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YouTube's app for the big screen is being updated today

Engadget Engadget 24/08/2016 Nathan Ingraham
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YouTube may have originated on the desktop (more than a decade ago!), but now mobile and the living room are two of its most important platforms. The latter is receiving an update today: Game consoles, streaming devices like Roku, smart TVs and of course the Chromecast will all get a small but important change. Now, when you load up YouTube, you'll be presented with a variety of different content tabs right at the top of the interface. It's now much easier to flip through topics like sports, news, comedy, music, entertainment and so forth.

Google previously had similar categories hidden in the left-side menu bar, but the company thinks that moving them front and center will help users find content faster and keep them watching longer. The categories themselves have also been refined a bit, with some new additions and subtractions getting to the 14 total you'll find now. It's something YouTube has been working on ever since it started designing its own consistent interface across the big screen in 2013. Previously, YouTube had an open API that device makers could tap into and make their apps, but that led to inconsistent experiences and new features being left behind.

Below those high-level categories are a bunch of sub-genres and categorizations to help users drill in to what they may want to watch. Each section typically has a "top stories" area first that surfaces trending and popular videos. YouTube head of living room products Sarah Ali tells Engadget that the company spent a lot of time working to get the algorithms right so that it surfaces not only new videos, but older content that might be relevant to a topic that's trending.

Beyond the top stories area are sub-categories meant to show off popular topics within a broader group. In gaming, for example, you might see Pokémon Go, Minecraft and Overwatch. Once you scroll through about 10 of these groupings you'll get to a handful of suggested topics and channels. And once you start watching in any of these groups, the next video in the sequence will play automatically.

YouTube also added a new live streams section. There's a top "live" area that shows you a variety of streams happening right at the moment you're looking, and (in some cases) you can find live streams specific to the top-level categories when you start drilling down.

This update is rolling out today to basically every device that displays YouTube on your big TV. The only notable exception to that is the Apple TV, which has its own YouTube app that integrates with Siri and that Google maintains separately. Ali was quick to point out that it is feature complete, so Apple TV users aren't missing out on anything at the moment. But if you're watching YouTube on pretty much any other device (provided it was made in the last four years or so), the new interface should show up soon.

However, just note that only users in the US will see this change, at least for now. Ali said all of the recommendations need to be localized to get the right mix of content in that's relevant to a particular country. It sounds like eventually other regions will get this update, but for the time being it's restricted to the US.

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