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YouTube’s Primetime Channels Integrate Streaming Movies and TV Shows into the YouTube App

Streaming services are coming to YouTube. The company is rolling out a new feature called Primetime Channels that will bring shows and movies from over 30 services right into the YouTube interface. It’s a big bet for YouTube that it can be the wiring harness of the future and that its unrivaled viewership will make streaming services buy into the idea.

YouTube has signed up 35 partners for the launch, from big-name streaming services like Paramount Plus and Epix to niche offerings like The Great Courses and Magnolia Selects. (Another service, NBA League Pass, is coming soon.) Each will basically work like any other YouTube channel, with a curated homepage and a bunch of videos. These videos will appear in the Movies & TV section of the YouTube app, as well as in search results, recommendations, and elsewhere on the platform. You will be able to leave a comment and like or dislike the video – all that’s missing is the number of views.

Really, movies and shows have only one distinguishing feature: a neon green button that says “Watch Now” if it’s from a service you subscribe to or “Pay to Watch” if you’re not. not registered.

It’s all extremely YouTube-y, as if YouTube had just turned a bunch of movie studio executives into creators — which is precisely the idea. For several reasons. On the one hand, “it’s frustrating to have to switch between apps to manage your subscription across apps,” says Erin Teague, head of sports, movies and shows at YouTube and Primetime project manager. Channels. It’s a line you hear from many tech executives – streaming is too complicated! We can fix it! — but YouTube’s case is stronger than most. Two billion people already use the service every month, most already have a Google account, many have already connected their credit cards, and YouTube can make everything else simple.

It’s also a natural fit for YouTube, where people already spend time watching trailers, recaps, and all sorts of other content for their favorite shows and movies. “You’ll be watching trailers on YouTube and leaving YouTube to start from scratch on the streaming service,” Teague explains. “So we thought, ‘What if we just reduced that experience and made it practical to watch all of that content in one place? « »

The new YouTube experience doesn’t put expensive shows and movies above normal YouTube creators

There’s a bold statement about the future of entertainment in all of this, too. The new YouTube experience doesn’t put expensive shows and movies above normal YouTube creators, Teague says — it won’t rank them higher in search results or promote them more aggressively in recommendations. Teague says she sees content types differently, referring to “official content” and “shoulder content” to describe the difference between the shows themselves and stuff about the shows, but says she doesn’t. don’t think it makes sense to prioritize one over the other except for individual users.

YouTube has long been moving towards a service like Primetime Channels. The company has long known that “official content” was the platform’s biggest hole and that it didn’t make sense to offer a thousand videos with detailed breakdowns of every transaction the company made. Billions the team but not the episodes themselves.

The problem was Hollywood, which largely had no interest in the idea of ​​YouTube — companies preferred to create their own destinations rather than let another platform own the user experience. YouTube tried to partner with services, then tried to create its own content, then created a whole new cable replacement service in YouTube TV. Now, with Primetime Channels, he seems to be getting what he always wanted.

Streamed content now appears right next to all other content you know on YouTube. Image: YouTube

So what has changed? Over the past two years, as the streaming wars have gotten hotter and more competitive, services big and small have had to look for new ways to get subscribers. It’s hard to be valuable about user experience when you’re bleeding users. Amazon and Apple have long offered ways to subscribe to streaming services through your existing account, and Walmart, Verizon and others are also getting in on the action. YouTube’s pitch is largely the same as everyone else’s. those other companies, plus the “we’re the most popular video platform on the internet and everyone already comes here to watch stuff on their TV” stuff. “What we find is that what partners really want is distribution,” says Teague. “They want the content to work and they want their content to reach users who are interested in it. »

This, however, requires a delicate balancing act. It makes sense that YouTube would choose to embed shows and movies as another type of content, but that risks a lousy user experience. No one wants to search for “South Park” and then browse through a series of top clips and interviews with the creators just to get to the show and movies. (Remember when Spotify put karaoke versions of songs at the top of search results?) But if YouTube puts all of its official content at the top, it risks pushing other creators too low on the page. And when you finish an episode, should you get the next episode or some fun creator videos about the one you just watched? Just like with YouTube Music, the integration of official and creator content is YouTube’s most attractive opportunity. It’s also incredibly hard to be right.

The general infrastructure of the streaming industry also makes Primetime channels difficult to achieve – and YouTube certainly hasn’t finished the job. You cannot yet sign up for a new service via the app, for example; you will need to scan a QR code or enter a URL. And if you’re already subscribed to one of the Primetime Channels services, you can’t just log in through YouTube. You will need to cancel and register again. If you signed up for services through YouTube TV, those will carry over, and Teague says you can use your YouTube ID to sign into other apps through the TV Everywhere system. But all this is still too complicated.

Managing streaming accounts and apps is tricky — and YouTube has yet to nail it

It’s also a bit confusing from YouTube’s perspective. YouTube touted YouTube TV as the bundle of the future, and product manager Christian Oestlien told me earlier this year that he had the same aspirations to bundle streaming services together. So why isn’t Primetime Channels a YouTube TV feature? When I ask Teague, she offers two answers – well, one and a half. One is that YouTube is global in a way that YouTube TV isn’t and sees a huge opportunity for Primetime channels outside of the US, “where some companies haven’t reached their size.” . Half seems to be that YouTube and YouTube TV are different products with different teams, and in classic Google fashion, they don’t seem to work closely together. There’s also the other unspoken answer, which is that while YouTube TV is growing well, its 5 million users are just a drop in YouTube’s overall bucket.

YouTube distribution will likely be a compelling hook for many streaming services. But Paramount Plus, which has been very open about using partnerships to quickly catch up with the giants, is the biggest name on YouTube’s list so far. Can the company convince the big players, Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max of the world? Teague says it’s going to be difficult in the United States “because everyone already has a very good experience. »

The real opportunity is global, she says, especially in places where streaming infrastructure is difficult to build. “Creating a streaming service that works all the time, that can deliver live content, on-demand content, that can recommend content in a way that users enjoy – it turns out is a really technical challenge. hard. Teague and YouTube are betting that more and more companies will gladly hand over that challenge to YouTube and focus on creating shows and movies that people will want to pay for. Which, of course, would make YouTube even more central to the future of entertainment.

Source: www.theverge.com



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