February 24, 2011 / 7:10 AM / in 7 years

YouTube banks on Bollywood, cricket for India

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing website, is banking on Bollywood and cricket to make its mark in the Indian market, looking at tie-ups with major studios to expand its movie library.

YouTube, which launched in India in 2008, says there is a huge market for Bollywood and cricket content not just in India, but in markets which haven’t been explored earlier, a trend it is hoping to cash in on, a top official at the company told Reuters.

“For most Bollywood producers, distribution in non-traditional markets is a problem and then the only choice left for people in those markets is piracy,” Gautam Anand, Director, Content Partnerships, Asia Pacific for Google, said in an interview.

“At least this way we are legitimizing views and monetizing it.”

YouTube currently has 17.3 million unique visitors in India, where it also has the most premium partner views after the United States.

India is adding rapidly adding more broadband connections, with the country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommending that the government should fix a target of 75 million broadband connections by 2012 and 160 million by 2014 -- up from 10.3 million broadband connections at the end of September 2010.

Anand said his company is also making sure that all the content available on PCs is also available on mobile devices as well, crucial in a country that has around 700 million mobile users.

One of Bollywood’s biggest hits from 2010, “Dabangg,” which stars Salman Khan, one of its most well-known actors, attracted more than a million hits in less than a week when it was screened for free viewing on YouTube last month.

“Up until last year, we had partners providing us short-form content, to promote their content. But in the last one year, the platform has evolved and we have a lot more long-form content coming in,” Anand said.

YouTube currently has around 400 titles in its library and deals with major Indian studios such as UTV Motion Pictures, Eros International, Yashraj Films and Rajshri for content sharing.

There are advantages for Bollywood to a greater tie-up as it looks to expand to markets other than its traditional strongholds, which would enable it to rely less on declining theatrical revenues.

Last year, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, a Viacom 18 company, released its small budget film “Striker” on YouTube, a day after it released theatrically, making it available for paid viewing in countries outside India.

Four of out of India’s five main entertainment channels are also on board, uploading “catch-up programing” on their prime-time band within 24 hours of the original telecast.

Bollywood is not the only entertainment drawing attention, with cricket taking aim at viewers as well.

Last year, YouTube streamed a domestic cricket tournament live to more than 250 countries, and found that hits reached 55 million.

They are also cashing in on the ongoing cricket World Cup in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, with highlights packages and short clips from the games provided by broadcaster ESPN Star, which is live streaming the tournament on its own site.

“You would see us grow a lot more in the sports areas. For you to do a lot of sports, you need a robust live platform and that’s something we’ll hopefully get to soon,” Anand said.

Editing by Elaine Lies

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