YouTube Makes Leanback Smarter With Custom Channels

On average, users watching YouTube (s GOOG) Leanback spend 30 minutes watching video — which is twice as much as users of the traditional site — but it’s YouTube’s goal to expand that even further. With that in mind, YouTube has added personalized channels created around specific topics, that are now accessible through Leanback.

The new Personalized Channels feature lets users watch a dynamic stream of videos suggested by the user’s past viewing history. Users will also have the ability to create custom channels around topics of their choice, from “cooking” to “sailing” to “funny cats.”


In order to guide the stream and adjust it in real time, YouTube monitors a number of factors, including whether a video is skipped, watched, or voted up or down. “We have a number of signals that we take into account, but we also notice that if you’re just happy watching the channel,” associate product manager Christina Ilvento said via phone. The technology is in part powered by the new YouTube Topics feature.

YouTube isn’t the only company experimenting with continuous play: StumbleUpon recently launched a recommendation engine that provides users with a steady stream of videos. And Netflix (s NFLX) will soon begin testing a video preview feature for the PS3, (s SNE) which Janko observed sounds like it may have Leanback similarities.

But for YouTube, the big issue is discoverability, especially now that 35 hours of video a minute are now being uploaded to the site. “One of the main goals is to increase the amount of time people spend on YouTube to be on par with television,” Ilvento said. There’s certainly plenty for them to watch.

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