YouTube is bringing its TV service to smart TVs, game consoles and streaming boxes: The Google-owned video service announced an app for its YouTube TV internet TV subscription service on the Nvidia Shield streaming device and TVs with Android TV built-in as well as the Xbox One and Xbox One S Monday.
The app is being rolled out to eligible devices in the coming days, and Google is looking to bring the same experience to smart TV made by LG, Samsung and Sony as well as Apple TV soon. “For us, it’s taking the service full circle. TV back on TV,” said YouTube TV product management director Christian Oestlien in an interview with Variety.
Google launched YouTube TV, its paid online TV service, with a mobile-first approach in April. Instead of rolling out apps across all platforms, the company first focused on the experience on Android and iOS mobile devices as well as the web — a clear nod to usage patterns on YouTube, where mobile devices currently generate more than half of all video viewing.
However, on YouTube TV, the early numbers showed a different picture: More than 50 percent of al watch time has been coming from casting to Chromecast devices, according to Oestlien. (Google has been giving users who sign up for YouTube TV a free Chromecast if they stick with the service for more than one month.)
And there are other data points that show that YouTube TV viewing may be a lot like plain old TV viewing: Chromecast users have been watching YouTube TV “upwards of 4 hours a day,” Oestlien said, and the team was surprised by how much of that is caused by live viewing — a segment that’s heavily dominated by sports and news content. “Sports and news are where a lot of the watch time resides,” he said.
Oestlien’s team is responding to this by giving the TV app a bit of both: The personalized viewing recommendations you’d expect from a product coming from YouTube, and the good old channel guide you’re used to from a traditional set-top box. YouTube Red Originals are being piped in to extend the on-demand viewing catalog, but YouTube Red is also being presented as yet another network that can be browsed just like ABC or CBS.
All of this is tied together with voice search. Users can not just ask for certain shows or networks, but also search by actors and genre, or even generalized queries like “show me sports this weekend.”
For much of this, the YouTube TV team has been able to tap into technology from the YouTube and motherships. The underlying technical platform that powers YouTube’s regular TV app also is being used for the new YouTube TV app, and search and content recommendations are also being powered by the same Google smarts that are already at work at YouTube.
That’s also extremely useful because of the amount of content that digital pack rats can accumulate with the service. YouTube TV offers its users unlimited DVR, and keeps individual recordings for up to nine months. So how can the service help users deal with potentially hundreds of hours of recorded content? “That’s a small problem compared to YouTube,” quipped Oestlien.
Update: 10:31: This post was updated with additional details on the release schedule of the YouTube TV app.