2011/12/02

YouTube remake spotlights TV-style channels

SAN BRUNO, December  2, 2011 (AFP) - YouTube on Thursday unveiled a major redesign that showcases television-style channels and promises slicker integration with other Google online properties.

"We are trying hard to marry the best of TV and the best of online," YouTube vice president of product development Shishir Mehrotra said while providing an early glimpse of the changes at the company's offices in San Bruno.

"The term 'online video' is about to disappear as video becomes available to every device," Mehrotra said.

To demonstrate the point, group product manager Shiva Rajaraman demonstrated a YouTube application that makes the website's videos viewable on Microsoft's Xbox 360 videogame consoles connected to the Internet.

The new YouTube home page features channels created by anyone from self-styled video lovers to professional television or movie studios.

A side panel provides YouTube users easy tools to find channels tailored to interests and then "pin" favorites to stay tuned into new offerings.

YouTube provides recommendations based on videos people watch or like.

"The layout is a lot easier on the eyes and the feed is pretty awesome," said DeStorm Power, a singer and songwriter who has risen to stardom on YouTube, where his channel has more than 1.16 million subscribers.

New YouTube pages makes it easy to synch channel updates to subscribers' Twitter, Facebook or Google+ social network accounts, he noted.

"Being able to take my career into my own hands and build the kind of following I have on YouTube has been amazing," DeStorm said while showing off a new page layout that put fresh works center stage.

The Google-owned service built in templates that can be used by video makers or people who create channels centered on what they consider worth watching.

"We think curators are going to be great for organizing this massive amount of content YouTube has," said product manager A.J. Crane. "We are trying to make everyone an effective programmer on YouTube."

YouTube even changed its well-known logo to be more modern and closer in style to those used at other Google services.

The redesign is being rolled out with an eye toward making YouTube look and work better on all Internet-linked devices from smartphones and tablets to television sets.

"This is really the largest redesign and largest launch in YouTube's history," said group product manager Noam Lovinsky.

"As we carry the redesign across the site and all kinds of devices it really changes the game for content providers," Lovinsky said. 
"Everyone is going to be vying for that precious spot on the home page."

The home page lets people switch channels television-style instead of hunting for video clip after clip.

"We've had channels around on YouTube for a while, but with this redesign we are bringing them to the forefront," said product manager Kurt Williams.

The new design sets the stage for film or television studios to create pay channels, a step that YouTube declined to dismiss or discuss.

YouTube is also dabbling with a new revenue model in which viewers get can skip ads, and advertisers only pay for promotional snippets people watched.

The service is testing "True View" advertising inspired by a trend toward ad clips being among top-watched videos.

"Before people were forced to watch ads and now people are actually seeking out these videos," said Lane Shackleton of the YouTube ad monetization team.

"This is a really interesting phenomenon," he continued. "Advertisers intuitively understand the idea of just paying for ads that users watch."

YouTube said that revenue has doubled every year since 2009 and that it makes money from three billion video views weekly, but declined to reveal exact figures or say whether the video-sharing service is profitable.

While YouTube is the most popular application on Google TV, the video-sharing service is intent on being available on the full array of platforms and hardware including videogame consoles, smart television sets, and smartphones.

"There will be millions of channels with or without YouTube," Mehrotra said when asked about competition from Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Home and others.

"We are doing our best to make sure we are the best possible home for them and we expect lots of people to do their own takes on that as well."

More changes are ahead for YouTube as the world of online video viewing flourishes, according to executives.