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June 21, 2013

Can TV ever stop YouTube?

(Continued)

PALO ALTO, Calif. —

To do so, YouTube has been experimenting with ways to encourage more viewers to sign up for more channels. Once people do sign up for a channel, they tend to come back to YouTube more often, and when they do, they watch for longer stretches of time.

The big question is how much like traditional live TV YouTube will become after it makes these improvements — and how much it will stand apart from TV, too. The dream is that when you flip on your YouTube, you'll get popular long-format shows as well as niche-ier stuff that you can watch in line at the supermarket or in a doctor's waiting room.

"If we do a good job of this, the ways people will engage with YouTube will go beyond the reasons they currently turn on their TV," Mehrotra says. "The number of things that compete for users' time has increased enormously in the last 30 years, yet every year the amount of time that people spend watching television has gone up." In other words, as good as YouTube gets, the real tube isn't going anywhere. Instead, YouTube is betting that our overall appetite for screen time will keep increasing. YouTube and live TV will exist side-by-side, and none of us will ever get anything done.

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Manjoo is Slate's technology reporter and the author of "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society." Twitter:@fmanjoo

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