While Comcast has netted some key tier-1 providers for its X1 syndication program, suppliers that are more focused on the independent, small- and mid-tier portion of the cable industry have been locking in on new devices that are powered by Google’s Android TV platform.
Under an apps-based approach, those Android TV devices are being made to support a cable operator’s pay TV service alongside integrated access to over-the-top content from sources such as Netflix, and woven together via a unified interface.
The offer of these Android TV-based devices — either for rent or for outright sale — is also becoming more prominent as pay TV providers continue to migrate to IP-based video platforms.
Android TV has clearly become an attractive option for several service providers, or vendors that support them, in the U.S. and in Canada, including TiVo, Evolution Digital, MobiTV and Telus. Even Dish Network is getting into the Android TV act for its hospitality business.
Among them, Evolution Digital just launched the eSTREAM 4K, a device based on Android TV that uses voice navigation and can support the pay TV provider’s service (via an OTT app or a managed IPTV service) and integrate with other premium apps offered via Google Play.
That device can be branded by the multichannel video programming distributor and offered for sale or for rent, or be presented as a managed device, whereby the box boots up directly into the provider’s video application.
Android TV is attractive in this instance in part because, “it essentially brings all of the key components on the OTT side,” Brent Smith, Evolution Digital’s president and chief technology officer, said in a recent interview. “Access to the high value OTT world is one of the compelling reasons for Android TV.”
Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder at nScreenMedia, said: “It makes a lot of sense for operators to look into [an Android TV option]. It gets them where they need to be, and very quickly.”
Dixon said Android TV also makes business sense, given its lack of license fees, though suppliers and MVPDs will still need to outlay the costs for the back-end services, content encryption, customer management and other components that make up the overall solution.
On Board With Android TV
Among the pay TV tech suppliers that have developed or are working on Android TV-powered platforms:
- Evolution Digital: Last month, the company introduced the eSTREAM 4K, a product that can be deployed in different modes, including as a managed device from the pay TV operator, or to be sold outright.
- MobiTV: Its Connect platform is designed for an operator-managed, IP-based, app-based platform. MobiTV, which recently announced a deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative, said it supports several platforms, including Android TV devices such as the Nvidia Shield.
- TiVo: The company is pushing ahead with a device-agnostic approach that will help its MVPD partners migrate to an IP-based multiscreen platform. That work includes a client that will run on an MSO-managed Android TV device expected to be launched by mid-2018.
- Telus: Pik TV, Telus’s new slimmed-down IPTV package, runs on smartphones and tablets, and also works with an Android TV-based “media box” that is being sold for C$100.
- CenturyLink: CenturyLink Stream — a virtual MVPD service that’s in the process of being shut down as the telco instead seeks out partnerships with other OTT TV providers — had been offering the CenturyLink Player, an Android TV device made by LG Electronics, for $89.99.
- Dish Network: Last June, Dish launched Evolve, a 4K-capable, Android TV-powered “set-back” box and interface that is tailored for hotels and other partners in the hospitality market.
- Update: As a reader helpfully pointed out, AT&T/DirecTV also has Android TV on its radar. Per FCC documents, DirecTV is developing an Android TV-powered box that will rely on OTT distribution and support voice search/navigation and the 4K video format.
--This story also ran in the March 5 edition of Multichannel News (subscription required)