Photo: Proxima Studio/

Latin America gains ground as a monetization laboratory for YouTube

The possibilities of content curation crossed with the so-called social commerce are growing in the region. Brazil is among the top five markets for the company's subscription services

Ler em português

Eight of the top ten musical most-watched live events on YouTube in the world in 2020 took place in Brazil. The live broadcasts boom, boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America as a whole last year, led the company to think about a series of new features and possibilities for monetizing the platform – especially those related to music. In an interview with LABS, YouTube’s director of musical partnerships for Latin America, Sandra Jimenez, said that these possibilities are “a natural complement” to the platform, since YouTube “is the stage for all types of content.”

According to her, live paid events (already tested in Asia and under development in Brazil), new online shopping modalities, and YouTube Shorts (the company’s answer to TikTok to be launched in Latin America soon) are some of the platform’s bets for 2021.

READ ALSO: Betting on pay-per-view, ZoOme.TV, a new video streaming platform, launches in Brazil

Without revealing regionalized figures, Jimenez says that the average number of hours watched on the platform in the region skyrocketed last year, and that Latin Americans account for an important share of YouTube Music subscriptions.

In February, during a conference with analysts, Philipp Schindler, CBO of Alphabet, Google‘s and YouTube’s parent company, said that the platform began to strongly explore other possibilities for growth and revenue beyond ads three years ago. Among these possibilities are YouTube’s subscription services. Globally, the company ended 2020 with over 30 million subscribers to YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.

Sandra Jimenez, music partnership director for Latin America at YouTube
Sandra Jimenez, music partnership director for Latin America at YouTube. Photo: Courtesy/YouTube.

“Individually, it is one of the most popular verticals, because we have a range of content that is unbeatable: we have all the official content, all the covers, all the live performances, all the remixes, and all the manifestations from the fans,” explains Jimenez.

In 2020, more than half a million YouTube channels did live broadcasts for the first time worldwide – these newbies were responsible for more than 10 million streams. “[With this] Last year, the number of channels generating part of the revenue through Super Chat (a feature that allows users to highlight their comment by paying for it), Super Sticker (similar to Super Chat, the highlight happens through paid stickers) or Channel Memberships (monthly payments in exchange for benefits and exclusive content) on YouTube has tripled,” says Jimenez.

READ ALSO: Paramount Plus lands in Latin America: deep catalog and fresh originals to face Netflix and Disney Plus

When asked what would be making Latin Americans pay for YouTube’s services, Jimenez says that it is probably the experience without ads and the possibility of taking that experience anywhere, synchronizing (or not) audio and video. Among the strategies for selling subscriptions are partnerships with mobile telecom carriers, such as Vivo and TIM in Brazil, and smartphone manufacturers, such as Samsung, that have been offering longer periods of YouTube Premium/Music free trials customers.

At the turn of 2020 to 2021, YouTube tested paid live music events for the first time. South Korean girl band Blackpink made a live broadcast with new songs only for fans subscribed to their YouTube channel. “Here [in Latin America], it is going to be a totally different model; we are already testing a kind of pay-per-view feature,” said Jimenez, stressing that the company is also studying how to implement the same membership scheme on YouTube Music.

READ ALSO: Tough competition? Not at all. The ‘streaming war’ in Latin America has a whole different meaning for Roku

In the streaming era, YouTube is also betting on original productions to gain subscribers, more precisely by investing in creators who are already successful within the platform. In 2021, the company announced four new projects for YouTube Originals in Brazil:

  • Futuro Ex-Porta: a reality show where the Brazilian group of actors, screenwriters, and comic producers called Porta dos Fundos will choose a new talent to join its team. The reality show’s debut is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021;
  • Próxima Parada (something like The next stop in English), second season: it is a documentary series that shows the backstage of the Brazilian comedian and YouTuber Winderson Nunes shows. Expected to debut in the second quarter of 2021;
  • Galinha Pintadinha Mini, third season: children’s animation scheduled to debut on YouTube Kids in the third quarter of this year;
  • The Beat Diaspora: a documentary series with executive production by the Brazilian screenwriter and director Konrad Dantas, better known by the stage name KondZilla; the cultural producer Coy Freitas; and the visual producer Mayra Faour Auad, from MyMamma.

And it’s not just for Netflix and the like that YouTube is looking at. After India, the short video version of the platform, called YouTube Shorts, will be launched in the United States in March, and, soon after, should arrive in Latin America. It is the company’s main bet to compete with TikTok. It works just like TikTok or Instagram‘s Reels, with users being able to slide vertically between videos, enjoy and share them. If Latin Americans already produce potentially viral content in the usual parameters, the new modality is expected to grow rapidly in the region as well.

YouTube Gaming had its best year in 2020

2020 was “the year” for live streaming platforms. The restrictions and isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide have made live broadcasts even more attractive to millions and millions of people. According to a report by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, YouTube Gaming was the second platform in hours watched last year (23.3% of the total), behind Amazon‘s Twitch (65.8%), but ahead of Facebook Gaming.

Together the three platforms recorded almost twice the number of hours watched in Q4 2020 compared to the same period of 2019: there were no less than 8.3 billion hours watched against 4.2 billion hours in the previous year.

According to YouTube itself, YouTube Gaming had its biggest year in 2020, with more than 100 billion hours watched in gaming content and more than 40 million active channels globally. More than 350 game creators have reached 10 million subscribers. Live game broadcasts also stood out: hours of live streams reached more than 10 billion.