It is starting to look like the ability to customize multiview streams on YouTube and YouTube TV might not be happening for quite some time, if at all. That’s at least, according to recently updated YouTube TV help pages and comments in a recent interview.
Just ahead of the start of March Madness, YouTube confirmed that it was launching early access to multiview, the ability to watch multiple live feeds on the one screen at the same time.
As part of the same announcement, YouTube TV Engineering lead German Cheung confirmed that the plan was to “add more functionality to multiview, including the option to customize your own multiview streams.”
While there has been no definitive confirmation on changes to that plan, it now seems unclear when YouTube users or YouTube TV subscribers will be able to customize their own multiview streams.
Mary Ellen Coe, Chief Business Officer for YouTube, recently took part in an interview where the topic of customized multiview streams came up. As part of the Deadline interview, Coe explained the ability to select the games in Multiview “is a very hard thing to do technically.” Coe followed up by noting that YouTube has heard users “loud and clear” and that it has “a seven-year relationship and will be looking to innovate in the future.”
To be honest, we were expecting YouTube to provide comments along these lines, as we had been noticing some changes to the language used on YouTube’s Help pages in recent weeks.
For example, the answer to Can I choose which games to watch in multiview? question on a Watch simultaneous streams with multiview on YouTube help page previously stated the following:
“Right now, multiview offers curated feeds for a better user experience. We are working to improve flexibility and introduce more options within multiview in the future.”YouTube Help
That same page was updated earlier this month, replacing the answer above with the following:
“No. Our goal with multiview is to make it available to everyone with a television. Since most devices don’t have the hardware to support multiview, we have to do all of the processing of video feeds on our servers to make multiview possible.“YouTube Help
After noticing this change in the first week of September, Streaming Better reached out to YouTube for clarification on whether the ability to offer customized multiview options was still the plan. A YouTube representative did get back to us, but only to reiterate the same message from the original March multiview announcement.
We then followed up to explain that we had noticed a definitive change in language used on YouTube’s Help page since March, and held off publishing until we heard back again. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive any further explanation.
Interestingly, the same help post has since been updated again (twice in one month now), with the latest version more open-ended.
Here is the more recent question and answer in full:
Can I choose which games to watch in multiview?
No. You can’t customize your multiview streams right now, but you can choose from an extensive assortment of streams.
Our goal with multiview is to make it available to everyone with a television. Since most devices don’t have native multiview capabilities, we’ve chosen to do all of the processing of video feeds on our servers. This means that every unique combination watched in multiview uses limited data center and computational resources. Because each region has unique, local content, we are constrained on the number of combinations we can create that include local feeds. We try to select the best combinations based on expected popularity, and we’re always improving our processes.YouTube Help
Notice the reintroduction of the “right now” wording in “No. You can’t customize your multiview streams right now“, which is far different from the “No” updated answer that was visible just a couple of weeks ago.
For reference, we had noticed the more definitive answer in use on more than one Help page, and it doesn’t look like they have all been updated yet to reflect the most recent language. The Watch multiple events on one screen in multiview on YouTube TV Help post is a prime example, which still reads “No” instead of the updated “right now” message. We would expect this post to be updated soon as well.
Either way, and according to both updated answers, YouTube is opting to “select the best combinations based on expected popularity.” This is due to the vast number of possible combinations, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon, if ever.
In spite of the “loud and clear” and “looking to innovate in the future” suggestive comments provided in the interview, Coe did reinforce the idea that customized streams aren’t a priority right now by suggesting the best combinations are better than infinite combinations.
According to Coe, “you don’t need to provide infinite combinations,” adding, “I think as you see the season go on, the demand [for customization] will become less, because people will see the combinations they want will be up.”