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NEW DELHI : Google-owned online video sharing and social media site YouTube is looking beyond advertising and branded content to shore up revenues for the platform in India.

YouTube is encouraging content creators to generate revenue via paid subscriptions to their original content or even sale of merchandise on the site. Media experts said the potential of video and social commerce is huge, especially, when it comes to skills related to beauty, learning and education segment, which have also benefited YouTube during the pandemic.

Even though advertising remains the dominant source of revenue, content creators have seen up to 6X rise in revenue over the past 18 months with some making up to $100,000 annually, according to a top YouTube executive. As of June 2021, in India, the number of YouTube channels making 100,000 or more in revenue annually was up over 60%, year on year, the company said.

“About two-three years ago, we realized that a lot of our creators and partners have their own loyal user base and they could monetize their knowledge and drive value through digital goods," said Satya Raghavan, director, YouTube content partnerships, India.

Early last year, YouTube founded a new memberships category for viewers that allowed them to join and subscribe to an individual creator’s channel. Becoming a member of a channel comes with different perks priced between 29 and 7,999 per month. These could include access to live streaming of the channels they join or a one-on-one session with the creator.

For instance, Nitin Bhatia, a creator who is also a full-time trader, utilizes channel memberships to share exclusive educational videos on stocks, real estate and personal finance with his members. He has seen almost a 6X rise in YouTube revenue within 18 months, YouTube said.

Former Indian cricketer Akash Chopra who shares his thoughts on cricket matches, player performances and other analyses, has more than two million subscribers on the platform, and his membership offering has seen more than 10,000 transactions.

Apart from memberships, creators and influencers can also sell their own merchandise on the platform, the revenue generated from which ‘is largely’ with the creator, Raghavan said. Further, fans watching livestreams can purchase a Super Chat, a highlighted message in the chat stream that stands out from the crowd.

Currently, more than 4,000 channels on YouTube have over 1 million subscribers, marking a 50% year-on-year increase.

Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader, e-commerce and consumer Internet, EY India, said that these non-advertising revenue streams are gaining steam and working well for a mobile-first country like India where a majority of the people opting for paid services are from tier-two cities and beyond. "As the power and influence of video grows, we can see the gaining popularity of the influencer and creator economy, leading to more user-generated content and commerce, especially in the skills verticals space encompassing a vast array of subjects from education, food, beauty, farming, finance and more," Pahwa said. Searches for such learning and skill-related videos definitely saw an increase during the lockdown, he added.

Raghavan agreed that the last 18 months of the pandemic have redefined the way consumers are coming on to the Internet, with video becoming the first port of call. “We’ve realized in the pandemic that beyond entertainment, information, education, a lot of people were coming on to YouTube, to get inspiration, and for a feeling of connection and belonging. A lot of these are things that we've been working on but these revenue streams were really unlocked in the last 18 to 24 months," he added.

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