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The beta version of YouTube Go, Google’s video-on-demand (VOD) mobile app created for India, was put into wide release in the country this week. The app, which had a trial launch for a small set of users in September 2016, is designed to optimize video viewing for those on slow connections, while also allowing users to download some content for offline viewing.
Those features are especially important in India, a market with one of the slowest average internet speeds in the Asia-Pacific region.
According to Akamai, India clocked in with an average speed of just 4.1 megabits per second (Mbps) in Q3 2016, trailing markets like Thailand (11.7 Mbps), Indonesia (6.4 Mbps) and Vietnam (6.3 Mbps) by relatively wide gaps.
“The app is designed to be offline first and improve the experience of watching videos on a slower network,” said YouTube project manager Jay Akkad in a post on YouTube’s official blog. “It gives you more control over data usage by providing choice and transparency into the amount of data spent on streaming or saving videos.”
YouTube has clearly taken pains to address the limitations consumers in India face in accessing reliable, fast and affordable internet.
One of the main factors pushing recent adoption of more data-intensive online behaviors, such as video viewing, has been the rise of Reliance Jio, a new mobile service provider that launched in India last fall and has quickly gained millions of subscribers by offering access to its 4G network at a substantially lower cost than established competitors.
YouTube Go is hoping to tap into this growing market at an early stage. Just 13.9% of the country’s population will watch digital video content at least once per month in 2017, eMarketer estimates. The number of digital video viewers in India is expected to grow 19% this year to reach 178.1 million.
YouTube already has a decent market position in India—a September 2016 survey conducted by Kantar TNS found that 64% of internet users in the country used the VOD platform.
However, the company does face competition from subscription VOD (SVOD) services like Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, some of which have made assertive moves in the market. A February 2017 survey from AIP Corporation found that more than half of internet users in India subscribed to an SVOD service like Netflix.
YouTube is also working hard to fend off these rivals. In December 2016, the service began showing users more content in 11 local languages, depending on their location. This type of localization will be increasingly important as Western companies like YouTube look to expand their footprint in India.
US paid media ad spending will grow steadily in 2017, on the heels of a strong 2016 boosted by the Rio Olympics and the presidential election. A focus on mobile will fuel growth, pushing total media spend to more than $206 billion this year—a moderate increase of 6.1%.
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