Yesterday YouTube announced YouTube Go, a new mobile app that provides sophisticated new features for offline video use. While YouTube Go will initially only be available in India, it will no doubt be introduced in other geographies once proven in.
YouTube Go builds on YouTube’s embrace of downloading for offline viewing in India and other Asian territories begun nearly two years ago with the introduction of YouTube Offline, which allowed downloading of certain videos for viewing within 48 hours. Earlier this year YouTube added the “Smart Offline” feature that allows users to schedule their downloads to take advantage of off-peak data use.
Now, with YouTube Go, YouTube has fully embraced offline viewing, introducing an app that is specifically tailored for offline use. Most important, YouTube Go allows users to watch a short preview of videos before choosing to download. It also choose which resolution to save the video at. YouTube Go also provides video recommendations on the home screen and sharing with friends without using data.
YouTube Go was developed specifically to address connectivity problems throughout India, which preclude viewers from being able to reliably access YouTube videos. YouTube said a cross-functional team researched the issues and tested prototypes with hundreds of people in 15 Indian cities to help design YouTube Go.
YouTube Go is just the latest evidence of video content and service providers recognizing the importance of offline viewing. As longtime VideoNuze readers know, I’ve enthusiastically embraced downloading since October 2012, when I first used TiVo Stream to download recorded TV shows to my iPad. Since then I’ve downloaded and watched countless hours of TV, primarily while traveling on planes where no robust Internet access is available.
All of those hours of use have driven up the value I ascribe to my TiVo, well beyond its ability to simply let me watch recordings in my home. Downloading gives TiVo a greater share of my time and therefore my loyalty to the product.
It’s the same for Amazon, which first introduced a download feature for Prime Video for its Kindle HDX back in September 2013. Since then Amazon has broadened download availability to other mobile devices. Once again, I have happily downloaded numerous episodes of “Bosch,” “The Wire,” “Man in the High Castle” and others for viewing on planes and also when working out at the gym when their WiFI isn’t working, as is often the case. As with TiVo, the more I watch downloaded videos from Amazon, the better the value my Prime subscription seems.
While YouTube Go is targeted to India, the reality is that there are frequent connection and/or mobile data cap issues no matter where you live or what you’re lifestyle is. This is why more pervasive WiFi is very appealing. “Zero-rated” viewing from T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon further enable cap-free viewing.
In addition, Apple recently announced at WWDC that its FairPlay DRM would support offline HLS viewing, in addition to traditional streaming. Download technology provider Penthera has already integrated this into their solution, potentially laying the groundwork for its customers to more widely adopt downloading.
The demand for downloading is real and broad-based. Two years ago, a study by Vubiquity found that 58% of viewers would like to be able to download TV shows and movies that are included in their pay-TV subscriptions. 63% of these respondents said they’d even be willing to pay $1-$5 for a downloading feature. Despite this interest, pay-TV operators, who would potentially really benefit from allowing downloading of either recorded or on-demand shows, are behind the curve. Comcast, my pay-TV provider, does offers a download feature, which is quite good, but unfortunately isn’t available for all networks and shows.
Netflix is the biggest, most obvious video provider that has not adopted downloading. Netflix executives have incongruously disparaged downloading, though more recently rumors have flown that a download feature is in development, possibly for release later this year. No doubt it would be hugely exciting for Netflix subscribers, particularly those like me who travel frequently.
Downloading is clearly a trend that is gathering steam. We’re going to see more adoption and also, as with YouTube Go, more sophisticated features. This in turn is going to drive greater adoption of mobile viewing. All of this is very positive for the industry and for viewers.