Today, the company announced that YouTube is improving the experience of its app for those who watch videos on their TV. After noticing that many YouTubers were already using the mobile app and interacting with videos while watching them on the big screen, the company is now introducing a new feature that allows users to connect their TVs to an iOS or Android device in order to sync videos between devices. YouTube says this makes it easier for users to interact with other YouTube features, such as comments, a like button or creator support, among other things.
The company cited research that found that more than 80% of people claimed to use another digital device while watching TV as the motivation behind this product decision. Then he looked at how people used his YouTube mobile app and saw that many would open the video while watching YouTube on TV and interact with the content on their devices by liking, subscribing, and more.
YouTube said it saw an opportunity to take advantage of this user behavior to address challenges it faced in designing the big screen experience. Over the years its designers have struggled to make the TV app easier to use, due to the difficulty of navigating with remote controls, most TVs don’t have built-in web browsers and often less space to work with – especially when users are watching full-screen videos .
The new mobile feature helps solve some of these challenges as it allows users to go to the mobile app instead to sync their phone to the TV. After opening the YouTube app on their TV, they can then open the mobile app on their phone and tap “Connect” at the prompt to sync watching.
This is kind of the opposite of the typical “cast” experience, where users tap the Cast icon in the YouTube mobile app to connect their phone to the TV. YouTube confirmed that the new feature does not depend on casting protocols, such as Google Cast or DIAL, in order to work. Instead, users remain signed in to their YouTube accounts on both devices — there is no technical complication to the end user experience, a spokesperson said.
Once synced via the new feature, users can then interact directly with the video from their phone as they watch, which YouTube says makes it easier to read video descriptions, leave comments, share a video with a friend, or use other features to support creators, such as Super Chat or channel memberships. Among other things.
But this feature also lays the foundation for the other experiences YouTube is building, including e-commerce. The company says it is already testing new designs for its video watch page that will make it easier for users to browse and shop for products featured in videos right from the big screen. These designs will help direct users to their mobile devices when they are ready to buy.
In this case, a message may appear on the large screen suggesting users to open the Phone app for a “second screen experience.” When they do that, they will see a list of the products shown in the video which they can then view with a single click.
Image credits: YouTube Shopping Experience
YouTube has been showing interest in online shopping for quite some time, having launched live shopping last year, following other improvements such as merchandise shelves and shoppable ads, for example. At this year’s Brandcast event in May, YouTube also said it would soon roll out more live shopping features, including co-streaming where creators can live together and retargeting that sends the creator’s audience to the Brand’s channel.
According to a statement earlier this year from Neil Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, e-commerce is a major focus area for YouTube.
If not said is the credible threat that TikTok faces in this market. TikTok sends users directly to other shopping platforms like Shopify or Amazon, driving sales by the millions – while not using Google sites along the way.
“One of the most anticipated opportunities we will bring to our brands this year is shopping,” Mohan wrote. “This new experience builds on the deep trust that creators have built with their communities to help our partners expand into the burgeoning world of e-commerce. We are thinking about shoppable videos, direct shopping, and, more broadly, how app shopping looks,” the post read.
Another benefit of syncing the app with the TV platform directly is that it can give YouTube more control over important aspects of the user experience that it can’t always dictate on third-party TV platforms. The company, for example, got into a dispute with Roku over the distribution of its YouTube and YouTube TV apps on the streaming media maker’s platform, because YouTube wanted control over things like how search results appeared or how voice search worked. In previous years she had issues with Amazon too, before she finally came to an agreement.
YouTube says the new feature will work on all smart and connected TVs that have the latest YouTube app. It will also require users to sign in to YouTube on both the TV app and the mobile version, both of which are connected to the Internet.
YouTube says the feature will be rolling out across all platforms with the latest YouTube app over the next few weeks.