YouTube Quietly Tests Sponsored Originals in India

After a “phenomenal” test performance, YouTube is ready to launch its first original series in India

YouTube is readying a big move in India. For the first time, the Google-owned company will be launching original content in the country, the streaming service said.

However, unlike most of its original programming in the U.S., which is housed behind a paywall known as YouTube Premium, its originals in India will be ad-supported, costing viewers nothing. The company has already tested two sponsored shows in India as pilots that were centered around “Cricket,” the most popular sport in the nation. YouTube said it worked closely with advertisers to test the market, resulting in a “phenomenal” performance.

Now the video hosting platform is ready to launch its first official ad-supported show, “ARRived,” which has been described by the company as an authentic search for the best music talent in India. YouTube would not disclose the runtime of the upcoming series or who is sponsoring it but said more details will be released in the coming weeks.

“With India’s improved connectivity and online video consumption boom, all the trend lines are up for YouTube in India: watchtime, new users, new creators,” a rep for YouTube said. “We have been seeing many brands come forward to work with creators in the past. Our goal is to further boost the ecosystem and supercharge the growth with the launch of sponsored YouTube Originals in India.”

India has been a tough nut to crack for U.S.-based streaming services entering the international market. Netflix and Amazon have both struggled to gain any real traction in the country since launching in 2016. One of their biggest setbacks has been a reluctance to ditch their subscription pricing model. While a majority of U.S. consumers are OK with paying $8 per month for a service like Netflix, the same can not be said in India. In India, it has been estimated that less than 10 percent of Netflix’s 5 million subscribers pay of the service, while the rest take advantage of ‘free first-month’ trials through multiple credit and debit cards, according to research from global industry analysis firm Counterpoint.

However, the country’s most successful streaming platform Hotstar, which has over 75 million subscribers, relies on a hybrid pricing model that offers customers both an ad-supported and paid version of the service. Out of those 75 million, only about 700,000 actually pay for the service monthly, according to a valuation report picked up by the Economic Times.  Voot, the second most popular streaming platform in the country, with over 22 million subscribers, runs entirely on an ad-supported pricing model.

Google’s ad-supported approach could give it the competitive edge it needs to compete against India’s leading streaming services. In the country, its YouTube service already reaches 245 million unique users per month with its daily active viewers growing at 100 percent year over year, according to the company. In 2014, there were only 16 YouTube channels with more than 1 million subscribers in India, now the company says it has over 300 channels passing that milestone. With user adoption of the service on the rise, YouTube will now try to utilize original content to bring viewers back to the service on a consistent basis, creating more of a reliance on the service for entertainment not available on any competing platform.