Tag Archives: Product Review

Streaming Bollywood Movies: Eros Now (2016 Update)

A lot has changed in the world of streaming video since my initial review of Eros Now three-and-a-half years ago. New devices have made it easier to watch streaming content on television, offering expanded viewing options beyond the tablet and PC. Let’s see how Eros Now has evolved to take advantage of the new technology.

For those unfamiliar with the service, Eros Now is a streaming video provider that operates on a subscription model, like Netflix. The service’s parent company, Eros International, is both a production house and a distributor, giving it wider access to Indian content than any other streaming service out there.

A subscription to Eros Now Premium — which costs $7.99/month in the United States — isn’t strictly necessary. A free Eros Now Basic account allows the user to watch a selection of movies and TV shows, plus unlimited access to the service’s substantial music collection. However, English subtitles (and Arabic subtitles, for some films) are only available with a paid subscription. A Premium account also gives the user access to the complete catalog of movies and TV shows in HD quality, as well as the ability to download content for offline viewing. (On my home network, it took eleven minutes to download Force to my iPad.)

Like Netflix, Eros Now is available on PCs, smartphones, tablets, and via a variety of devices that enable you to watch content on your television, such as Chromecast and Apple TV. Eros Now doesn’t have an app for the Playstation 4, and though Eros Now’s website says the service is available on Amazon devices, I couldn’t find an Eros Now app for my Amazon Fire TV Stick.

I tested Eros Now on an iPad, iPhone, Chromecast, and Apple TV. Regardless of what device you use to view the content, I recommend creating a “Watchlist” at the Eros Now website first, to make it easier to find the movies you want. Each iteration of the app has a unique, limited set of search parameters. The Eros Now iPhone app allows you to filter the catalog only by language, while the Apple TV app only allows you to sort by genre. The website allows users to choose films by genre or language first, and then by decade of release within those categories — a useful feature given the thousands of films available.

The Watchlist is available on any device that you use. Another nice feature added in the last few years is the “Continue Watching” option that allows you to start a movie on one device, pause, and resume watching on a different device.

Video quality has noticeably improved. The picture is crisp and clear on both the iPhone and iPad. Either iOS device can be used to cast content to a Chromecast or Apple TV, though there is a dedicated Eros Now app for the latest version of the Apple TV.

On my network, picture quality suffered quite a bit when casting a movie — the horror film Alone, in case you were curious — to the Chromecast. Subtitles are superimposed on top of the picture on the Chromecast, which isn’t a huge deal, but other devices place subtitles in the black bar at the bottom of the frame so as not to obscure the image.

Far and away the best way to watch Eros Now is through the dedicated Apple TV app. The image quality is just as sharp as on an iPhone, and the subtitles appear in the black bar below the picture. The app itself showcases the content rather glamorously, with movie posters cycling through on the home screen to highlight the most popular options. Though the search functions are more limited than on the website, the home screen displays films in categories like “Recently Added,” “Classic Hits,” or “Unusual Love Stories.”

For many users, the question of whether or not to subscribe comes down to content. If all you watch are Indian films, Eros Now is probably the only service you need. According to the Eros Now Wikipedia page, the service “has rights to over 5,000 films.” I’m not sure that means that all 5,000 titles are always available in every country where Eros Now operates, but nevertheless, the service offers at least 1,000 titles to US subscribers. The catalog features 296 Hindi films released just since 2010, whereas Netflix currently offers eighty Hindi films, total.

While Eros Now has ended its experiment with same-day rentals for films that release theatrically in India but not the US (boo!), the service quickly adds new releases to its catalog. Both Happy Bhag Jayegi and Dishoom became available for streaming on Eros Now within two months of their theatrical releases.

There are important differences in the acquisition philosophies that shape the catalogs at both big streaming providers, with Netflix currently specializing in acclaimed indie films and Eros Now focusing on bigger budget fare aimed at a wide audience. Take for example the 2016 releases currently available through both services. Netflix has ten, including the immensely popular Airlift, but mostly smaller theatrical releases (like Saala Khadoos) and well-regarded festival films (like Brahman Naman). The ten films available at Netflix earned a combined total of $2,385,752 from North American theaters this year.

Eros Now only has six 2016 films, but all of them released in theaters, except for Aligarh, which earned its own share of acclaim on the festival circuit. The combined North American theatrical earnings of the Eros Now 2016 releases total $3,429,722 — a difference of more than $1 million. If being current on the most popular Bollywood releases — movies like Housefull 3 and Ki & Ka — is your priority, Eros Now is the way to go.

