The future of interactivity in the living room
Editor's note by Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer: Earlier this year, we shared some highlights of the product roadmap for 2022, including how we’ll be improving the YouTube experience on your TV — which was once again our fastest growing screen in 2021. In this next installment of our Innovation Series, we’re giving you an inside look at how we design YouTube for TVs, including a new feature that brings the best of YouTube to the big screen, making the TV experience even better and more interactive for our viewers.
When the YouTube app for TV screens launched 12 years ago, it became a great way for our viewers to watch their favorite YouTube videos on a bigger screen than their computers or mobile phones. Since then, we’ve continued to improve this experience as the popularity of streaming services and watching YouTube on TV has continued to grow. As of January 2022, on average viewers are watching over 700 million hours of YouTube content on TV daily.
As more people watch YouTube on their TVs, one challenge we face as a design team is how to keep the experience simple, streamlined and intuitive, but also bring the best of YouTube to the TV. Today, we’re excited to share a new feature that gives TV viewers a direct way to access the full power of YouTube at your fingertips while watching on your TV.
How we design for the living room
YouTube offers a rich set of features for our global community of more than 2 billion viewers — from liking or commenting to engage with a video, to supporting your favorite creators by subscribing, joining channel memberships, or even sending a Super Sticker.
And on TV screens, we want to offer this same YouTube experience you know and love. But this also poses a handful of design challenges. Our research team has spent hundreds of hours diving into users’ experiences with YouTube on their TVs. We know remote controls can be difficult to use and navigate with, most TVs don’t have web browsers built in, and you generally have less space to work with since you’re always watching video in a full screen experience.
Over 80% of people said they use another digital device while watching TV
So how do we design for an intuitive big screen experience that also incorporates the features you love about YouTube? Early on, we honed in on an interesting insight — over 80% of people said they use another digital device while watching TV. When we dug into this further, we noticed that people were not only simultaneously opening the YouTube mobile app, but were also engaging with the video (e.g. liking, subscribing) via their phones — all while playing the same video on the TV.
With these insights in mind, we stopped thinking about how to fit all these features into the big screen, and instead pivoted to think about how the phone can be more deeply connected to the TV experience overall.
Introducing a new way to engage with YouTube on TV
Starting today, we’re rolling out a new feature that lets you effortlessly connect your TV to your iOS or Android phone, so you can dive deeper with your favorite content on YouTube while you watch on the big screen.
To try this, your phone and TV must be signed in to the same YouTube account. Open the YouTube app on TV, then open the YouTube app on your phone, and click “Connect” on the prompt that automatically pops up.
Now your phone will be synchronized to the TV, so you can directly interact with the video you are watching from the convenience of your phone. That means it’s easier than ever to read video descriptions, leave comments, share the video with a friend, or support your favorite creators by sending a Super Chat or becoming a member, all while you watch on the big screen.
What’s next for YouTube on TVs
There’s much more to come as we think about the future of interactivity in the living room. With this launch, your phone becomes your all-purpose, interactive device and unlocks the ability to do more in this space.
We’re already starting to test new designs for our video watch page to help fold in more uniquely YouTube features — such as browsing and shopping for products featured in videos – directly to the big screen to help you decide when to pick up your phone and engage.
We’re excited to see what you think — please let us know your feedback!