New Delhi: Google Inc. will let users in India download videos from its YouTube website and watch the content without the need for Internet connectivity, at a time of their choosing.

“In coming weeks, much of YouTube will be available offline in India," Ceaser Sengupta, vice-president, product management, for Android One and Chrome at Google, said during the launch of the company’s low-cost Android One smartphones in New Delhi.

This new feature will enable YouTube subscribers to store videos using their YouTube application and watch them later—a benefit for those with a slow connection or re-watching videos without using up a data plan, the company said. The offline content will also carry advertising similar to the online version.

On an average, YouTube gets 60 million unique users every month in India, according to comScore data.

To be sure, people already use a variety of softwares such as CamStudio, Youtube Downloader, Keepvid, Replay AV and WM Recorder for downloading streamed videos from the Internet.

However, this new service could potentially open the floodgates for broadcasters as they capitalize on this new wave of consumers who catch their favourite content on the second screen—mobile phones or tablets.

“This feature announced by Google would give viewers a more seamless experience leading to a further spurt in video consumption on the mobile. Moreover, it would help create a catch up video segment on mobile," said C.V.L. Srinivas, chief executive officer (CEO), GroupM, a media-buying agency of WPP Inc.

YouTube has content tie-ups with all leading broadcasters in the country, including Star Plus, Colors and Sony. These partners also have branded channels on YouTube where they upload their content on a daily basis to expand distribution.

Raj Nayak, CEO of Colors, said it would be premature to comment before having a full understanding of what comes under the downloaded content.

“It is a little premature to comment unless we have a better understanding of what Google plans to allow for download. A lot of it will also depend on the (digital) rights we have offered them and also in some cases like movies, reality shows, etc., it will also depend on the rights that are available with us," said Nayak.

The global online video ad spending is expected to surpass $10 billion by 2015, according to industry estimates. Today, India is in the top three video-consuming markets in the world. Video is clearly one of the biggest growth drivers of the Internet on mobile, added Srinivas.

Indians on an average watch close to five billion videos every month, according to GroupM estimates. Not only are more Indians watching videos online, the average time spent in watching online videos per user has grown substantially. There has been a 27% increase in online video audience in 2014 over 2013. An average viewer watched 68.7 videos for a total of 431.5 minutes per month this year, according to industry estimates.

“The numbers assume significance when we compare them with the decline in time spent on television viewing in certain demographics like urban youth. Typically, light television viewers are driving consumption of video content across other devices," said Srinivas. “Categories like Bollywood and sports have seen high migration to online video. We have seen the growth of video consumption on the mobile despite network issues."

Google’s move to allow users to download videos is an excellent move for a market such as India where infrastructure and connectivity issues pose problems for a platform like YouTube, according to Smita Jha, leader, media and entertainment, PwC, a consultancy.

“They need to ensure that the offline content library does not get pirated," Jha said. “Secondly, their offline viewership should be captured as part of the online views otherwise monetization models can go haywire."

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