YouTube Launches Leanback…I’m Not Impressed

This week, YouTube launched the beta version of their new Leanback service – a simplified YouTube experience that lets you sit back and enjoy a stream of videos, tailored to your own tastes, without having to search, click, browse or even lift a finger. YouTube says that the idea behind YouTube Leanback is that the viewer can “sit back, relax and be entertained. Watching YouTube becomes as easy as watching TV.” However, after trying out the service I have to admit that I’m not impressed.

Before I go into the qualms that I have with the new service, I do want to say that I love YouTube. I think that they have succeeded in dominating the online video industry and have given content creators from all walks of life the opportunity to get their names out and provide a huge amount of amazing and entertaining content. In theory, I think that Leanback is a fantastic idea. You can check out the following to see what it’s all about before reading my analysis below.


So what’s my problem with YouTube Leanback? Let’s start at the beginning. When I first opened the application the first video to play was ‘Hells Kitchen – THE MUSICAL!’ – a 21-second clip that shows a bunch of Hells Kitchen contestants squeezing meat and poking at meat with their fingers. Now, I know that YouTube has no way of knowing that I am more grossed out by watching people touch meat than anything else in the world, but why would they think that this would be a video I would enjoy? And it was in the playlist not just one time, but twice in a row!
As I tried to skip over the meat-poking madness I discovered my second problem with Leanback – I had absolutely no idea how to use the controls. I finally figured out that you can control Leanback with your arrow keys and Return key. However, it isn’t very intuitive and I managed to watch the Hell’s Kitchen meat pokers about five more times before I was able to figure out how to get to the next clip – a video of a guy talking in a monotone voice about why I should not, under any circumstance, use a specific ad builder because they rip off affiliates. Again, why would I be interested in watching this? How can I sit back and relax when I’m not even interested in the content they are showing me? They say the videos are tailored to you, based on your YouTube preferences, but I don’t know about that.
While trying to figure out Leanback I was reminded of a company that I wrote a post about not so long ago called ShortForm.tv. ShortForm.tv compiles popular online video clips into playlists and lets you sit back and watch them, just like Leanback. The difference is, ShortForm.tv gives users the option to easily skip over, like and dislike content. According to viewer reactions, certain videos are removed from the playlists. I feel like YouTube Leanback could benefit from some sort of feedback feature, where users could “like” or “dislike” videos and based on these likes and dislikes they would receive more of the type of content that they enjoy.
Try out YouTube Leanback at www.youtube.com/leanback and let me know what you think. Did you have a similar experience to me or did you sit back, relax and enjoy a stream of great YouTube content?