YouTube Kids is now in Asia, ad-free so far, launching in Malaysia and the Philippines in October and in India and Singapore in November.
Success would further reshape the dynamics around production and distribution of kids content, a key genre within both pay-TV and OTT.
Within Asia however, the current priority is monitoring usage and driving uptake, sometimes working with telcos as well as creators running YouTube channels to promote the new app.
Ad sales will follow in due course, although when is under consideration.
“Watch time is our barometer,” explains YouTube’s APC head of kids and learning partnerships, Don Anderson.
“But also, what’s important is ensuring that our partners are seeing monetization,” Anderson adds.
“For us, it’s making sure all sides of the equation are looked after: users first, partners next and then advertisers.”
Designed as a safer environment than the main YouTube platform, YouTube Kids supports advertising in just under half of the 26 markets it has launched in so far.
These include Australia and New Zealand where the app has been live for just over a year.
For Asia, the interface is just in English at the moment, although the videos themselves are in multiple languages.
It’s a gradual approach to localization that echoes the early days of YouTube itself in the region.
The ultimate goal is for YouTube Kids to become the primary video destination for children between two and ten, as well as companies interested in reaching them.
The app sources content from the main YouTube platform, where promising creators can receive funding as well as advice.
It’s a long-term bid to expand the OTT ecosystem for kids content, and further strengthen YouTube’s place within it.
Animation companies that once sold mainly to broadcasters are already using YouTube to develop new revenue streams while taking greater control of their IP, Anderson points out.
Some have started trying out the platform for previews or exclusive distribution.
The latest series from the BoBoiBoy franchise (pictured above), developed by Malaysia's Animonsta Studios, appeared first on YouTube for example.
At the same time, new creators are attracting audiences, and sometimes developing successful businesses of their own.
India's ChuChuTV, offering animated nursery rhymes and educational songs, now has 7 million registered viewers and 6.8 billion video views for its main channel after launching on YouTube in February 2013.
Anderson feels that increased viewing via YouTube Kids could accelerate these trends.
“It’s going to awaken a lot of that creator ecosystem for kids,” he predicts.
Diverse content base
This ecosystem could include large broadcasters such as Disney and Turner, although they aren’t essential to the app’s success, Anderson says.
This is due to the breadth of popular content from other creators, especially those that have anchored their business to YouTube’s platform, he adds.
“If I look at the content that’s getting the most traction in the platform, it’s largely those YouTube-centric or YouTube-endemic creators,” Anderson tells Media Business Asia.
“These companies are three or four years’ old.”
Nonetheless, there are plenty of other OTT providers, international as well as local, eying a bigger slice of the kids market.
Furthermore, revenue models for global SVOD players such as Amazon and Netflix, as well as specialist freemium service PlayKids (now in 26 markets, including Australia, China and New Zealand), don’t rely on ads.
YouTube is also exploring SVOD with its own ad-free service YouTube Red, now present in five markets worldwide
YouTube Red made its Asian debut in Korea this month, after launching in Australia and New Zealand earlier in the year.
YouTube Red subscribers can also watch YouTube Kids without advertising in markets where both services operate.
Executives are treading carefully with YouTube Kids. More parental controls have been added with stricter measures placed on inappropriate content and advertising, following a bumpy debut in the US just under two years ago.
Advertising on the app is subject to some human oversight, although content suggestions are more automated, set by algorithms that are created by people but implemented by machine.
At the same time, comments are absent, at least for the time being, foregoing an integral feature for audience development on the main platform in favor of a more controlled environment.
It’s still early days, Anderson says, with plenty more changes to come, based on feedback from users and partners as well as viewing behavior.
“We are always looking at new iterations,” he says. “It’s quite consumption-based at this point in time.”