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Google’s Android TV Gets New User Interface With Better Content Recommendations

Google publicly unveiled the next version of Android TV, its smart TV operating system, during its Google I/O Developer Conference in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday. With this update, which is scheduled to be rolled out in conjunction with the next version of Android later this year, Android TV devices will get a completely revamped user interface that puts a much bigger emphasis on content recommendations.

Google had first introduced Android TV in 2014, and the optics of the platform had remained more or less the same since. Existing Android TV devices have a home screen that features one row of content recommendations from a variety of apps and services, and otherwise a bunch of shortcuts to different apps.

Now, Google is splitting up these recommendations by service, meaning that Netflix, YouTube and other apps on the platform automatically get their own row, or channel, as Google officially calls it.

Within that channel, publishers can surface TV shows, movies and other content based on their own priorities, and for example either highlight new content or redirect users to things they have been watching. “Oftentimes, these services know the user much better than Android TV does,” said Android TV Director Sascha Prueter in an interview with Variety.

Publishers can also opt to give users the choice to install multiple channels, and for example build separate recommendation rows for live and on-demand content. And users can always decide to remove a channel, or further customize the Android TV launch screen.

Prueter said that Google’s eventual goal with this channel model was to replace the traditional TV guide, and give users quicker access to the content they want. To that effect, Google also introduced a quick launch row of apps for users who prefer the Netflix interface over their smart TV menus. Another row offers direct access to recently-watched shows, targeting binge watchers who are looking to quickly jump to the next episode after turning on the TV set.

Android TV was a bit slow to take off after its original introduction in 2014, and some efforts to launch Android TV-based streaming boxes failed. Razer for example quickly discontinued its Android TV box, and Google stopped selling its Nexus Player some time ago.

However, Prueter said that the platform has been seeing growing momentum in recent months, thanks in part to a number of partnerships with  pay TV operators. In fact, he said that the majority of Android TV devices now have some kind of live TV input, meaning they’re smart TVs or pay TV boxes. “We are not just a OTT platform,” Prueter said.

Google hasn’t released any absolute numbers for Android TV, but Android Engineering VP Dave Burke said Wednesday that the platform now sees one million new device activations every two months.

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