In mid-2015, India’s major telecommunications provider released a new, affordable plan allowing 4G and almost unlimited data. In a country where streaming was not widespread, a huge population could suddenly view streaming content on any device.
This posed an incredible opportunity for Spuul, the first video platform that targets an Indian audience, focusing on South Indian, Bollywood, and other popular genres from the Indian diaspora. “In the past, the common thought was, ‘Streaming is too expensive. Should I use my precious data to watch a video, or should I use Facebook instead?’” says Daniel Muller, Spuul’s Head of Cloud Infrastructure.
With the better data plans prevalent, Spuul’s user-base could stream movies or shows to their heart’s content.
Indeed, the improved data plans made streaming more viable for the general population’s devices, but cellular network speeds in developing countries still tend to be unreliable. Content providers like Spuul have no choice but to hope for governmental improvements to cell towers and other infrastructure. “We cross our fingers and hope this is the case in India,” Muller reflects. “I think more countries in southeast Asia will invest in this industry. We count on that.”
Also, the market has recently been trending toward larger phone screens; as a result, Spuul’s team began encountering issues with image resolution. Increasingly, content is in HD or higher, and the goal is to produce the best quality to satisfy viewers.
In short, Spuul aimed to meet the needs of all their users, from those with small mobile phones in weak networks, to those in big cities with large televisions and lightning-fast wireless.
“We had to come up with some tricks so people could watch more content without problems,” Muller says.
To deal with variable network conditions and devices, Spuul’s infrastructure team adopted a new cloud-based HLS, or dash, format. Muller breaks it down: “We cut the movies into two- to 10-second pieces. The system downloads these small bits and the user starts to watch. While this bit plays, the system downloads the next 10 seconds, and so on.” Much more manageable for devices of all shapes, sizes, and speeds.
In response to resolution issues, Spuul’s new AI juggles five or six video qualities. The higher the quality, the more bandwidth needed. And the platform’s smart-system adapts—if a viewer can download high quality fast enough, Spuul upregulates the image automatically. This means the best possible video quality at all times.
Finally, Spuul’s system adjusts to unreliable network conditions without affecting video playback. On a weak wireless network, the system uses a lower-quality video, reducing bandwidth usage. Multiple servers are also available for the same video, allowing the player to swap seamlessly if one of the servers fails. Spuul uses the latest tech to create a video player that chooses the best version of a stream, and moves intelligently as network conditions change.
Spuul’s CEO, Subin Subaiah, has stated that innovation is “a matter of life and death.” If a company fails to innovate and create the best possible experience for all users, it dies.
Spuul has embraced innovation, expanding its customer base to over 50 million users, spread across 150 countries. Soon, they will add content in Arabic, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Bahasa, and Spanish, in addition to Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri, and the other Indian languages.