YouTube Premium, Music rolled out in UAE, region
The addition of the UAE and other countries in the region will bring the number of markets enjoying the services to over 70.
San Jose (California) - Specially-curated service aimed at catering to local tastes
YouTube on Tuesday launched its premium services in the region, in a bid to tap into the ever-growing streaming sector that continuously demands local and specifically-configured content.
The Google-owned company rolled out YouTube Premium and YouTube Music in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Lebanon. In the UAE, subscription rates start at Dh23.99 and Dh19.99, respectively; subscribing to Premium will also give access to Music.
The addition of these countries will bring the number of markets enjoying the services to over 70.
"We think carefully about these. The market for streaming music is the best there's ever been. going beyond music and building experiences," T. Jay Fowler, head of music at YouTube, said in a briefing for select media in Dubai from his office in the US.
YouTube Music features diverse and specifically-curated content for local audiences, from singles, full albums, covers and remixes. A smart search feature is also integrated to discover content even with minimal search terms, plus a 'Discover Mix' that will show users tracks they may like and which becomes more intelligent as the app is used more.
YouTube Premium, meanwhile, comes with background play, which enables users to listen to audio even if you exit from the app. Offline access allows downloaded videos to be watched at any time.
Another very appealing feature: Both services are ad-free, which means uninterrupted experience.
The depth of YouTube's catalogue, Fowler says, is anywhere between 40 million to 70 million, depending on which territory you're in.
A key selling point of the new services is the premium focus on localised content. While Fowler revealed that it was "challenging", the effort and wait were worth the while because the best possible experience was YouTube's utmost priority.
"We spent a good deal of time trying to understand what's going on in the local music culture," he said.
"We want to make sure what we're launching is not something that's coming from the US into a local territory, but to actually showcase the local catalogue, local artists and local art forms in a way that will feel very native and familiar to people [in their respective markets]."
Fowler added that with each launch, a great deal of time was spent going through catalogues to ensure artists are being represented in the right way.
The fact that Google is YouTube's parent has also been playing a major role: Several existing relationships with most record labels and the music culture in general - largely because of ad-supported businesses - lays the "perfect foundation" for the premium apps, Fowler pointed out.
While YouTube Music's features are similar to that of Google Play Music, Fowler stressed that they don't necessarily cannibalise each other; as a matter of fact, there are plans to unify them.
"It is our intent to have one app experience and market," he added. "In the not-so-distant future, Google Play Music subscribers would be moved to YouTube Music."
In another first, Apple live-streamed its iPhone launch on YouTube on Tuesday. Apple has, gradually, extended its event stream to other platforms, including to Twitter last year and Windows 10 users starting in 2015 via Microsoft's Edge Web browser.