In the age of streaming and juggling subscriptions, most of us tend to rate OTT platforms based on the type of titles they offer and how much we like them. But aside from the content, it’s also a question of the platforms themselves and how committed they are to optimizing viewing.
India currently has nearly 50 OTT platforms (and counting) and each has its own identity in terms of its characteristics and how it works (or in some cases, how it fails); wthis is about how easy it is to navigate his library or how he recommends, skips, automatically plays, etc. From the most basic basics to the incredible value added, here’s our look at the viewing experience offered by some of the best streaming services and the pros and cons of each.
In terms of technology and intuitiveness of the platform, you really can’t go wrong with Netflix. They win streaming wars and for good reason. No platform remains so committed to offering easy-to-use, seamless viewing, with every aspect of the platform designed to keep you watching.
Professionals: Choose. The unsurpassed algorithm for custom recommendations or the absurdly easy-to-use interface. Not to mention the impressive search feature that finds what you’re looking for and others like, all before you even finish entering your full name. Right down to the smaller features like the Skip Intro button or the ease of how easily Netflix plays the next episode. Equally cool is their smartphone mini-screen feature, which keeps the video playing in a smaller window if you go to another app. Ideally, given that much of their content is intended for viewing.
Cons: It’s hard to find mistakes with these people, but if I had to choose, the autoplay feature on their homepage (which automatically starts playing trailers as you go past them) has angered many. Although they recently introduced the opt-out option. Then there is their categorization of films, which is not always accurate, especially when it comes to their Indian titles. Scrolling down to the Comedy tab, you’ll find titles like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dear Zindagi and even Andhadhun. Also, strong programming and a stable platform come at a price, as they remain the most expensive platform out there, ranging from 499 to 799 rupees per month. However, they only have a plan for mobile devices of Rs 199 per month.
Amazon Prime Video
Given that this is the other big streaming giant after Netflix, especially in India, it’s surprising how crappy and clumsy the Amazon platform is without the effort to improve it.
Professionals: Although they have a few things happening to them. First, it is a reasonable price of 129 Rs per month or 999 Rs per year. Then there is the only feature that is unique to them and undoubtedly quite useful – the marking of the cast, which tells you the names of the actors in a scene. Not to mention the moving pop-up curious facts that have many of their newer titles, which is just as delightful. Like Netflix, Amazon also has a mini-screen feature on smartphones.
Cons: Aside from a few chic features, in terms of the bare foundations, the simple layout and the crappy interface of Prime Video do a disservice to their titles. Where to start? First, there is something that can only be freely described as a “search” function. While Netflix will guess exactly what you’re looking for, give you a whole bunch of related titles, a hug, and a five, Prime Video search will raise its hands if you miss the whole letter.
Add to this a library that is anything but easy to navigate. A basic example (designed for word play) when using the smartphone app, if you go to the “Hollywood movies” tab, for example, you’ll see a filter button in the corner. Does it allow you to filter by genre? A year maybe? No, you can only filter by clicking on … movies, while you already know … already in the movies section. Really innovative stuff.
Also, if you are looking for a show for reasons that are yet to be understood by the human race, each season appears as its own title, not as a separate show under which you can choose different seasons. Are they worried, the audience just doesn’t know how the census works?
Disney + Hotstar
Like Amazon, given that it is one of the largest companies in the world, you would expect far better from Disney. You’d think they’d find some time in their busy schedule to dedicate each superhero and Star Wars story to investing more in the platform and interface.
Professionals: In terms of what works well – free content. Disney + Hotstar has perhaps the largest bank of free (Indian) movies compared to any other premium platform (although that means doing commercials, of course). Similarly, the platform has movies in Indian languages and allows you to sort their movie library by language and remains one of the few to do so. In addition to the language front, they also offer many of their larger Hollywood and Indian films, dubbed in multiple languages.
