Just a couple of years ago, people were predicting the demise of linear television online for everything but sports and events like the Oscars. Not so anymore. A raft of vendors, including the Johnny-come-lately Android TV, are lining up to stream channels to you.
Google announced that content publishers can now add linear channels of video to Android TV powered platforms, including the Nexus Player, and select TVs from Sony and Sharp. The channels can be added to the platform from the Play Store and will appear in the linear guide alongside broadcast channels like CBS and NBC.
Google also announced some of the companies that would be supporting Android TV Channels; including Pluto TV, TED, Vevo, The Huffington Post, AOL and Zattoo (a European live-TV streaming service.)
Linear television has been undergoing quite a renaissance online. Last year, Pluto TV (one of the Android TV launch partners) launched its own app to provide linear TV channels accessible from a TV grid guide. The company has received $15M in funding led by UK satellite broadcast Sky. Tom Ryan, the company’s CEO, sees his company’s role as fulfilling the need for the simplicity of plain old TV viewing:
“It’s true that lots of shows that have traditionally been appointment based are perfect for on-demand viewing. However, the majority of viewing time is with the TV on and running in the background, not specifically appointment based.”
Channel Master has already added web services like Pandora and YouTube to its DVR+ box’ linear guide. The company announced its LinearTV technology, which appears to be a peer approach to Googles Android TV channels, at CES. Channel Master allows online broadcast channels to appear in the linear channel guide of the DVR+ alongside over-the-air broadcast channels.
Sling TV is also working with online providers to include linear versions of MCN network content. In the base $20 package of Sling TV there is a Maker Studios channel which programs the “Best of Maker” content into a linear experience. Maker says it will program additional channels later this year.
The question remains what exactly is the demand for linear TV online channels? So far there has been no data provided on viewership of these online channels. Big providers, such as Netflix and Amazon, continue to focus their efforts around on-demand delivery. As well, TV Everywhere portals that provide live TV channels have not provided any data on how many are watching them and with what frequency.
For now at least there seems to be no shortage of companies willing to give linear television a try online.
Why it matters
As recently as two years ago, linear television looked like it might not make the transition to online delivery.
Today there are many vendors and services giving the venerably entertainment approach a try.
As yet, there is no data available that says consumers are demanding or using these online linear TV channels, but there’s also no data that says they don’t want them.