Shweta Mulki

YouTube Originals launching soon; "...we are nowhere near content fatigue," says Satya Raghavan

The platform has teamed up with music maestro AR Rahman for its first 'Originals' offering from India.

Google-owned video-streaming platform, YouTube is set to launch 'ARRived', its first content offering under the 'YouTube Originals' banner in India, in the next three weeks; and it's free to watch. While YouTube 'Originals' exists in 17 other countries under both ad-supported (AVOD) and subscription models, in India they've begun with AVOD for now. Comparisons with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will have to wait until the YouTube Premium option is here.

YouTube Originals launching soon; "...we are nowhere near content fatigue," says Satya Raghavan

YouTube Originals features content by some of its most successful creators/partners. "We'll invest in and commission shows, but the IP remains with the creator, as that's fundamentally how YouTube works," says Satya Raghavan, YouTube India's entertainment head.

YouTube Originals launching soon; "...we are nowhere near content fatigue," says Satya Raghavan

Satya Raghavan

Raghavan reveals that the team spent a lot of time in figuring what should be the first showcase under the banner and took insight from something that 'happens on YouTube on a daily basis - whether it's music, comedy or food'.

He explains, "Beyond our stakeholders (consumers, creators/partners, advertisers), it was about that section out there that constantly takes an effort to create a video, put it up and hopes it will be that first step towards success. The minute someone reaches a million subscribers - they become mainstream. The thought on 'how we can accelerate that process for that individual' is what led us to come up with the concept of ARRived."

YouTube is working on content for Originals in other verticals. "We're loving all the pitches and ideas coming our way", Raghavan shares.

Raghavan believes that the timing for Originals is apt as video consumption is rising rapidly. "There are 390 million monthly active internet users in India and 245 million of those come to YouTube every month. Telcos getting competitive is resulting in Indians using almost 8GB of data per month and we haven't seen this kind of engagement before," he explains and adds, "We are seeing this as a means to boost the overall online video ad spending pie."

He denies that there is any content fatigue, "We are looking at a huge road. It's a great time to be a consumer, creator and an advertiser who is figuring out new ways to convert engagement into intent."

Inclusive and pervasive growth

"More than 60 per cent of our watchtime comes from beyond the six metros. Of all the people connected, roughly 230 million speak different Indian languages and on video, 90 per cent consumption is happening in vernacular."

Raghavan adds that four years ago, only two channels - AIB and TVF - had more than 1 million subscribers and today, there are over 300 channels in that club. "We value subscription as a good metric as that is the ultimate way to show true 'connectedness' with content", he comments.

The 'leaned-in' advertising community

"Brands know YouTube is an important vehicle for reach/frequency, but now they see it as a great place for engagement and eventually, intent to purchase. Watching an ad on YouTube is very unlike watching an ad on TV. If someone doesn't press the skip button, it shows engagement," asserts Raghavan.

He says that the YouTube Originals launch is a culmination of a very long journey for the platform. "The 245 million monthly users, the hundreds of thousands of creators who are connected with them on a daily basis and the 'leaning-in' advertising community which is seeing results delivered; all this is the foundation we are dropping Originals into," he states.

Pilots and testing....

Raghavan says they've had some interesting pilots, "A couple of years ago, in comedy, we did 'Comedy Hunt' and Jammin' (in music). Just last quarter, we invested in and promoted shows by two of our cricket content creators - Gaurav Kapoor ('Breakfast with Champions') and Viu on 'What The Duck' - and these were very successful."

"Authenticity is key"

"At the heart of it, it's a search concept," Raghavan comments. "We've realised that on YouTube, authenticity really works. The medium is so personal, the creator gets instant feedback. If it's a singing talent show, it will be purely about singing - there won't be any drama or anything else woven around it (unlike television)...," he explains.

The team adds that ARRived won't just be about episodes but individual songs and other bits which will have their own journey.

With different verticals, how will it change the dynamics for creators?

"If you are subscribed to AR Rahman's channel or watch it often, it's just more of the content you like, with that badge of authenticity," Raghavan replies. He continues, "Our creators are 'constantly creating', unlike traditional media and the key thing that keeps them going is consistency. The latter then translates to periodicity."

He says that YouTube is at the heart of the creator's community. "They value the constant connect and the high co-relation in online-to-offline connect. YouTube Originals on the AVOD support side will enhance all those network effects," he asserts.

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