Internet

On YouTube's India journey

Think Internet video, and almost anyone would point you in the direction of YouTube. The video platform has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, going from a place to share videos of your cats or kids to a major entertainment platform with serious advertising potential.

The India story has its own twists and turns, and has ended up contributing significantly to YouTube’s growth worldwide. To shed some light on its journey in India, we spoke with Satya Raghavan, Head of Entertainment Content, YouTube India. Edited excerpts from the interview:

Can you take us through YouTube’s India journey?

The platform is over 10 years old worldwide, and in India, till 2013, we saw mostly traditional content put out by movie studios, TV news channels and music labels. It was in 2014 that people started seeing it as a great platform for content, and we saw the AIBs and TVFs start to emerge and inspire other creators in the Mumbai-Delhi region. The next year saw South India join the fray, and verticals like beauty and how-to videos became popular, while around 2016, vernacular content took off, with videos in Marathi, Bengali and the like gaining traction. Technology videos and web series also became popular in this period.

On YouTube's India journey

What have viewership numbers been like?

The telecom revolution in India has amplified the user base and viewership in India massively. Of 400 million people with Internet access, an estimated 300 million access the Internet on smartphones, and we have a monthly user base of around 225 million people who use mobile phones, a huge percentage.

Which video categories are seeing the most traction?

The major traditional verticals are things like movies, news, and music, and among YouTube-first categories, comedy is doing well, as are song covers and food-related content. If you look at the breadth of content available, it ranges from entertainment to edutainment to infotainment to actual education.

Did you notice any rapid growth in non-traditional categories?

A couple of things in entertainment and food. Studios have realised that engagement matters before a movie launch, and we see some of them put up anywhere between 30 to 100 videos in the lead up to a film. Trailer reaction videos are another category which has seen some major growth, and the same goes for cooking videos from outside the cities, which show people in remote villages cooking authentic local food. These have become popular in the cities as well.

 

Have there been any triggers for vernacular content gaining ground?

Of those 400 million people connected to the Internet, our data suggests that 230 million are what we call ‘Indic language users’. Which is why we have seen more content creators in languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Marathi and Gujarati. People are now easily connected to the Internet because of the telecom revolution, and they have content to consume in their language. This viewer base in turn brings more creators, so we are witnessing some synergy there.

Can you elaborate on your efforts in making lighter, data-efficient methods to consume content?

Our first innovation in this space was in 2016 — before the telecom data revolution — when we launched offline support so people could download videos and watch later. We saw a lot of people use this before catching a train or a flight. We also launched YouTube Go, which was designed to take up less space and use less data. This was a solution built in India for India, but we ended up using it in other markets as well.

YouTube recently introduced changes in its relationship with creators, such as announcing a subscriber and watch time threshold to be attained in order to monetise videos. How does the company-creator relationship work at this point?

Creators are at the heart of everything we do. We’ve set a threshold on monetisation (channels with over 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in a year) because it creates a safer community of creators who are focused on building an audience. It is also a signal to us that this is a legitimate creator, and helps us showcase to our advertisers a broad and robust creator community, which then helps them target channels better and helps us maintain better standards. What we tell creators is that we are in a fortunate space as digital platforms are growing rapidly, and so if they are consistently creating great content, good things will happen to them. Today, we see comedy and music content creators selling out stadiums and doing multi-city tours. That is the core of the online-to-offline business model. YouTube is at the heart of what they do, and we help them use the platform as a springboard to do greater things.

Creators have now been given the option of letting subscribers sponsor their content. Is this part of a larger change in the tools YouTube provides creators with?

A lot of creators do find opportunities outside the platform, but we have also realised that people who have a community can diversify their revenue stream on the platform itself. We always had the subscription model that was free, now we’re giving people the option to tell subscribers that they are valued, and that they can create exclusive content for a monthly fee. Some creators also have a revenue stream from merchandise, and we are looking at the opportunities available in that space as well.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 5:08:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet/interview-with-youtube-indias-head-of-entertainment-content-satya-raghavan/article23647243.ece

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