Show HN: ytcast – cast YouTube videos to your smart TV from command-line

Show HN: ytcast – cast YouTube videos to your smart TV from command-line

cast YouTube videos to your smart TV from command-line.

this program does roughly the same thing as the “Play on TV” button that appears
on the player bar when you visit with Chrome or when you use the
YouTube smartphone app:

Play on TV button

(the feature is also described here).

I don’t use Chrome as my daily driver because of reasons and I tend to use my
smartphone the least as possible when I’m at home… but still I want the “Play
on TV” functionality to watch videos on the big television screen without having
to search them with the remote! this is why I wrote this tool. also my computing
workflow is “command-line centric” and ytcast fits well in my toolbox (see
other tools).


(video demo on YouTube if above doesn’t play).



  • the computer running ytcast and the target device must be on the same network.
  • the target device must support the DIAL protocol (see how it works).
  • the target device must have the YouTube on TV app already installed.

run ytcast -h for the full usage, here I’ll show the basic options.

the -d (device) option selects the target device matching by name, hostname
(ip), or unique service name:

$ ytcast -d fire

to see the already discovered (cached) devices use the -l (list) option:

$ ytcast -l
28bc7426    "FireTVStick di Marco"         cached lastused
d0881fbe   "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"      cached

to update the devices cache use the -s (search) option (it’s implicit when the
cache is empty or when -d doesn’t match anything in the cache):

$ ytcast -s
28bc7426    "FireTVStick di Marco"         lastused
d0881fbe   "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"      cached

if your target device doesn’t show up, you can try increasing the search timeout
with the -t (timeout) option to give the device more time to respond to the

$ ytcast -s -t 10s
28bc7426    "FireTVStick di Marco"         lastused
d0881fbe   "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"      cached

remember that the computer and the target device must be on the same network.
if it doesn’t show up after several tries, you may consider using the -pair
option to skip the discovery process altogether. this adds some limitations
though, see workarounds.

to cast to the last used device use the -p option:

$ ytcast -p

when no url is passed in the arguments, ytcast reads video urls (or ids) from
stdin one per line:

$ ytcast -d lg 

this makes it easy to combine ytcast with other tools like ytfzf or my
ytfzf clone ytsearch.

to see what’s going on under the hood use the -verbose option:
21:13:15 dial.go:153: GET
21:13:15 ytcast.go:293: ” youtube is stopped on webos tv um7100plb ytcast.go:306: launching dial.go:153: post http: get ytcast.go:293: running ytcast.go:358: requesting lounge to play remote.go:233: https: ytcast.go:197: saving cache>
$ ytsearch fireplace 10 hours | ytcast -d lg -verbose
21:13:08 ytcast.go:82: ytcast v0.1.0-6-g8e6daeb
21:13:08 ytcast.go:168: mkdir -p /home/marco/.cache/ytcast
21:13:08 ytcast.go:177: loading cache /home/marco/.cache/ytcast/ytcast.json
21:13:08 ytcast.go:319: reading videos from stdin
21:13:15 dial.go:153: GET
21:13:15 dial.go:153: GET
21:13:15 ytcast.go:293: "YouTube" is stopped on "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"
21:13:15 ytcast.go:306: launching "YouTube" on "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"
21:13:15 dial.go:153: POST
21:13:18 dial.go:153: GET
21:13:18 ytcast.go:293: "YouTube" is running on "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"
21:13:18 ytcast.go:358: requesting YouTube Lounge to play [cdKop6aixVE] on "[LG] webOS TV UM7100PLB"
21:13:18 remote.go:233: POST
21:13:18 remote.go:233: POST
21:13:18 ytcast.go:197: saving cache /home/marco/.cache/ytcast/ytcast.json

(please run with -verbose and attach the log when reporting an issue).


you can get a pre-compiled binary from the latest release assets and copy
it somewhere in your $PATH.

