Review: YouTube Leanback (TV Like Experience)

[Guest article by Vinod Gopinath, Founder & CEO of Shufflr.TV, which we profiled recently at

YouTube announced a new TV-esque UI with YouTube Leanback. I believe this is a good improvement over YouTube XL (its previous avatar). It seems quite uncluttered and convenient. The navigation key enabled UI also makes it remote control friendly. I believe that this might be the future of online video access on TV.

Note that the navigation key enabled UI is not new. Many applications have used it in the past – Boxee,Plex, XBMC and the likes. However what is new this time is the use of a single queue from which videos are played. This brings a personalized channel feel to online video.

The other advantage that Leanback has is that any device with a standard browser will be able to leverage the Leanback UI. No download necessary. This is a big advantage. It does however come at the expense of a rich immersive user experience.

Users also want a wider choice of content and more engagement since they are used to that on their PCs. Many more channel sources, social interactions etc. Accommodating this need brings with it the complexity of navigation and the danger of building a cluttered UI.  It’s a thin line that a product has to tread between convenience and choice – a little much one way or the other and the user will reject it. Both video browsers and their users are going thru a learning curve and it will take time to settle down to a solution that brings the right levels of interactivity and content choices without overwhelming the user.

YouTube leanback creates a queue for you based on your preferences. It also pulls in videos your friends have shared on facebook, for example. However, users spend a lot of their online video minutes outside of YouTube – Hulu, CBS, BBC, MTV etc. One stat from Comscore video metrics suggests about 22% of online video minutes is spent on YouTube, 26% on sites #2 to #25 and the remaining 52mins on the long tail. It is important thus to give the user this variety but with a similar leanback interface.

Another statistic from TubeMogul suggests that over 48% of videos are discovered through social media –blogs, social networks, social bookmarking sites etc. implying that users are stumbling across videos from several sources. The ability to bring all these sources to a single queue and filter out content that may not be relevant is going to be the next big challenge in online video.

This has been the premise of Shufflr right from the start – the ability to cut through the clutter of online video & bring relevant videos to the user.

Whether it’s the TV, notebook, tablet or the handset, usage scenarios & user interfaces will vary but the need for relevancy will be persistent across all these devices.

YouTube leanback is a good start but it does have some ways to go become compelling.

What’s your opinion?

[Reproduced from Shufflr blog.]

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