Watching Bollywood Movies on the New Apple TV

Apple just released its new Apple TV, complete with the ability to search for movies across services. Responding to voice commands, Siri searches for films not only in Apple’s own iTunes store but also in the catalogs of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. So how well does Apple TV’s new system work for Bollywood movies?

One of the big perks of the new system is that Siri can search by genre. If you’re in the mood for a comedy, just ask her to look for comedy movies, and she’ll return a bunch of titles that fit the bill. She can get even more specific if you ask for sub-genres like foreign comedies or military comedies.

What Siri can’t do is find Bollywood movies as a genre. She recognized the command “Find Bollywood movies” correctly, but only offers an apology: “Sorry, I can’t find that.” Same if you ask her to find Indian movies or Hindi movies. She currently couldn’t find Korean or French movies, either.

Siri has trouble recognizing many names of Indian actors and Hindi movie titles. The system offers several language settings — such as “English” (American is implied), “English (U.K.),” and “English (Indian)” — but changing the settings doesn’t affect Siri’s ability to recognize words.

Siri had no problem with Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra. And though Siri interpreted Akshay Kumar as “Oxier Kumar,” she used the “Kumar” part of his name to find a selection of his films. She wasn’t so accurate with Shahrukh Khan, whom she heard as “Sharbrook Con.” (What is a sharbrook?) Attempts to search for Hrithik Roshan returned “Griffin Rochan” and “Find the Russian.”

Kajol got the funniest result by far. Siri heard the star’s name as “Call Joel,” which prompted her to display the following message:

SiriKajol

Searching for movie titles via Siri produced more humorous results. Kahaani became “Call Hymie,” prompting the same note about phone calls as Kajol. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge returned “The wallet I love honey giant gay” and “Bill Walle I love honey jayenge.” At least Siri got “jayenge” the second time, though I’m not sure who Bill Walle is.

As with actors’ names, Siri sometimes got titles right, too. She was able to differentiate between Barfi and Barfly, displaying the appropriate movie in each case.

Though slower than using Siri, the most effective method for finding the Bollywood film you want is to skip Siri and use the Apple TV’s search function on the homescreen. Using the Apple TV remote, swipe left or right to type in the name of a movie, actor, or director. The swipeable keyboard is a pain to use; all 26 letters are in a single horizontal line, so you spend a lot of time going back and forth between each letter. Hopefully, Apple is working on a better system for typing.

Titles or names matching your search show up below the text bar. Click on a title to get more information about a specific film. The list of cast and crew that appear on the left side of the screen aren’t clickable, but the names appear again further down the page in clickable format.

Each film’s specific page displays the various ways to watch it. If you have an active Netflix or Hulu subscription, those viewing options appear first, ahead of the purchasing and rental options available through iTunes. Apple doesn’t try to trick you into paying for something that you can already watch for free.

If you downloaded the Netflix or Hulu apps to the Apple TV, but don’t have an active subscription, a title’s availability on a given service is still noted on the individual movie’s page. For example, my Hulu account isn’t currently active, but it still appeared as an option on the page for the film The World Before Her. My viewing options were listed in this order: Netflix, iTunes, Hulu. If I wanted to renew my Hulu subscription, I could do it through the Apple TV, without having to open another device.

Though Apple TV claims it supports searches by genre, attempts to do so (via both typing and Siri) did not work in my tests. If you want to find the entire category of Bollywood movies, you have to go into the iTunes Movies section on the home screen. Choose “Foreign,” then scroll down to find a colorful banner labeled “Bollywood” with a picture of a dancing woman. There you can see what’s new to iTunes, and scroll through a few sub-genres. However, since area this is specifically within the iTunes store, individual movie pages don’t show you if the film is available on other services. You have to go back out the search page and check the specific title to see if it’s available at Netflix, or some other service.

The actual Apple TV viewing experience is really enjoyable. Swiping down from the top of the touch-sensitive remote control displays audio options, including the ability to toggle subtitles in most apps. “Reduce loud sounds” is another great audio option, allowing for a better balance between dialogue and sound effects.

My favorite feature is the video scrubbing option, which allows you to see shots from the movie as you scroll forward and backward on the remote’s touchpad. This makes it a lot easier to find specific scenes, and it worked well in tests with iTunes, Netflix, and YouTube. So now if you’re watching Gunda on YouTube, you can easily scan ahead to the part where Shankar finds the baby in the garbage can, and then scan further to watch him toss the baby to his pet monkey. It also makes it easier to find this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 7.20.21 PM

In my brief experience, YouTube streaming worked more smoothly on Apple TV than on Google’s own Chromecast, which was an unexpected benefit.

