YouTube is undoubtedly showing signs of heeding the needs of its original programming channels. Digital Trends has noticed a notable change on the video pages for episodic series that should make browsing YouTube that much more convenient.
The silently introduced feature, known to YouTube’s source code as “watch context,” enables users to browse through a list of the episodes in a series. The feature can be found within a box on the top right corner, above “Suggestions” on a video’s page. In the example above, only two subsequent episodes are listed, with a header identifying the show’s season number. The bottom of the box displays a link that leads to the show’s main page, listing all episodes available.
Before the introduction of this feature, content creators have been adding URLs of other episodes in the body of the video’s description, or including annotations at the end of each video typically through an in-video link. Otherwise, if a link to the next episode was not included, viewers would have to manually search for relevant episodes or hope they appear under recommended videos.
From what we can tell, the “watch context” box only accompanies an episodic series. Of course, this feature was built for the specific purpose of navigating one series at a time, but the decision to add a new feature exclusively for web series begs us to wonder if it’s foreshadowing the future of YouTube. How many other native features made just for original programming channels and relevant videos are currently in the works?
It isn’t news that YouTube is cautiously evolving into an original programming hub. But in our opinion, it’s seems Google has been reluctant to design an interface that would be devoted to the needs of its channel partners — at least not in one fell swoop. YouTube’s existing interface can be best described as a jack-o- all-trades; it meets the basic needs for viewing original programming and non-Web series videos. The design is made to ensure all content creators and their products are visible on YouTube. New features such as playlists and episode guides are just some of what YouTube has introduced to benefit both viewers and creators.
While the “watch context” box should come as a blessing to YouTube users, at the end of the day, it’s still about revenue for Google. Advertisers are generally more attracted to premium content, and will pay premium dollars for placement within episodes. With these motivations, new features like the episode guide will contribute to maximizing time spent on continuously watching premium content. We will expect more add-ons that will keep users hooked on YouTube to pop up in the near future.