YouTube is aiming to bring its set of social features, including the in-app messaging system and “Community” tab for creators, to its wider suite of apps. Specifically, the company is interested in porting those features to its YouTube TV app aimed at cord cutters, as well as its Music app.
The company won’t confirm a timeline in terms of when these features would launch, but it’s something that’s clearly at the forefront of YouTube’s product strategy.
The move would help further differentiate YouTube’s over-the-top streaming service, YouTube TV, from competitors like Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and others. And it would allow the company to leverage its strengths in social to build out a larger platform that spans both web and mobile properties in order create a large, combined user base of people who stream media content on their devices.
“People think about YouTube as this place where you play your favorite video content – and of course it is. But really what it is underneath is this kind of community that exits underneath between content creators and fans; and fans and fans,” said YouTube Chief Product Officer, Neal Mohan, in a conversation at CES where he talked about how he sees the potential for adding social features to more YouTube products.
“We think that magic of YouTube that exists in the main experience can apply to YouTube TV experience as well,” he said.
For example, YouTube’s in-app video sharing and messaging feature, launched back in summer 2017, offers a way for friends to share videos and their reactions without having to leave the YouTube app to use another mobile messaging service.
Mohan says this is the sort of feature that would make sense to bring to YouTube TV – or even YouTube’s Music app – in the future.
When added to YouTube TV, the messaging feature would basically look the same as it does today in YouTube’s mobile app.
“I don’t want to create any additional cognitive load for users – every user of the YouTube TV app is probably also a YouTube user. It should feel familiar. Their friends are the same,” said Mohan.
He added that the idea of porting social features from YouTube to YouTube TV makes sense for the community features YouTube has been building, as well, such as the new Community tab where creators can interact with fans.
“That’s where content creators are posting not just video, but images, text, and polls and just interacting with their community. I think that’s a concept that can apply regardless of the type of content,” Mohan said.
In practice, this could mean that TV content creators would have their own tab to engage their fan base directly in the app where you’re consuming their content.
This isn’t something only YouTube is planning, of course. Hulu this week said that it was also developing social features to better highlight what friends are watching and recommending, as well as those that could offer a co-viewing experience. (YouTube, meanwhile, has been testing co-watching in an app called Uptime, developed within Google’s internal R&D division, Area 120.)
Philo, a new low-cost, sports-free streaming service, also has social features in development that it plans to launch this year.
In other words, adding a social layer to the TV watching experience may not be a differentiator for YouTube long-term, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have an advantage in this space.
“YouTube is well positioned to deliver those types of really interesting use cases to our consumers,” said Mohan.
That is, YouTube has always been social community of sorts – it’s just that, now, that community is being better surfaced through features like the new tab for creator-to-fan interaction and in-app messaging.