Obviously, Apple TV has some kinks to work out with Siri’s audio recognition and the swipe keyboard, but overall it’s a great device for Bollywood fans. An ability to search by genre outside of the iTunes store would be a huge bonus, and apps by streaming services like Eros Now and Spuul — maybe even Amazon? — would make it invaluable.

Streaming Bollywood Movies: Eros Now

I originally wrote this article back in 2013. Please click this link to view my updated writeup on Eros Now, written in late 2016.

Since posting my article on streaming Bollywood movies on the iPad last year, a new service has emerged to challenge Netflix as the best app for viewing Hindi films. How does the massive catalog of Eros Now stack up?

Eros International got its start in the 1970s acquiring the distribution rights to a host of films before entering the production business in the 2000s. As such, Eros Now features wide array of movies — new and old — that aren’t available for streaming elsewhere. There’s very little crossover between the Hindi-language catalogs of Eros Now and Netflix.

Like Netflix, Eros Now is available on desktop computers as well as Apple and Android tablets. Also like Netflix, Eros Now has a monthly subscription fee of $7.99. Both services require payment through their websites and not via the App Store, which is a disappointment.

Being both a production house and a distributor, Eros Now has the option of making home productions available for streaming sooner than Netflix can acquire rights. Table No. 21 opened in theaters on January 4, 2013, and was available for streaming on Eros Now just weeks after its release.

Eros Now went a step further on March 15, when it made the horror film 3G available for streaming in select countries (including the US and the UK) on the same day that it released in theaters in India. The film is available to Eros Now subscribers at no additional cost, but it is also available to non-subscribers for a 48-hour rental that costs just $1.99. This rental format has great growth potential, as it satisfies international fans’ demand for new content, while saving Eros the cost of shipping prints overseas and undercutting piracy.

The app itself is easy to use, with better, narrower search parameters than the Netflix app. Movies can be browsed and sorted by genre, language, and decade, with the ability to separate out trailers from full-length films. One quirk of the search feature is that it demands the input of three characters, making it impossible to search for 3G by title.

Unfortunately, the app and website lack a queue feature, and movie viewing doesn’t carry over from one device to another. In fact, the app forces the user to sign in at the start of virtually every session. Close the app in the middle of a movie to run an errand, and you’ll likely be forced to restart the film from the beginning when you return to it.

The video quality is less crisp than that of Netflix, regardless of the age of the film or the strength of the Wi-Fi network. Images never come into perfect focus, and scenes with a lot of movement, such as dance numbers, can look like a messy, pixelated jumble.

English subtitles do not appear automatically in the video but can be added by clicking on the “CC” button at the top right of the screen. This is a nice bonus for viewers who don’t need them and find them distracting.

For many fans, the biggest selling point of Eros Now is likely its impressive music catalog. The service features music videos and soundtrack albums for most of the films in the streaming catalog, as well as for films yet to be released, such as Nautanki Saala and Chashme Badoor.

Though it lacks a film queue, the app allows users to generate a music playlist. Another bonus is that the music continues to play even after closing out of the app. It’s nice to be able to create a playlist to listen to in the background while catching up on Twitter.

So how does one decide between Netflix and Eros Now? If the choice is based on video quality alone, Netflix is the clear winner. Netflix also has the advantage of having a massive library of movies and TV shows in dozens of other languages. But Eros Now’s music library may be enough to sway some customers. The choice may ultimately come down to the contents of each of catalog.

The battle between the catalogs is pretty much a draw, as both offer a lot of good options. Eros Now lays claim to movies like Omkara, Pinjar, Om Shanti Om, English Vinglish, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Dabanng. Netflix offers Kahaani, 7 Khoon Maaf, Jodhaa Akbar, Delhi Belly, Chak De India, and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

Eros Now gets new movies sooner than Netflix, but for every Table No. 21 and 3G, there’s a Mai — Love Your Mother or Rajdhani Express: 2013 releases that failed to generate any buzz whatsoever.

Because I can rent new movies for $1.99 on a one-off basis through Eros Now, I don’t see any reason to continue my monthly subscription. I’d have to watch at least four movies a month via the service to make it cost-effective. Since my reviews focus on new releases, I wouldn’t break even most months. Instead, I’ll track possible future rental opportunities via Eros International’s Wikipedia page (which lists the names of notable films in the Eros catalog and upcoming releases) and use the app on an ad hoc basis.