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Is Android TV a viable platform for pay TV operators?

Android TV

Sascha Prueter, Head of Android TV Program Management, laid out the case for Android TV being the best platform for premium and pay TV services at TV Connect in London today. The packed crowd at the Connected Innovation Theater didn’t seem to be convinced.

Sascha Pruete Android TV GoogleMr. Prueter said that, unlike its predecessor Google TV, Android TV is a core part of Android 5.0 (Lollipop.) That means all the features available in Android from the 5.0 release onwards will also be available to television platforms. For example, features like voice recognition are available to operators using the platform for free.

According to Mr. Prueter, the software is already available on three main TV platforms.

  • Smart TVs with Android TV: models from Sony, Sharp and Philips will be shipping in the next few weeks
  • Streaming media players: the Nexus Player is already available with Android TV. More are coming, including devices from Razor (targeting gamers) and Nvidia (Shield Console)
  • Pay TV operator set-top boxes: Free in France is already using an Android TV box and LG U+ in Korea will ship soon.

One of the things that Google has had to battle is nervousness that the company seeks to control service ecosystems and siphon off large amounts of revenue realized through devices using its software. Mr. Prueter took great pains to emphasize that the operator is very much in control if they use Android TV.

For example, he said an operator can create its own TV, DVR and VOD experiences and these interfaces load first when the set-top box boots, because “<subscribers> don’t want a bunch of apps. They want the content that they paid for.” Mr. Prueter went further, adding:

“We have no interest in delivering a turnkey TV service solution. You know that stuff way better than we do. We have no plans to offer a cloud DVR service, or a Google DRM service that you have to use.”

As with Google TV, Android TV looks to developers to fill in functionality that is missing. For example, in Europe hbbTV, a standard for combining web and free-to-air content on the TV screen, is very important to many operators. Android TV does not include support for it, though partners like Opera Software do provide it.

Mr. Prueter also emphasized that operators can use set-top box chipsets and manufacturers they are comfortable working with since “they all have experience with Android for other devices they make.” Further, Android TV works with satellite, cable, IPTV and free-to-air tuners and is appropriate for any operator or region.

Google is also keen to get operators into the app business. Mr. Prueter said that if the operator will allow apps to be purchased through the pay TV bill, it can share in the revenue. Though he did not say how much of the revenue would be shared it is likely to be the same as in the mobile space. This is rumored to be: 70% to the developer, 25% to the operator, and 5% to Google. When asked if an operator could opt out of the billing, he said it could decline to handle the billing but would also not receive any of the revenue.

One audience member asked if an operator could stop a competitor’s app from appearing in the Play Store, to which Mr. Prueter simply replied: “No.” He went on to say operators have to buy in to the open app store as part of Play and the Android TV framework.

From the looks on the faces in the crowd during the presentation and the questions that were asked afterwards, it looks like Google still has a ways to go to persuade most of the European operators that Android TV is the right platform for their set-top box.

Why it matters

Google wants to persuade pay TV operators that Android TV is a viable platform for them to use in their set-top boxes.

However, it looks like many in the industry are still skeptical of Google’s intentions.


(2) Comments

  1. Pingback: Pay TV set-top box needs an open app platform now | ALTICAST VIETNAM

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