Mumbai: Pritish Nandy, chairman of Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd (PNC), a media company, has an ambitious plan. With a proprietary online streaming media product called Ogle, he hopes to give users in India a service similar to that provided overseas by Netflix Inc., Hulu.com and Amazon.com’s Instant Video.

Ogle, said Nandy in a recent interview, can stream high quality content on any device, be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop or television, even on slow Internet connections, thanks to its compression technology.

He has been selectively inviting people to test the content on their networks for the last three months and hopes to officially launch the service by year-end with a bouquet of about 150 television shows and over 1,000 English movies.

“It (Ogle) is essentially a technology product, but more important than that, it attempts to introduce an entire lifestyle shift...(especially for those who) download content illegally off the Internet and (those with) poor connectivity," said Nandy.

Eventually, Nandy hopes to stream old and latest television shows, movies, music, health and educational services in regional languages too on Ogle. He declined to comment on the investment his company was likely to make in this project, but said he was “talking to financial investors".

Ogle was acquired by PNC Digital Ltd, a subsidiary of PNC, in July from its developer Harshawardhan Sabale, who now leads the business as chief executive of PNC Digital.

Consumers can access Ogle through any device through a browser or an app. If it’s a Smart TV, the app can be downloaded onto the TV. Otherwise, the company will provide a set-top box to display the content on a traditional TV.

“We are developing a variety of dedicated set-top boxes, the cheapest of which is just 500," said Sabale.

Without divulging any names, Nandy said PNC is in talks to sign content deals with major global studios, channels and production houses to source TV shows, movies and music.

The company is also likely to announce a telecom partner for broadband services. Once the deal comes through, the service is likely to be available at three monthly subscription options, costing 500-1,500.

The basic plan will allow users unlimited access to content on Ogle through five registered devices, but with their own Internet connection. The company also plans to offer a 100 scratch card to give unlimited Ogle access for 24 hours across India.

Sabale said his company may look to subsidize costs through advertising.

Experts say there is a market for a media streaming service. Until a few years ago, Indian broadcasters had to wait six-nine months to get a chance to air the latest season of popular shows such as Friends, which features actors like Jennifer Aniston.

Many users would simply download pirated content. Last year, for instance, the season finale of the popular television series Breaking Bad resulted in an unprecedented number of illegal downloads across the world. Just 12 hours after the first copy appeared online, over 500,000 people had already downloaded the show through various Torrent sites, according to a report on Torrentfreak.com, which measures number of downloads.

India was among the top five countries downloading this episode illegally. “This is interesting, considering that we claim that we have no bandwidth. So, the market is phenomenal, considering that even with poor connectivity and speeds, consumers are still making the effort to download the content they want," said Sabale.

He claimed his company’s proprietary technology allows “for full scrubbing (fast forward/rewind) on the fly to any point...(and) also...high quality audio streaming over just 2G speeds".

The market potential is huge. May 2013 data from comScore Inc., a digital market research and audience measurement agency, revealed that total online video consumption in India had doubled in the past two years to 3.7 billion videos per month.

Competition has increased as well.

A number of English general entertainment channels such as AXN India, Star World Premiere and Zee Café are going the extra mile to air popular shows closer to their US premiere—from negotiating hard with US studios to having their employees work more shifts to edit out scenes to suit “Indian sensibilities" and key in subtitles all within 24-48 hours of the US launch.

On 17 May, Relativity Media and B4U, a leading Bollywood film and TV network whose shareholders include billionaire Lakshmi Mittal announced a joint venture that, among other things, included RelaTV, a digital streaming technology platform to deliver video content to Indian consumers. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed but the companies said they will invest about $100 million in the projects.

Rajat Agrawal, executive editor of bgr.in—a technology news portal by India Webportal Pvt. Ltd—who has been a beta tester on the Ogle project for the last three months, believes if “the company (PNC Digital) is able to deliver all that they have promised at a minimal cost of 500 per month, then it’s a fabulous deal".

He added that much will depend on whether the company “can actually close those deals (with studios, production houses, telco, etc) and deliver on this promise".

The biggest challenge, according to Agrawal, is that the service has no offline play. “It is an online-only model. So, I can’t watch it on a flight, for instance. Also, when it comes to accessing this content on my phone, I will have to incur additional 3G costs, if I don’t have access to a Wi-Fi connection, a dongle or a hotspot," he said. Nandy is unfazed. The idea, he said, is not to challenge the mainstream traditional media leaders but complement them by creating alternatives for viewers.

“The idea was to develop a guerilla system that can go out...and allow users to experience content on completely unique platforms," said Nandy, adding, “I think that is the future of all communication."

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