Until just a few years ago, most people would be baffled at the very mention of a video-on-demand service. Firstly, thanks to the widespread popularity of torrent sites, which allow you to download content and watch it offline, for free. And secondly, the lack of knowledge on part of the baby boomers in the said sphere. Today, many people, including the older generation, are turning towards better alternatives to cable TV due to the ever-rising prices and busier lifestyles. Not to mention, the annoying 5-minute ad-breaks that play every 10 odd minutes throughout the show.
Although the West is miles ahead in the realm of digital entertainment, Indian entertainment providers are also taking giant strides to bring their content to the world wide web owing to keep up with the demand not only in India, but also worldwide. This transition was first brought about by Hotstar, followed by Sony Liv and only last year, Viacom18 launched its over-the-top service, “Voot”. In this article, we’ll tell you all about Voot so that you can gauge whether its worth your attention.
What is Voot?
Voot can be compared to HBO’s OTT service, HBO Now. It offers content including TV series and movies which are featured mainly on Colors TV Channel, a Viacom18 Media network. Viacom 18 (a joint venture between Viacom and Network 18), is one of the most well-received TV channels in India, just the way HBO is, across the West. Despite being just a little over a year old, Voot has achieved a large membership base that will only grow in the foreseeable future.
Is it a Paid or a Free Service?
Rejoice, because Voot’s content is available at no cost whatsoever! And a service coming from the house of Viacom 18, you know its going to be awesome. However, even though you technically don’t pay any money to enjoy the service, you do pay in the form of short commercials. After all, there has to be some medium through which the company earns its revenue. As of now, there’s no news on whether Voot will introduce any paid subscriptions or not.
Content on Voot:
Presently, Voot offers about 28,000 hours of content including shows (new as well as old episodes) from Viacom 18 channels like MTV, Colors TV, Nickelodeon, VH1, and Comedy Central India. These shows mostly range across the categories of reality and drama. Few of the current favorites include SplitsvillaX, Khatron Ke Khiladi, Mahakaali, Shani, Dev, and Dil Se Dil Tak. Soon, the platform will also feature “Big Boss”, one of the biggest hits whose next season is said to be released very soon. The best thing is that Voot uploads the latest episodes just a few hours after it has been aired officially.
You can even stream many popular movie titles like Jab We Met, Ki & Ka, Bajirao Mastani, Vicky Donor, Gangs of Wasseypur, and Airlift. In fact, you’ll even find a few classics like Andaz Apna Apna, Sapnay, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Nah, and Heer Ranjha.
Although most of the content is available in Hindi, you’ll also find regional shows and movies across languages such as Bangla, Marathi, Gujarati, and Kannada. Aside from that, Voot has also taken tremendous efforts to produce original content and has proved to be quite successful in doing so. Some of the most acclaimed Voot Originals are Yo Ke Hua Bro, Untag, It’s Not That Simple, Chinese Bhasad, and Shaadi Boys. These shows have especially appealed to the youth due to their highly-relatable and coming-of-age plots.
If you have any younger ones in the family, you’d be happy to know that Voot has an entire category dedicated to Kids, slightly similar to Netflix. Some of the top kids’ programs include Thomas & Friends, Motu Patlu, Ben 10, and Mr. Bean: The Animated Series. In fact, your little ones can also watch child-appropriate movies such as Asterix and Cleaopatra, Calling All Engines, Pette the Prince, and Barbie Dreamtopia. What’s more? There’s also a section filled with popular nursery rhymes like Baabaa Black Sheep, Jack and Jill, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Macdonald Farm. Parents can use the “Set Up Pin” feature to ensure that their kids don’t watch other content.
Our Experience with Voot (Design and Interface):
Our team tried using Voot across devices and we’re happy to say that our overall experience was nothing short of pleasant. However, the service does come with its own set of flaws. Let’s talk about it in detail.
