YouTube outlined a string of new features coming to the internet’s biggest video platform, including enhancements to YouTube TV and the rollout next month in the U.S. of YouTube Shorts — its tool for creating short-form vertical videos à la TikTok.
YouTube TV, Google’s pay-TV service, will introduce an add-on option that will let subscribers watch shows in 4K, stream programming to an unlimited number of devices at home, and download content for offline viewing.
Other features on YouTube’s road map include the expansion of a new ecommerce feature to let viewers buy products directly from creators’ channels; a way to let fans purchase “applause” for their favorite channels; automatically adding video chapters to relevant videos that don’t have creator-uploaded chapters; and more personalized mixes on YouTube Music.
“Together, this group of products will further fuel the ambitions of today’s pioneers in the creative economy and their next-generation media companies,” Neal Mohan, chief product officer of YouTube, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. Mohan said his post is the first in an ongoing blog series offering behind-the-scenes updates on tech and product development at YouTube.
Google last reported YouTube TV’s subscriber count at more than 3 million for the third quarter of 2020. The U.S.-only YouTube TV service, which increased its pricing to $65 per month last summer, offers more than 85 networks.
Now a new YouTube TV add-on package will let viewers watch available shows in 4K or download them to their DVR to watch later offline. In addition, the premium option will add unlimited concurrent streams at home (versus a maximum of three for the standard subscription), “so the whole family can enjoy YouTube TV on different screens at once,” according to Mohan. YouTube didn’t disclose when the add-on package will be available or how much it would cost.
On another front, YouTube Shorts will launch in the U.S. in March. The video tool mimics popular social video app TikTok, letting users record, edit and share clips up to 60 seconds in length. YouTube Shorts first launched last fall in India, where TikTok currently is banned amid a wider dispute between the country and China
According to Mohan, since the beginning of December 2020, the number of Indian creators using Shorts has more than tripled and the YouTube Shorts player is now generating more than 3.5 billion daily views globally.
“Every year, increasing numbers of people come to YouTube to launch their own channel. But we know there’s still a huge amount of people who find the bar for creation too high,” Mohan wrote, explaining that Shorts is intended to let “creators and artists shoot snappy videos with nothing but their mobile phones.”
Here are highlights of other new YouTube features:
- “Applause” monetization feature: YouTube creators have been able to earn money from fan purchases of Super Chat and Super Stickers in livestreams. The platform has been testing a new “applause” feature to let viewers buy a virtual cheer of support for their favorite YouTube channels, which will launch more broadly this year.
- Integrated shopping: After years of experimenting with various ecommerce options, YouTube is beta-testing a new integrated shopping experience that lets viewers make purchases directly on YouTube. The platform will expand the availability of that later in 2021.
- Automatic video chapters: Last year, YouTube launched chapters to help viewers more easily navigate within a video. But that has required creators to manually add those chapters. Soon, YouTube will expand the feature to automatically add video chapters to relevant videos, according to Mohan.
- Redesigned YouTube VR app: Later this year, the platform will launch a redesigned YouTube VR app homepage “to improve navigation, accessibility and search functionality,” per Mohan.
- Enhanced YouTube Music mixes: The service will launch “more personalized mixes centered around the everyday activities and moods enjoyed with music, whether you’re trying to work out, focus, relax, or commute to work,” according to Mohan. In addition, YouTube Music will make user-created playlists more easily discoverable to other users.
- YouTube Kids white-list option: First launched in 2015, YouTube Kids now has over 35 million weekly viewers in more than 80 countries. This year, the platform will introduce new parental tools including a highly requested option that lets parents add specific videos and channels from the main YouTube platform to their children’s viewing choices on YouTube Kids.