YouTube Leanback – Just got better

YouTube has re-skinned their leanback interface ( at the same time as starting to sell movies in the UK.  This new interface is designed to be used on the TV...

YouTube has re-skinned their leanback interface ( at the same time as starting to sell movies in the UK.  This new interface is designed to be used on the TV and is an alternative to the web interface most people are familiar with.  It is aimed at the traditional Pay TV Set-Top-Box market and offers a number of interesting features.

YouTube seems to have been overlooked when it comes to the Pay TV market and is usually thought of as a platform for “watching cats skateboard”.  However, this attitude underestimates YouTube which is far more than a novelty with its two minute clips of cats.  Anyone with a teenager knows they learn most things from YouTube, from learning to play a musical instrument to makeup tips and fashion.  Even the oldies (over 25’s) can use it to figure out how to do DIY jobs around the house.  YouTube is the number one go-to site for finding things out, it is easier than reading and you can quickly make value judgments on the people offering the information.  When searching in Google, you will be given some results that are video clips and will point to YouTube.  People have been uploading their mobile video clips for years directly from their phones, allowing them to watch and share their own home movies on any platform which runs YouTube.  You can also edit within YouTube your uploaded clips to improve the quality of content.  With YouTube moving into the Pay TV market with its Films and TV Shows it needed a way of searching / watching these on the TV. It already had its leanback interface but this has never really been publicised and was clunky to say the least.  Now with the updated leanback interface YouTube has a higher end interface into the home TV market.

So why watch YouTube on your TV?  The first answer is ‘there some good content available’, both professional and amateur niche programming such as music, DIY and How To tutorials some of these are sponsored some however are created purely for pleasure by the authors.  There is also Broadcast content such as TV Shows and Films supported either by adverts or you can pay for them.  Let’s not forget home movies, these can be the quick clips from your mobile phone or full HD mini films of the family.  News and current affairs are also offered not just from the traditional broadcasters but from the bloggers and independent sources throughout the world.

There is content on YouTube, it is just an issue of finding it.  Anyone who has been on the Internet has at some time in their life used YouTube, the more avid users have been building their own playlists, subscribing to video feeds and generally entering information about their likes and dislikes for years.  Most of these people have been using YouTube on their PC, and will still do so.  However, you can now find the same content in your web browser and add it to “Watch Later” or add it to a playlist, maybe it’s a program from one of the broadcasters, or a series of “how to” videos on a subject you want to learn.  These clips can then be watched on the TV in the leanback mode ( when you just want to sit down lean back, relax and not be bothered surfing for content.  Now all this content you have search for is known to YouTube therefore it can now start to recommend some content you might find interesting.

The new leanback interface is somewhat different and looks a lot like a traditional media player.  With its simple up, down, left, right and back commands you can watch any of your subscriptions or saved playlists very easily, you also have access to YouTube channels all categorised by genre.  The standard YouTube Search and Featured are there if you do want to watch that special cat moment again, however the recommendations seem to be much easier to navigate than the web version and its starting to become a real contender in living room space.  You can also easily view your video uploads, so your home movies are accessible in any format everywhere including your living room.  Your entire home movie video collection can be put into the ‘cloud’ and viewed both on your TV, mobile device and shared with people you know or the entire world.  This is also lightning fast interface and looks great on a powerful PC, however on an Acer Revo 3610 PC running Chrome on win 7 with 3G RAM its extremely slow and clunky.

What is missing from the leanback experience is the ‘TV Shows’ and the ‘Films’ buttons of the main web site but that’s something YouTube can easily add once the interface is matured.  Another annoying issue for YouTube is you cannot alter the resolution of the video in the leanback environment, which means on slow PCs you cannot limit the resolution so that the video becomes smooth.

All in all it’s a move in the right direction for more modern powerful devices and a better navigation experience for the TV however it’s a backwards step compared to the old YouTube leanback for legacy low powered PC’s.


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