YouTube is expanding the reach of its TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts, with today's announcement that it will begin rolling out Shorts on TV to its global users. The company's updated smart TV app will now allow users to view the popular vertical videos in an optimized experience that's designed to feel more consistent with what users see on mobile, YouTube explains. This was a challenge given that YouTube Shorts, like TikTok, were largely meant to be watched on smaller smartphone screens.
The new Shorts-watching feature will require a smart TV from 2019 or later, a newer gaming console or a streaming device, YouTube says. The videos themselves can be found on the new Shorts shelf on the homepage of the YouTube app or on a creator's channel page.
In a blog post, the company detailed the different design experiments it researched in coming up with the final concept for Shorts on TV. It found Shorts videos didn't look great in the YouTube app's conventional video player, which had too much black space on either side of the vertical video. It also considered a "jukebox" style format which would line up three Shorts side-by-side to take full advantage of the TV's screen without leaving any additional space on the sides. But this experience was not only cluttered, it also deviated from how Shorts are meant to be viewed -- one-by-one.
The design YouTube landed on is a customized option that attempts to better fill in the sides of the video with a color-sampled blurred background and an outline around the video that resembles a smartphone's screen. It then further iterated on this format to add more functionality off to the side of the video, including information about the creator, the sound used in the video, and thumbs-up and down buttons. This information can be displayed by clicking the right button on your remote.
In this initial rollout, viewers can subscribe to a creator's channel in addition to liking or disliking the video after viewing. The company plans to introduce more community features over time, it says.
When watching Shorts, you can also use the remote to start or stop the video from playing by clicking directly on the short or by using the Play and Pause buttons on the remote control itself. The Short will continue to play until you advance to the next Short using your remote. You can use the up and down buttons on the remote to move to the next video or return to a prior Short, YouTube says.
The company noted it was unusual for consumers to prefer to use the remote control to move through the Shorts videos, as typically watching videos on TV is more of a lean-back experience. But in this case, it found that viewers wanted to manually control which Short played or which they skipped, as they would on mobile.
While today YouTube Shorts are watched by over 1.5 billion logged-in users every month, there hasn't been a way to watch them on the big screen until now as the YouTube app hasn't allowed users to cast Shorts to their TV and the main TV app didn't support Shorts viewing.
The expansion of Shorts to TV will help YouTube to better challenge TikTok, which had also rolled out its own TV app to various platforms last year, including Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Android TV OS and select LG and Samsung Smart TVs in North America. TikTok had also offered a TV app for Google TV and Android TV in the U.K., France and Germany, and on Samsung TVs in the U.K.
But unlike TikTok's TV app, YouTube's TV app has the advantage of being pre-installed on many smart TV platforms. And its rollout is global. However, users won't necessarily gain immediate access to the feature today, as these sorts of rollouts take time. The company says all users should gain the ability to view Shorts in the "coming weeks."