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Every day worldwide, more than 2,000 users watch over a billion hours of content on YouTube. The platform is so popular that more than 500 hours of content are uploaded every minute.
In Bangladesh, YouTube's growth had long been hampered by slow internet speed and low penetration – but since the rollout of 4G services in 2018, YouTube's audience in the country has skyrocketed. Behind this increase is a host of new content creators who have many subscribers and visits, especially in Bengali.
During the COVID-19 “national holiday” (lockdown), Bangladeshis are apparently using 50% more internet than the average usage, and many are watching videos in the local language on YouTube and Facebook.
In February 2020, Bangladesh had more than 166 million mobile subscribers and 99.98 million internet users, among them 94% used mobile to navigate.
In the past three years, the number of internet users in Bangladesh has grown more than 50%. According to a Daily Star report, in 2018 there were more than 29 million viewers, of whom 28% were between 18 and 24 years old and another 23% between 25 and 34.
Those figures rose sharply after the government cut internet broadband prices by 50% in June 2019.
The most viewed content category for local language videos is entertainment (47%), followed by music (24%) and lifestyle (17%).
Over time, several original content creators have gained notoriety. Salman Muqtadir created his channel “SalmoN TheBrownFish” in 2012; Now it has 1.32 million subscribers. His funny parodies of the lives of young Bangladeshis continue to entertain many viewers:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4zRwFco4U4 (/ embed)
Other popular YouTube entertainments are “The Ajaira Limited” and “Prank King Entertainment”.
The young Towhid Afridi, who started as a youtubero in 2015 and now has more than three million viewers, offers fun anecdotes and a travel blog that have won the hearts of young Bangladeshis. Afridi has also teamed up with other youtubers to post messages on how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As its name suggests, “G-Series Bangla Movies” is a YouTube channel offering free Bengali “Dhallywood” movies, many in high definition. Launched just five years ago, the channel – which has hundreds of films in its bookstore – has attracted more than three million Bangladeshi viewers, inside and outside the country. Jazz Multimedia is another movie-based entertainment channel.
Bengali television dramas are also very popular with viewers, so there are several channels dedicated to those series, such as “NTV Natok,” which attract millions of viewers.
“Mayajal” is a Bengali content channel similar to the Buzzfeed page. Launched by young YouTuberos, in the last four years it has also become quite popular.
Music – by Bangladeshi groups and movie soundtracks and television dramas – contributes to about a quarter of YouTube's audience. “Eagle Music Video Station” is one of the most popular, with 4.92 million subscribers and more than 950 million visits.
They are closely followed: “G Series Music”, “Anupam Movie Songs” and “Sangeeta Music”.
“Gaan Bangla” is a YouTube satellite TV channel that also gained popularity, attracting 1.48 million subscribers. Folk Studio Bangla, which publishes Bengali folk songs, is also highly visited:
Although it is easy to find Indian, Asian or Western food recipes online, searching for recipes for Bengali dishes was challenging until a few years ago, when Bangladeshi youtubers started uploading cooking videos. Many of these channels are very popular.
For example, “Cooking Studio by Umme” has 1.46 million subscribers and more than 213 total visits. In her videos, Umme explains what is behind each step of the recipe and often offers alternatives for preparing the same dish – such as the recipe for the famous “Haji Biryani” of ancient Dhaka:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ4wClUREIY (/ embed)
“Spice Bangla” is another favorite cooking channel, as it also talks about continental delicacies, including Indochinese cuisine. While the Tuli channel, focused mainly on cakes and biscuits, reached one million subscribers in December 2019.
Because many rural houses in Bangladesh do not have cable service, along with the proliferation of mobiles with cheap internet access, many television channels have also launched their own YouTube channel and offer live broadcasts of news and other content. These channels attract a high level of audience that ranges from 1.84 million to more than five million subscribers.
There is also an audience for various other topics, including tech magazines, education, and religious content.
The Rajshani Catholic Diocese, for example, has a YouTube channel that it uses to broadcast sermons, Sunday Masses, and other messages from the bishop. According to Father Patrick Gomes, secretary of the Diocesan Commission, the goal is to “nurture the spirit of believers who cannot participate in the liturgy” since the weekly day of rest in the Muslim-majority nation is Friday, not Sunday ..
“Farjana Drawing Academy” is a channel by a Bangladeshi girl who uploads videos of her pencil drawings. With nearly four million subscribers worldwide, his videos have been played 459 million times in the past four years alone.
With just over 2.5 million subscribers, “AroundmeBD” is another extraordinary channel. Liton Ali Khan, originally from Shimulia in Kushtia, western Bangladesh, started posting videos of his village fish market, with advice on how to grow fish for his trade. Once her channel became popular, she used her YouTube earnings to feed 500 to 1,000 people in her village each week and spread the initiative on her channel. Ever since renowned American food blogger Sonny reviewed the Khan channel, Shimulia has become YouTube's first village – videos of the village's activities are uploaded to YouTube and the entire community makes a profit:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlAkRnyqpPQ (/ embed)
However, online entertainment in Bangladesh is not limited to just YouTube. Platforms like BongoBD, which started on YouTube, also produces Bengali content and streams online. Bongo BD is known as the “Bangladesh Netflix,” and it offers a subscription video streaming platform and a dedicated app.
Rabbitholebd Entertainment is a similar platform, which also maintains its popular YouTube channels.
Video in times of coronavirus
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BongoBD YouTube channel has been posting various educational videos, with local language information on security measures:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Let5j1Xid2M (/ embed)
BongoBD, in an effort to keep people at home entertained after the start of the confinement, made its entire video library free for all users in Bangladesh,
Dr. Jahangir Kabir, who runs a free YouTube consultation channel for weight loss and lifestyle modification, is giving advice on yoga and exercises to stay fit during the lockdown.
The audience for YouTube content in the country grew by 61% in 2019. With the current trend, it will continue to expand, making it an attractive market for creators of local language content.