The tween YouTube of cute animals and viral parody videos is all grown up. Under new executives and direction from its hovering parent company Google, YouTube has reinvented itself and is looking to draw in even more viewers—this time around in the living room instead of the office.
YouTube’s new direction is apparent in the company’s newly-released app for the PlayStation 3, which came out a few days ago. The app is essentially designed to give the experience of cable television, but with more content and personalized “channel” video recommendations—all at no cost to the viewer. Mat Honan explains in a review in Wired:
The old YouTube you knew (and maybe loved!) is gone. It’s been replaced by something that’s a lot more like a play-anywhere, device-agnostic, multi-channel network. It’s becoming a cable network for people who don’t have cable. YouTube doesn’t want you to watch videos anymore — not in the singular sense, at least. It wants you to stick around and see what comes next. It wants you to start watching on your phone as you head home from work, pick up again on your TV as you relax in the evening, and then nod off to its content while you’re lying in bed, as it streams from your tablet.
The advantage of YouTube’s new format is its personalized channels, which, unlike uniform cable channels, provide an infinitely customized stream of content that each viewer might be interested in. As Honan quotes one YouTube executive,
“The benchmark for what makes mass-market television has changed,” says Shishir Mehrotra, YouTube’s VP of product management. “Cable has run out of space. If you’re going to broadcast content to everybody whether or not they watch it, you can only afford to broadcast a few hundred channels. But if you move to a world where you can broadcast on demand to only whoever wants it, now you can support millions of channels.”
Google has sunk $300 million into new YouTube channels—that’s all 505,347,842 of them. Many of these offer exclusive content from networks and producers while others rehash pre-existing but unorganized content into channels tailored at specific audiences.
Want your MTV? I mean old-school, music videos broadcast all the time? They’re on YouTube, powered by the Vevo channel. Want the best big wave surfing channel on TV? It’s also on YouTube. Or how about the new drama series from Jon Avnet of Black Swan fame? It’s called WIGS, stars A-list actresses like Jennifer Garner and Dakota Fanning, and is only on YouTube.
There’s more. Twilight Zone-style scream-o creepouts? CSI creator Anthony Zuiker has you covered on the YouTube series BlackBox TV. Live videos from the U.S. Olympic team? 24/7 live coverage of Ramadan, straight from Mecca? Original comedy? Original animation? Original automotive TV with attitude? It’s all on YouTube.
But, look, if you do just want to watch cat videos, for hours on end, there’s still a channel for that too. And it’s freaking awesome.
You can now watch YouTube channels from your living room via devices such as PS3, Xbox 360, Apple TV, and even directly on many new wi-fi enabled HDTVs, in addition to YouTube’s conventional streaming devices, the PC and smartphone. With the latest generation of YouTube apps, starting with the new release for the PS3, you can also pair your smartphone to the streaming device and use it as a remote (pictured below), complete with instant results while users type and the ability to pull in a user’s subscribed channels. Though YouTube must grow substantially before its channel format becomes the preferred way to view video content, cable companies had better watch out.