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Hot Seat

‘The supermarket of content happens to be YouTube’

Internet giant Google Inc.’s video sharing service YouTube recently launched its offline service in India as it feels that the ‘broken’ internet infrastructure does not allow viewers to enjoy the experience.

Ajay-VidyasagarIndeed, the company has reason enough to look at India with great interest as it is one of the ‘powerhouse’ markets for YouTube with over 60 million registered users. The officials agree that it is the fifth largest market for YouTube outside the US.

TelevisionPost.com’s Gaurav Laghate caught up with Google Asia Pacific regional director of YouTube partnerships Ajay Vidyasagar, to learn of the relevance of YouTube for consumers as well as content creators in India.

Starting his career in advertising, Vidyasagar moved to Star India and held the position of president before taking charge of regional major Sun TV Network as COO.

While Vidyasagar spoke about YouTube, he also affirmed the continued co-existence of YouTube and TV in future, and that none will eat into the other in India.

Edited excerpts…

How big is India as a market for YouTube?

We have over 60 million YouTube consumers in India and it is the fifth largest market for YouTube outside the US. While we don’t announce the numbers, the growth is in very high double digits. It is one of our powerhouse markets already, even with the broken infrastructure.

From content point of view, what’s the major difference between India and the West?

In India, first television content was put on YouTube and then it was amateur content’s turn.

I think broadcasters had a lot of advantage and because India is so diverse with so many languages. They had problems servicing their viewers in India and outside. For example, if you are a Tamilian, it would be very difficult to run your channel if you are living in Delhi or Mumbai; and if you are living in the US or Germany, it’s unthinkable.

But were they able to monetise the content?

They initially didn’t know the shape of this piece but then they realised they were getting a truck load of eyeballs. They were able to monetise it only after that and it became a big story.


‘We have over 60 million YouTube consumers in India and it is the fifth largest market for YouTube. The growth is in very high double digits. It is one of our powerhouse markets already, even with the broken infrastructure’

You used to be a broadcaster and now you are with YouTube. One thing that broadcasters keep saying is that the platform doesn’t give a premium environment. What’s your take on that?

When YouTube started off, it was a place where any old Joe could put in a piece of video, and then towards early 2010–11, we created this whole ability to create channels.

We dubbed them ‘channels’ in a broad sense. Thanks to YouTube, we are today living in a million-channel generation. In the last two years channelisation has also been turbo-charged by globalisation. So now you choose your favourite channels and watch them on handheld devices.

I think what YouTube means to me personally is quite different from what it is to a mother. My mother knows the platform so well and the channels she enjoys on YouTube are very different from what my dad watches.

You are able to curate your own portfolio of channels and the intelligent platform endows the user with the ability to decide what they will do with their time as there is also customisation.

If your content is compelling, you will win.

How important is YouTube from a broadcaster’s point of view?

At Star I created content, for example, ‘KBC’, ‘Laughter Challenge’, etc. My biggest goal at that time was to take that content to as many people as possible. For me one of the greatest places to put it on was our channel and then my next option involved taking it to DTH operators in and outside India. A revenue-generating option I had at my disposal was syndication.

YouTube has created a play between these two extremes by allowing content to travel both within and outside the country, thus creating a fertile revenue stream.

Most importantly, the broadcasters now have the ability to connect with all those consumers who were not willing or were not able to come and watch a show at a particular time. That is fundamentally what the big opportunity is.

In the television space where there is already so much of fragmentation, what will be the role of YouTube?

When we first launched ‘KBC’ on Star, we got a top rating of 34 TVR. But when we launched it the second time, we got 19 TVR, which still meant it was the highest-rated TV show at that time. Then we launched the third season and our top rating was 6 TVR and now we are celebrating even at 5 TVR as the average is between 3 and 4 TVR.

A consumer has to be able to programme their day according to their time. So while TV has one set of time, the internet has its own set and YouTube offers another set. A combination of three is what helps the content creator to win.

So, do you think YouTube will replace TV?

I don’t believe that YouTube will replace another medium. Every medium has a role to play. When radio was launched, people said it would wipe out print. When TV was launched, they said it would be the end of radio. None of that happened. Basically mediums co-exist and play different roles to different people at different times of their lives.


‘I don’t believe that YouTube will replace another medium. Every medium has a role to play. When radio was launched, people said it would wipe out print. When TV was launched, they said it would be the end of radio. None of that happened. Basically mediums co-exist and play different roles to different people at different times of their lives’

If not replace, will YouTube eat into TV’s share in India?

I think in a market like India, TV has become very progressive and cuts across a compelling price. They will co-exist and I don’t think one will eat into the other. TV is a great medium and I see that it is very relevant to this country.

Most of these channels have their own platforms. So why will they offer their content on YouTube?

Think of it as a retail market. In every city you create an exclusive outlet which then proliferates into hundreds of outlets. You know that 90 out of your 100 selling units have actually happened from your initial outlets. But if you choose not to be there, your sales will go away.

Likewise, you can use YouTube in a number of ways—it’s the mega market of supermarkets. I tell our close partners that they should create their own exclusive platforms, but they should also recognise that the supermarket of content happens to be YouTube.

There were reports that YouTube was planning a paid service. Any update on that?

We don’t have any plan to go pay right now. I think this country still needs to be able to access YouTube in the easiest manner.

From ad sales point of view, how does the revenue share model work?

We have an option called partner sales whereby content owners can manage their own ad sales but need to have a certain scale. Otherwise, we generally have a revenue share model of 55:45, with 55 per cent going to the content creators.