YouTube's widescreen videos are more suitable to flat-screen televisions. ((CBC))

YouTube is taking another step in transitioning from computer monitors to television screens by displaying its videos in full widescreen format.

The website, owned by Google Inc., announced the change on Tuesday through its blog. The new format will make it easier to view YouTube videos on wide-screen flat-panel televisions and monitors.

"We're expanding the width of the page to 960 pixels to better reflect the quality of the videos you create and the screens that you use to watch them," the posting said. "This new, wider player is in a widescreen aspect ratio which we hope will provide you with a cleaner, more powerful viewing experience."

YouTube will continue displaying older videos in the original square 4:3 aspect ratio that they were uploaded in, but the majority of future clips are likely to be in the widescreen format.

Viewership of the website's videos is increasingly migrating from computer monitors in the den to television screens in the living room. A number of internet-enabled consumer electronics devices, including the Apple TV and the TiVo personal video recorder, connect to YouTube and display videos on TV screens.

Google, which bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion US, is positioning the website as an advertising-driven online video portal. While the website rose to prominence through hosting user-generated videos, over recent months Google has been adding YouTube "channels" from broadcasters that host both television shows and ads.

In the United States, CBS recently launched a YouTube channel that hosts shows such as The Young and the Restless and Jericho. In Canada, the CBC hosts shows such as The Hour and The Rick Mercer Report on its channel. TVO earlier this month announced it will launch its own channel early next year.

YouTube is also negotiating with movie studios to show full-length feature films on the website, and announced a deal with MGM to that effect earlier this month.

The site is playing catch-up in licensed content with Fox- and NBC-backed rival Hulu, which is currently only available to U.S. residents. Hulu also hosts popular television shows such as Heroes and The Office, as well as movies from MGM, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and Sony.

Both YouTube and Hulu are circumventing traditional television service distributors such as cable companies and satellite providers. While traditional providers are raising subscriber fees, as Bell Canada Inc. is doing in the new year, the websites are providing an increasing amount of content for free.

Both sites are also addressing the chief concern with internet video — picture quality — by adding more high-definition content.