When YouTube TV arrived earlier this year, it was focused on phones. Sure, you could send video to your TV via Chromecast or AirPlay, but thus far there haven't been apps for the big video platforms like Roku, Apple TV or even Google's own Android TV. That's changing today, as YouTube TV will start rolling out to screens running Android TV. And in the coming weeks, it'll be in plenty more places, including Xbox One, Apple TV and Roku, as well as Samsung, Sony and LG TVs.
Building a user interface for a full-sized TV is a lot different than making one for mobile, so the YouTube TV app for big screens is a good bit different than what we've seen so far. It's pretty simple, though — when you start it up, you'll jump into whatever you were watching last time you turned off YouTube TV. To find new things to watch, there's a simple three-menu interface: Home, Library and Live. Not coincidentally, those are the same tabs you'll find in the YouTube TV app.
The Home page focuses on five "shelves" of broadcast content that'll be personalized for each user based on their viewing history and what programs they've saved to their cloud DVR. You'll find shows, movies, family, news and sports shelves, and those will be rearranged depending on the relevancy of each. So the sports shelf might be up top on Sunday morning going into a big day of football, but not first thing on a Tuesday morning, for example.
The different content that'll show up in each shelf will also be personalized and relevant your viewing history — if you're a big football fan, you'll see those games show up in the sports shelf ahead of other sports you're less interested in. YouTube TV also lets you follow specific teams, so those games will be right up front as well. Finally, the Home tab also shows off top recommendations across all content types as well as a quick "resume watching" area that shows anything you've started but haven't finished recently.
The Live tab, meanwhile, shows a more traditional list of all channels available and what's airing on them; you can scroll to the right to see what's coming and save shows to you DVR from there. The Library groups everything you've saved into shows, movies, sports and events, with additional tabs to show just what's new or what you watch the most.
There's a whole lot you can dig into further here, including finding shows and movies from specific actors, similar shows to what you watch most often, full show lists for each network YouTube TV offers and more. But the essential experience will be familiar to anyone who's tried the service so far — you'll just be able to initiate without having to go to your phone first.
As for why YouTube TV started with mobile in the first place, YouTube TV's Product Management Director Christian Oestlien told Engadget that the company was trying to offer a totally different experience than most consumers were used to. "We wanted to break this association with the set top box in the living room, this idea that you have to have a cable company come in and install hardware that's dated in a year," Oestlien said. "There's all this crazy stuff from the legacy [TV} business that we wanted to have a really clean break with."
That's a fair point, as the traditional cable TV experience remains fairly terrible. But Oestlien said that "the majority of our watch time comes from casting" -- users sending video from their phones to their TVs using the Chromecast. "The most important thing we've heard from customers is that they want more ways to watch in the living room."
So after six months, the YouTube TV large-screen experience is ready to go. Oestlien said that the app should be widely available. If you don't have a screen with Android TV, it'll be coming to set-top boxes, Xbox One consoles and other TVs within the next few weeks -- it won't be the slow roll-out that is often associated with Google launches. If you haven't tried YouTube TV yet, the company is offering free seven-day trials. Just wait until the new app is on your set-top box of choice -- because it'll be a lot easier to give the service a fair shake.