here a quick and dirty one-liner script to do it fast (adjust target and dir
to your needs, lookup available targets in the latest release assets):

(target="linux-amd64"; dir="$HOME/bin"; 
  wget -O - 
    | jq -r --arg target "$target" '.assets[] | select(.name | match("checksums|"+$target)) | .browser_download_url' 
    | wget -i - 
   && sha256sum -c --ignore-missing ytcast-v*-checksums.txt 
   && tar -vxf ytcast-v*"$target.tar.gz" 
   && install -m 755 ytcast-v*"$target/ytcast" "$dir")

if you run Arch Linux (btw I don’t) you can get ytcast-bin from the AUR
(many thanks to the maintainer)!

if your os or architecture are not available, or you want to get the latest
changes from master, you can compile from source. a go compiler and make
are required for building and installing:

$ git clone
$ cd ytcast
$ make install

make install installs in /usr/local/bin by default, you can change PREFIX
if you want, for example I like to keep my binaries inside $HOME/bin so I
usually install with:

$ make install PREFIX=$HOME
go build -trimpath -tags netgo,osusergo -ldflags="-w -s -X main.progVersion=v0.5.0-3-gd513b8e" -o ytcast
mkdir -p /home/marco/bin
install -m 755 ytcast /home/marco/bin

to uninstall run make uninstall (with the same PREFIX used for install).

how it works

I’ve always been curious to know how my phone can find my TV on my home network
and instruct it to start the YouTube on TV app and play a video right away
without basically any manual pairing.

I did some research and found about this nice little protocol called DIAL
(DIscovery And Launch)
developed by Netflix and Google which does the
initial part i.e. allows second-screen devices (phone, laptop, etc..) to
discover and launch apps on first-screen devices (TV, set-top, blu-ray, etc..).
there is a 40 pages specification and a reference implementation for
this protocol.

the discovery part of DIAL is actually performed using another protocol, SSDP
(Simple Service Discovery Protocol)
, which in turn is part of UPnP.

all this is not enough to play videos. once the YouTube on TV app is started by
DIAL, we need some other way to “tell” the app which video we want to play
(actually DIAL allows to pass parameters to an app you want to launch, but this
mechanism is not used by the YouTube on TV app anymore).

after a little more research, I found about the YouTube Lounge api which is used
by Chrome and the YouTube smartphone app to remotely control the YouTube on TV
app. it allows to start playing videos, pause, unpause, skip, add videos to the
queue and more. the api is not documented and understanding how it works
it’s not an easy and fun job. luckily lots of people have already reverse
engineered the thing (see THANKS) so all I had to do was taking the bits I
needed to build ytcast.

the bridge between DIAL and YouTube Lounge api is the screenId which as you
can imagine is an identifier for your “screen” (TV app). DIAL allows to get
information about the current “state” of an app on a particular device. some
fields of this state are required by DIAL, other fields are app specific (called
additional data). screenId is a YouTube specific field that can be used to get
a token from the YouTube Lounge api: with that token we can control the YouTube
on TV app via api calls.

putting all together, what ytcast does is:

  1. search DIAL enabled devices on the local network (SSDP)
  2. get the state of the YouTube on TV app on the target device (DIAL)
  3. if the app is stopped, start it (DIAL)
  4. get the screenId of the app (DIAL)
  5. get a token for that screenId (Lounge)
  6. call the api’s “play video endpoint” passing the token and the video urls to
    play (Lounge)

(there is a “devices cache” involved so ytcast won’t necessarily do all these
steps every time, also if the target device is turned off, ytcast tries to
wake it up with Wake-on-Lan).

as you may have already guessed, all this can stop working at any time! the
weakest point is the YouTube Lounge api since it’s not documented and
ytcast depends heavily on it. moreover, ytcast may not work at all on your
I use and test ytcast with 2 devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • LG Smart TV running WebOS

that’s all I have. ytcast works great with both these devices but I don’t know
if it will work well on setups different than mine (it should, but I don’t know
for sure). if it doesn’t work on your setup please open an issue
describing your setup and attach a -verbose log so we can investigate what’s
wrong and hopefully fix it.

