YouTube Stops Screen Stealing On Apple TV

I’m still not entirely sure what happened, but I got a message from Glenn Fleishman the other night asking if tvOS 17.5.1 disabled the YouTube screensaver that I wrote about here and mentioned again over at Six Colors.

The short version is that the YouTube app on Apple TV started showing a slideshow when the TV was paused before the Apple TV’s screensaver kicked on at the default five minute mark. The slideshow from YouTube would function as the screensaver. The slideshow consisted of either the thumbnail of the video you were paused on zooming in, over and over, or a random assortment of still frames from landscape, nature, and drone footage if you happened to be outside of a paused video.

To test what Glenn was reporting I went to my living room Apple TV, which is still on tvOS 17.4. No YouTube screensaver. I asked around a few places and people reported that they don’t have the previously reported screensaver behavior now either.

This isn’t something tvOS did (it obviously wouldn’t be in 17.4) and it didn’t appear to be something YouTube released an updated app for. My best guess is that they have a server-side control for the screensaver behavior and they turned it off there. I don’t have any way to confirm that, but it seems like it’s what fits the facts.

YouTube was very proud of where things were going with screensavers, where they were starting to serve ads in a pilot program. Philipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business Officer, on the 2024 Q1 investor call:

In Q1, we saw strong traction from the introduction of a Pause Ads pilot on connected TVs, a new non-interruptive ad format that appears when users pause their organic content. Initial results show that Pause Ads are driving strong Brand Lift results and are commanding premium pricing from advertisers.


So what happened? What made the screensavers go poof all of a sudden? Is this a temporary reprieve as something about the screensavers gets retooled, or is this permanent? Is it because someone from Apple called someone from Google and got this quietly killed only on Apple TVs?

We Did It, Joe!

I don’t want too jinx it, but I’ve set all my Apple TV screensaver intervals back to the default 5 minutes, instead of the 2 minute workaround I was using before. Hopefully this will never come up again.

2024-05-29 17:30:00

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