YouTube started stepping up its original programming production and distribution in 2018, which it releases through a premium subscription service called YouTube Red.
Most recently, a 10-episode series continuing the Karate Kid saga from the 1980s called Cobra Kai launched on YouTube Red.
Google outbid Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and AMC for the rights to the show.
Cobra Kai stars a main actors from the films, Ralph Macchio, along with William Zabka, who portrayed his arch-rival in the original movie. The two actors are also executive producers on the show, along with Will Smith.
The launch of Cobra Kai follows YouTube picking up the show Lifeline in 2017, which has Dwayne Johnson as one of its executive producers.
Sadly, there is no way for South Africans to legally watch these shows.
While the first two episodes of Cobra Kai are available on YouTube for free, to view the remaining eight you must subscribe to YouTube Red.
YouTube Red is currently only available in Australia, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States, and is $9.99 per month in the US.
Google confirmed that it plans to offer YouTube Red in up to 100 countries, but it did not say when it expects to expand the service – or when it will arrive in South Africa.
Besides offering access to original content, a YouTube Red subscription removes the ads from standard YouTube videos, allows background play on smartphones, and includes a Google Play Music subscription.
These features add a layer of complexity to YouTube Red, however, which may be the reason it is difficult for Google to expand the service into more countries – particularly the removing ads from YouTube and the free Google Play Music subscription aspects.
Offering a subscription service to remove ads from YouTube across many countries at once may have unintended consequences. There has also been speculation for years that even though YouTube is a massive source of revenue, it may not yet be profitable for Google.
YouTube will therefore want to be careful with any feature which may impact its profitability, or its relationship with advertisers.
Google Play Music
The inclusion of a free subscription to Google Play Music with YouTube Red may be another factor causing the hold-up in rollout.
YouTube Remix is said to be a combination of YouTube Music and the Play Music streaming services, and is intended to be a stronger competitor to industry leader Spotify.
It is expected that Google Play Music users will be migrated onto YouTube Remix by the end of 2018.
As a result of this planned change in Google’s product roadmap, it may not want to launch YouTube Red until YouTube Remix is ready.
Google declined to comment on what is holding back the launch of YouTube Red in South Africa.