The shortest videos on YouTube are coming to the biggest screen in the house — in a player purpose-built for HDTVs.
YouTube Shorts, first introduced in the fall of 2020, was originally developed and optimized for mobile creators and viewers. While users have been able to watch Shorts in the YouTube TV app’s regular video player, that isn’t tailored to the format, which allows for videos up to 60 seconds in length.
Now YouTube is launching a new playback environment for Shorts (its fastest-growing format) to TVs (its fastest-growing screen). The YouTube Shorts on TV experience is rolling out worldwide starting Nov. 7. Users will need a recent-model smart TV (generally from 2019 or later), gaming console or streaming device like a Chromecast or Roku player. They’ll see a new Shorts “shelf” on the homepage of the YouTube app on their TVs, or they can launch Shorts videos directly from a creator’s channel.
The main challenge for the team, which brought together members of the YouTube Shorts and YouTube connected-TV groups, was to figure out how to preserve the essence of YouTube Shorts — shot in vertical orientation — on wide-screen TVs. In testing, they found users preferred an uncluttered design featuring the video in the center of the screen with minimal distractions. In addition, people disliked having Shorts autoplay in a continuous feed; to advance to the next video, you click the up button on your remote.
“Users want another way to experience Shorts, by relaxing on the couch and watching them with friends,” said Kurt Wilms, director of product management for YouTube on TV. “It also helps with mobile-phone fatigue to watch on another screen.”
YouTube has started selling ads in Shorts for mobile, and is launching a revenue-sharing program for creators in 2023. At launch, YouTube Shorts on TV will not include ads; that capability will be coming next year, Wilms said. In addition, users initially wont have the ability to “cast” Shorts from a mobile device to a connected TV. As with Shorts on mobile and web, viewers can like or dislike a video and subscribe to a creator’s channel.
YouTube followed TikTok into the short-video space two years ago, and it’s trailing TikTok in the connected-TV realm as well. TikTok’s app has been available on Samsung, LG and Google smart TVs and and first came to Amazon’s Fire TV in August 2020.
YouTube’s plans to bring Shorts to TVs have been in the works since the feature was on the drawing board, said Sarah Ali, senior director of product management leading the YouTube Shorts, Creation and Community teams. “It wasn’t a question of if, but when,” she said.
The majority of Shorts viewing will continue to be on mobile, with the launch of the TV experience expected to boost viewing time incrementally, according Ali. That said, she added, “Bringing content to the living room always brings in new audiences.”
The Google-owned video platform says YouTube Shorts are being watched by more than 1.5 billion logged-in users every month. As of December 2021, 135 million people in the U.S. each month watched YouTube on TV. Globally, users stream more than 700 million hours per day of YouTube content to televisions.
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