YouTube wants to take on TikTok and put its Shorts videos on your TV
YouTube Shorts, the video site’s TikTok-like feature has become one its latest obsessions with over 1.5 billion people viewing short-form content every month on their devices.
YouTube now wants to increase that number by bringing vertical, full-screen videos into your TV, MIT Technology Review has revealed.
From today, YouTube users around the world will see a row featuring Shorts videos high up on their smart TV apps. These videos will be integrated into YouTube’s TV homepage. They will be positioned alongside longer, landscape videos. The videos are based on previous watch history just like the YouTube Shorts tab on mobile phones and on YouTube.
It is difficult to take a format that’s been a mobile format and find the right way to make it work on TV,” says Brynn, UX director of the YouTube app for TV.
The time spent on the TV app integration is a testament to the importance Shorts to YouTube, according to Melanie Fitzgerald, UX director at YouTube Community and Shorts. “Seeing the evolution of short-form video over many years, from Vine, Musical.ly, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, it’s clear that this format is here for the long-term .”
One major challenge the designers of YouTube Shorts’ TV integration was deciding whether Shorts videos should be allowed autoplay. The initial design requires viewers to scroll through Shorts videos manually once they’re played. They can then move on to the next video by pressing the up/down arrows on the TV remote.
” One thing we were playing was how much do you want this to be a fully-lean-back experience, where it turns on and Shorts cycles through,” says Evans. Although the team did not choose that option at launch, they are open to changing it in future iterations.
The design displays a single Shorts video at once on the TV screen. White space surrounds the video and changes color depending upon the overall look.
YouTube has not tested this feature yet. Ads in the white space YouTube spokesperson Susan Cadrecha told MIT Tech Review that the initial experience will be ad-free. Although she did confirm that ads will likely be added at some time, it was not clear how they would be integrated into Shorts on TV.
The YouTube Shorts team is also looking into how comments can be integrated into TV viewing in future iterations. Evans says that you could use your smartphone as a companion to leave comments and have them appear on television in a mobile format such as this.
YouTube’s announcement follows TikTok’s own move into developing a TV app. First launched in February 2021 in France, Germany, and the UK and expanded into the United States and elsewhere in November that year, TikTok’s smart TV app hasn’t largely altered how the main app works. It has not, however, become an indispensable part of people’s living rooms. )
However the YouTube experience on TV has been changing to include Shorts shows how important YouTube considers the short-form model to be to its future. Andrew A. Rosen, principal at Parqor media analyst, says that it is clearly a battle to get attention across devices. “The arrivals of Shorts and TikTok onto connected TVs makes it more complicated.” YouTube has given up a lead to TikTok and seems determined to catch up.
The team behind this initiative is still unsure how short-form video will be accepted into the YouTube on TV experience. “It still remains to be seen how and when people will consume Shorts,” admits Evans–though she tells MIT Tech Review that informal polling and qualitative surveys, plus tests within the Google community, suggest “a very positive impression of Shorts from people who are watching YouTube on TV.” (YouTube declined to share its own data on much time the average user currently spends watching YouTube content on TV but did point to Nielsen data showing that viewers worldwide spent 700 million hours a day on that activity. )
” Will it make a difference in the living room’s entertainment? Rosen says yes and no. “Yes in the sense that it will turn 15-second to 60-second clips into competition for every legacy media streaming service, and Netflix is betting billions on content to be consumed on those same TVs. No, because it’s not primed to become a new default of consumption.”
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.