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YouTube Adds 11 Local Languages to Video in India

Move geared to expanding audience

December 13, 2016 | Demographics | Video

YouTube will begin showing users in India more content in their preferred local language, the company announced last week in an official blog post entry. The localized content languages will be on both YouTube’s homepage and in its trending section, and will be targeted based on users’ watch history. The new languages include Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telegu.

YouTube is the top media and video smartphone app among Android users in India, according to June 2016 data from app publisher Jana. eMarketer projects that India will have 178.1 million digital video viewers in 2017. But with only 13.9% of the population watching an online video at least once per month, India remains a relatively undeveloped market for video-on-demand.

YouTube’s effort reflects a wider trend of content localization among ad publishers in India that’s aimed at serving large populations that don’t speak Hindi or English, the two official languages of the national government.

“There are more than 60 million people who speak Bengali,” said Gulshan Verma, the chief revenue officer of Times Internet Ltd., the Times of India’s digital-focused subsidiary. “There has historically been the view that vernacular speakers—Hindi, Bengali, Tamil or Telegu speakers—are lower in terms of income and aspirational value.”

Verma said that perception is changing, noting that the Times of India Group now publishes content in 11 languages to specifically serve these previously ignored, but growing markets.

Speakers of such local languages tend to live outside media-saturated urban markets, making them ripe targets for ad publishers looking to expand their audiences.

Localization is just one tactic YouTube is employing to expand its footprint in India. In September the video-on-demand (VOD) platform announced that it had created a bespoke version of its app specifically for the Indian market called YouTube Go.

The app was designed for with limited or poor Wi-Fi access, giving them the option of downloading content to be viewed offline later. In addition, it provides video options geared to low-income users. People can preview video content before splurging on the data needed to download it, and the app allows peer-to-peer video sharing via Bluetooth. Viewers can also select the resolution of their video content as another means of rationing data use.

A version of YouTube catering to the challenges video viewers in India face is undoubtedly part of Google’s strategy to establish a beachhead in the country’s digital video advertising market.

Google already appears to be gaining significant traction for its digital advertising business in India. The Economic Times reported that Google India’s annual revenue increased 44% year-over-year in fiscal year 2016, although the company did not release profit figures.

—Rahul Chadha

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