Cons: Without any personalization. Unlike Amazon, Netflix and SonyLIV, Disney does not offer a “profiles” feature that allows you to create multiple accounts so that viewing habits and the history of different users can be saved. So sections like “My Watchlist” and “Continue Watching” can be confusing, which means that if multiple users watch the same show, you’ll lose track of which part of which episode you were on.
The problem with personalization extends to the fact that in the version of the website, all things are sold to all people at any time. It doesn’t matter if you are there for sports or series or superheroes, everything will look the same. Also, the home page slider in the website version does not reflect anything on the latest issues. Instead, there are only random popular versions. You’d think they’d like the latest shows WandaVision or 1962: The War in the Hills will be in front and in the center.
Then there is the all-too-common complaint that they have motherhood of Indian films from the last few years, but many of them without subtitles. More frustratingly, when they duplicate an Indian movie in several languages, unlike Netflix, they don’t tell you what the original language is. For example, the latest Tamil movies Bhoomi and Teddy are available in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu, but only Google will tell you that they were originally Tamil movies designed to be watched in Tamil. And there is more. If I choose Telugu in the Movies section, I’d like to see their selection of Telugu movies, for which I first have to walk around a sea of Hollywood movies titled Telugu.
The new player in the block, SonyLIV, re-launched in 2020 with a new sleek look and a new list of promising originals. But how is the platform itself arranged?
Professionals: For starters, the first episode of all their originals is free, which helps to sample the shows and make an informed decision. Unlike Disney + Hotstar, SonyLIV has Profiles features that allow many users to keep track of different things. Like Netflix and Prime Video, they also have a mini-screen feature on smartphones.
Cons: Despite offering profiles, not much customization is offered here, which makes navigation difficult. For example, if you are someone who is only interested in their English content or originals such as Scam 1992, you still have to go through sports and soap operas and other categories to find what you are looking for.
Add to that the fact that they don’t seem to offer the Skip Intro feature, which is now just the basics for all streamers. In addition to the fact that many movies in their library do not have subtitles, they also seem to have a feature called partial subtitling, in which a number of their shows such as Zoe’s extraordinary playlist there are subtitles for some episodes and not for others. In addition, their movie page is also poorly structured and seems to continue to recommend the same titles over and over again in different categories.
ZEE5 is India’s most prolific streaming platform, producing over 60 titles last year, distributed in more languages than any other platform. But the platform itself is not so impressive.
Professionals: Like SonyLIV, they offer the first episodes of all their originals for free. There is also this reasonable price of 99 rupees per month or 999 rupees per year.
Cons: Unlike other platforms where the Skip Intro button takes you up to a second before the start of the episode, ZEE5’s Skip Intro takes you a few seconds during the episode, which can be quite frustrating. Like Disney + Hotstar, ZEE5 does not allow you to have multiple profiles to track multiple viewers. In addition, despite multilingual broadcasts, there is no way to filter by language. On top of that, if the movie is dubbed in multiple languages, each version is considered a different title and there is no way to change the language while watching the movie, to know in which languages it is available or even what it is. original language f. Their “Skip Intro” button also extends to certain movies, but in the case of movies like Kaali Peeli, pressing it means skipping the first scene of the movie.
Given its popularity, obviously what matters to a large base of Indian audiences is the price above the prestigious content or in this case the lack of price. But the exemption comes at its own expense.
Professionals: It’s free, you don’t even have to create an account to watch things. They also allow you to filter shows by genre and movies by language.
Cons: It’s so frustrating when you go to MX Player to watch ads, and sometimes they randomly run webcasts in between. In short, there are ads. Lots of ads. Here are their temperamental subtitles, which seem to have a mind of their own, given that you have to turn them off and on again to make sure they appear. Also, like the ZEE5, MX duplications are displayed in multiple languages, but don’t tell you which one is right for those who don’t want to endure bad duplication. A prime example is their leading show in Tamil The queen which is available in many languages, but it is almost impossible to say which is the original language.
The correct answer is Tamil-English, which is somewhat different from the Tamil version. Yes, it’s so frustrating.