YouTube launches TV app in the US to better serve in-home viewing

MUMBAI: YouTube continues to march into traditional TV’s domain. Earlier this year, it launched its 40 channel bundle in the US for about $35 in certain markets. Along with some originals, the personalisation and recommendation has helped its content consumption skyrocket. Using Chromecast, viewers in 50 markets in the US can now watch it on their TV sets, apart from wirelessly watching it on their tablets, their phones and their computers.

But that was a thing of the past: it has just announced the launch of its own YouTube app which will first be available on the Android app store for any Android TVs and Xbox Ones, followed by releases on Apple TV, Roku and smart TVs from Samsung Sony and LG.

Why did the streaming service-turned- cloud pay TV operator have to take this route? YouTube executives state that customers insisted that they wanted it on more fixed devices, especially in US living rooms which are primarily TVs. Data showed that despite the mobile first option, living room is still the hub of entertainment.

Additionally, it is just protecting its turf. Traditional advertising on desktop browsers is sliding, and mobile ads are picking up the slack, even as viewers are continuing to consume content in living rooms on their TV sets. By launching an app for its YouTube TV, it will be able to capture some more ad dollars is the reasoning.

The YouTube TV app has an in-depth programming guide. Each channel has a page which features the top programmes, a zapper sidebar lets you scroll through channels even as a you watch a show of your own. And what’s most important is the voice enabled search which allows you to talk to your TV set.

The YouTube TV app built for actual television sets doesn’t cut any of the features you find on the mobile version, but it does add a bunch of new ones. Mobile didn’t feature an in-depth programming guide, but the living room experience has one, so you can see what’s playing a few hours in the future. There are also channel pages that show off top picks from network partners. The programming team built the app in HTML so it can easily be ported onto any device without having to recreate it for other operating systems of other smart TVs.

Recent data releases from YouTube have revealed that close to a billion hours of video are being watched every day. Mobile viewing accounts for 600 million; desktop is at 300 million hours, while TV accounts for 100 million hours. But the last is growing at a rapid 70 per cent per annum; hence the YouTube App will only see it accelerate faster.

Clearly, the battle for viewers eyeballs with traditionally delivered cable TV is only going to get more intense. When the service will arrive in India is not known. But it’s something that both India’s struggling cable TV MSOs and operators need to keep a close watch on. Google, with its billions of dollars in cash reserves, can turn on the switch in a second. And that might be too late for the low-on-cash Indian cable TV distribution system.

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