Voot boasts of an extremely clean and easy-to-use platform with an eye-catching color scheme; i.e. purple and white. The home-page displays the latest additions in a slider format. There are navigation tabs at the top such as “Shows”, “Kids”, “Channels”, and “Movies” for users to discover content in a hassle-free manner. These categories are further classified under Featured Shows, Popular Movies, Languages, Genres, and Voot Originals. As you scroll down, you’ll notice that the content is carefully sorted under sub-categories like “Top Shows”, “Colors: Latest Episodes”, “MTV: Latest Episodes”, and “Latest Voot Original”. These categories and filters make browsing seem like a breeze.
Once you have selected a title, all you have to do is press play and begin watching in HD quality. You can also get information about the particular title right beneath the streaming player. This information includes details such as the episode number, date of release, run-time, and the story-line.
While we have zero complaints regarding the design and layout, we strongly feel that the functionality and interface could do with some tweaks. In our opinion, the search bar is not the most efficient feature. When we tried entering “Big Boss” into the search field, it first displayed a message showing “No Results”. Only after hitting the enter key again did it pull up a few relevant results. Furthermore, many a times, the titles simply didn’t play. And when it did, it played an advertisement with the show’s theme music still playing in the background. Not that it is bothersome, but small issues like this eventually add up to the overall experience. Having said that, some other users had no trouble playing the content. Generally, the ads don’t play too frequently but this depends on what you’re watching.
As far as streaming is concerned, Voot has its own in-built streaming player which is quite simple to use but has limited functionality. You can adjust the volume, scrub the video, and enter/exit the full screen mode. You cannot however adjust subtitles or change the video quality (can be adjusted on mobile app). In case of a poor internet connection, Voot will automatically adjust the video quality to a much lower resolution. On more than one occasion, even video scrubbing didn’t work as it should have. It may sometimes continue buffering if you try forwarding the content but this could be a user-specific issue.
As mentioned earlier, the best part about Voot is that majority of the content is available in 1080p/HD. Loading of an episode/movie might take a few seconds or start up immediately, again, depending upon the speed of your internet. That said, navigating between pages wasn’t as smooth as we had expected; irrespective of the internet connection. Also, the app force-closed a few times but that was resolved after rebooting the phone.
To personalize the experience, you can create an account and add your favorite show to “Favourites”. This tab can be found under your account/display picture to the top right, when using the web interface.
Lastly, its important to note that Voot does not enable you to download any of the content for offline viewing, yet.
How and Where to Access Voot?
Unfortunately, Voot can only be accessed in India at the moment. You can use the following devices to enjoy the service: iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones/tablets, Amazon Fire TV/TV Stick, and Google Chromecast. Alternatively, you may also use a Mac or Windows operated laptop/desktop to access Voot using their web interface.
Here are the download links for your reference:
If you’re an NRI or a foreigner living outside of India and want to access Voot, you will first need to install a VPN service to change the server to “India” and then use the service in the same way.
Pros and Cons:
Why Voot is Awesome –
- Let’s you watch a great deal of Indian TV content for free.
- Content available in 6 different languages.
- New episodes added only few hours after official broadcast.
- No-frills interface that is very easy to use.
- Available across the most widely used platforms.
- HD Video Quality
- No Log-in required
Why Voot May Disappoint –
- Lack of content from other TV networks (limited movie selection as well)
- No option of downloading for viewing later.
- Lots of bugs in the interface (force-quit, laggy page-navigation, buffering, and error in playing certain videos)
- Commercials in the middle of watching videos.
- Cannot be accessed via gaming consoles or directly on Smart TVs.
- No “live” events, unlike Hotstar.
Is Voot for You?
Voot is by no means a seamless platform and still has a long way to go before being considered as a superlative streaming service. However, let’s not forget that it debuted as recently as in 2016. Voot has developed quite a lot within a short span of time and in the next few years, they’ll hopefully tackle all the sore-points we’ve mentioned above. It still is a brilliant app given that everything is offered for free. So if you’re someone who loves Indian TV (especially the shows on Colors channel) or Bollywood movies, or are looking for some regional shows, but don’t wish to spend extra on entertainment, Voot is definitely for you. On the flip side, if you’re seeking a good mix of both, English as well as Hindi content, (including shows and movies from other entertainment networks) and want a platform par excellence, you might have to explore a bit more.