Google’s Android TV Wants to Turn Every App Into a TV Channel

ABC, CBS and… TED?

Google has a new plan to surface online video on TV: Publishers of internet video apps can now add linear channels of programming to the company’s Android TV platform, where these channels are going to be available in the same program grid also used to navigate broadcast TV networks.

The new initiative, dubbed Android TV Channels, is being unveiled at Google’s I/O developer conference in San Francisco Thursday. Launch partners include TED, Vevo, the Huffington Post, Bloomberg, the Weather Network, AOL, Pluto, and and the European live-TV streaming service Zattoo.

Owners of an Android TV device can add these channels to their lineup by selecting them in the Play app store on their device. After that, these channels will be listed right next to the traditional TV channels from broadcasters like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox when accessed through the live TV interface of Android TVs that companies like Sony and Sharp started to sell in recent weeks. Consumers will be able to channel-surf broadcast TV networks and online sources, which should make for a much more TV-like viewing experience of online video content.

Google isn’t the first one to experiment with incorporating online content into the traditional program grid; DVR maker TiVo has begun to add Netflix and other apps to its TV guide in select markets. However, Google’s approach for Android TV goes a lot further: The company is asking participating online video providers to actually program their channels in a linear fashion, complete with primetime slots and presumably also lots of early-morning repeats.

Publishers can also add their own ads to their programming, and videos are still available through dedicated apps as well, allowing consumers to explore a publisher’s entire catalog and catch up on shows they may have missed on a linear channel.

These kinds of linear online video can include live programming, but Google’s Android TV product manager Allen Huang suggested during a recent briefing that they could also work well for catch-up content catering to a specific niche of super-fans. Some viewers would love to have a channel that just broadcasts “Friends” reruns for 24 hours nonstop, he said. Google’s goal was to build what he called “the 60/40 box” — a TV device that would successfully mix popular TV content with online video services.

Google first unveiled Android TV at its developer conference in June of 2014. The company has since released a set-top box dubbed the Nexus Player in cooperation with Asus, and video game fans can choose between Android TV-based streaming devices from Nvidia and Razer. Sony, Sharp and Philips are all making Android TV-based TV sets available to consumers this spring as well.

The biggest challenge for Google is that Android TV doesn’t integrate with traditional cable boxes. Consumers will still have to switch their TV input source to access their cable channels, and online video channels won’t be part of that mix anymore. Google has struck deals to build Android TV-based pay TV boxes in countries like France and Korea, but time is on the company’s side: As consumers embrace cord cutting and internet-based services like Sling TV, eventually, everything could become a channel, with consumers being able to mix and match their own personal lineup from traditional TV services and online video sources.

Popular on Variety

More Digital


    Netflix's Podcast Slate 'Deepens' Space Around Original Content, Programmers Say

    It should come as no surprise that, in its quest to become a full-blown entertainment ecosystem, Netflix has built a roster of podcast programming to complement its scores or original series and films. The programs recruit top talent and hosts to hang out and talk about the streaming giant’s TV and film content. It’s a [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Is Testing Human-Curated 'Collections'

    Netflix, a company powered by the strategic use of data, relies on artificial intelligence to suggest new content that its streaming customers are likely to be interested in. Now it’s looking to potentially add a human touch: The company has launched a limited-scale test of “Collections,” a new feature that presents groups of movies and [...]

  • wolves in the walls emmy

    Neil Gaiman VR Experience 'Wolves in the Walls' Wins Primetime Emmy

    “Wolves in the Walls,” the virtual reality (VR) experience based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book by the same name, has been awarded with a Primetime Emmy for outstanding innovation in interactive media. The experience has been produced by San Francisco-based immersive entertainment startup Fable, which puts a big effort on making the viewer a participating [...]

  • The Void San Francisco

    The Void Teams Up With Sony Pictures for New Location-Based VR Experience

    James Murdoch-backed virtual reality (VR) startup The Void has teamed up with Sony Pictures Virtual reality to produce a new location-based VR experience, according to Curtis Hickman, the startup’s chief creative officer. Hickman revealed the partnership in a conversation with Variety this week, during which he also outlined plans to bring more original IP to [...]

  • US President Donald J. Trump speaks

    Apple Stock Down 4.6% After Trump ‘Orders’ Companies to Leave China

    Apple’s share price was down around 4.6% Friday at the close of the market, to $202.64 per share, after President Trump took to Twitter to “order” U.S. companies to leave China. The slide came amid a market-wide sell-off, with the NASDAQ sliding 3%, and the Dow dropping 623 points. Trump’s edict was a response to [...]

  • Former head of CAA China Peter

    Peter Loehr to Spearhead Asia Expansion of Genies Avatar Venture (EXCLUSIVE)

    Peter Loehr, the former head of CAA in China, and seasoned music executive John Possman have been tapped by digital avatar company Genies to lead its expansion into Asia. The company’s proprietary avatar technology allows users to express ideas, thoughts and feelings in a different way from text, audio and video. Within the app and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content