t know the price yet.
Where The Free Trials At?
For those who want to test the waters or get free access to a premium platform to binge-watch specific shows, free trials are the answer. A number of platforms have them. Fair warning – you will have to give your payment details, but as long as you cancel during the trial period you won’t get charged.
The best example is probably Apple TV. They offer a 7-day free trial before you get charged the Rs 99 per month subscription fee, which is perfect considering they’re known for a handful of great shows. So you could binge your way through The Morning Show and Defending Jacob within a week and not pay a penny. But make sure you cancel 24 hours before your trial period ends. Alternatively, if you need a little more time to spread out the bingeing, you can subscribe for just one month at Rs 99 and then cancel after the first payment and you’ll still have access to all their stuff for the remainder of the month. Similarly, Amazon Prime Video also offers a 30 days trial period.
Then there’s the new arty kid on the block MUBI, known for the best in arthouse cinema. If only there was a wonderful lovable online film publication that they tied up with to give you 30 days free. Oh wait, there totally is! #ShamelessPlug
Tips and tricks aside, in the end, the most sensible strategy is probably to opt for the 1-3 services that suit you most and then navigate the must-watch stuff on the others using the hacks above. Chances are, your bank balance will be glad you did.