also Chromecast. I don’t own a Chromecast and you’ll probably need to use
the -pair option (see workarounds) to make ytcast work with Chromecast
because it doesn’t use the DIAL protocol anymore, but switched to mDNS for


  • sometimes the playing queue gets “messed up” i.e. some videos are added
    between others, some videos don’t get added at all or even an old queue might
    be “reused” so you could see videos from an old session after the ones you
    requested to play. unfortunately, using (or misusing) an undocumented api may
    lead to these kinds of problems and I haven’t bothered too much trying to fix

  • the -a (add) option is slower because it does an api call for each video you
    want to add and adds a random “sleep delay” before each call. without this
    delay, the queue gets messed up more easily and videos get lost i.e. they
    don’t get added to the queue.

  • playing a video from a specific starting time (t parameter in urls) works
    only for the first video and only if you are not using the -a (add)

  • ytcast doesn’t appear in Settings> Linked devices menu. it used to show
    up there and there was a button to “unlink all devices” which caused the
    screenId to change, but a YouTube update “broke” this feature.


  • some devices don’t support the DIAL protocol (notably Chromecast) so
    they can’t be discovered by ytcast. the YouTube on TV app has a “link with
    code” functionality
    which can be used as workaround to pair ytcast with
    these devices. the pairing code can be found in Settings> Link with TV code
    and then you can use the -pair option to do the pairing:

    $ ytcast -pair 123456789101
    8a59f138 unknown         "YouTube on TV"

    once paired you can cast videos in the usual way:

    $ ytcast -d 8a59

    when using this method, ytcast and the target device do not need to be on
    the same network, but it adds many manual steps i.e. the YouTube on TV app
    must be already open because ytcast won’t be able to start it nor to
    Wake-On-Lan the TV and it won’t automatically “re-pair” when the screenId
    changes (I don’t know how often that happens).

  • playlist urls don’t work with ytcast, I haven’t found a reliable way to pass
    playlist ids to the api. youtube-dl comes to the rescue (see also other
    ) since it can extract all video urls of YouTube playlists:

    $ youtube-dl -j --flat-playlist | jq -r '.url' | ytcast -p

    you can of course filter the pipeline as you like and this makes it so
    flexible that I actually don’t feel the need for ytcast to support playlist
    urls: less is more!

  • this might sound obvious, but if you are tired of typing the device name (even
    a substring of it) every time you want to cast something or if you have
    multiple devices with the same name, you can define shell aliases and benefit
    from shell tab-completion feature:

    $ alias ytcbed="ytcast -d 'LG 32'"
    $ ytcbed

    (see your shell documentation to make aliases persistent, usually you have to
    add them in the shell’s rc file).


I would like to thank all the people whose work has helped me tremendously in
building ytcast, especially the following projects/posts:

other tools

as I said earlier, my computing environment is very command-line centric and I’d
like to showcase the other tools I use to enjoy a “no frills” YouTube experience
from the terminal!

  • youtube-dl (actually yt-dlp these days) doesn’t need
    introduction, it’s an awesome tool and it’s well integrated with mpv
    so I can watch videos with my favorite player without having my laptop fan
    spin like an airplane engine thanks to this mpv config:

  • ytsearch is my clone of the initial version of ytfzf. it
    allows to search and select video urls from the command-line using the
    wonderful fzf (fun fact: it’s implemented basically as a single big
    pipe ahah). you have already seen it in action in ytcast examples, but it
    works great with mpv too:

    $ ytsearch matrix 4 | xargs mpv
    $ ytsearch 9 symphony | xargs mpv --no-video
  • ytxrss

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Charlie Layers

Charlie Layers

Fill your life with experiences so you always have a great story to tell