The average American watches five hours of TV a day. For YouTube, it’s more like five minutes–a fact which the folks at YouTube don’t like a bit. They think is due to it being too hard to consumer their service in mass quantities. So they’re launching a new service–which the company showed as a sneak peek back at Google’s I|O conference in May–called YouTube Leanback. (Yup, this is YouTube’s second new version of the day: I saw it and the new YouTube Mobile at a press briefing this morning.)
Leanback is an expansion of the basic idea in an earlier service called YouTube XL. It runs in any browser that supports Flash–iPads need not apply–and is designed to make watching YouTube feel a bit like watching a personalized TV channel with a really slick program guide that can be controlled by keyboard. Videos display in full-screen mode, and you press the Up Arrow key to search and the Down Arrow key to reach playback controls, a feed of videos tailored to your interests (which are search results if you’ve just searched) and a browsable directory of videos in major categories.
Unlike the revamped YouTube Mobile, Leanback isn’t trying to give you all the power of standard YouTube in a new format. It’s YouTube stripped down to its bare essentials, and judging from my brief hands-on time with it so far, it’s pretty nifty. Folks who have connected a PC to an HDTV will obviously be intrigued by Leanback–and it will run on Google TV devices once they’re available–but YouTube execs at the briefing said they think people who watch the service on a laptop or desktop PC display will like it, too.
Here’s YouTube’s video demo of Leanback–if you try the service, let us know what you think.