Building for the future of TV with Android

New features that engage audiences on their big screen

The weather is chilly, the holidays have passed and it’s just the time of year when I like to tuck in for some comfort TV. My personal binge happens to be The Great British Baking Show on PBS; I let the chaos of baby and work slip away and relax into the finer points of Viennese Whirls. By watching on my new Android TV, I can easily pick up where I left off in the episode, and with the integration of the Assistant, I can confirm that a snow storm is about to roll through and I am much better off staying put on my sofa, with a cup of tea, to watch contestants try to master Victorian Tennis Cake.

My own personal binge watching aside, as a business development manager for Android and Google Play, I work with entertainment companies in making sure that the content that audiences love is accessible, discoverable, and bingeable on Android TV. We’re living in a media renaissance where there’s more excellent programming to watch than ever before, and people expect to be able to view their content where they want, when they want it, and at its best. In an era of binge watching, Android TV is the platform to bring your big screen content to high value users.

Why Android TV

At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Android TV is taking center stage and unveiling new partner devices and features. Android TV growth is exploding, with new users doubling annually and on track to double again in 2018. This growth is the result of partnerships across the globe with OEMs and operators who see the value in a content-forward, flexible platform that showcases all the best that Android developers have to offer.

Android TV also has the benefit of existing in multiple form factors, from high end Sony TVs that deliver immersive 4K experiences to the Nvidia Shield streaming players offering best-in-class watching. Currently 8 out of the top 10 set top box OEMs build for Android TV along with 20 operators in 14 countries. Given this worldwide reach and models at multiple price points, Android TV reaches a diverse global audience.

Meet your high value users in the living room for a watch party

Android TV attracts a highly engaged audience — 87% of them are active every day. It’s the apps that drive that engagement, with an average of 15 app installs per device.

Perhaps surprisingly, in the case of Netflix, a new user’s journey may start on a mobile or desktop device when they sign up for the service, but about 2/3 of viewing happens on a TV. Thus, building an immersive TV experience is a vital tool to retain those users.

But Android TV doesn’t just increase watch time, it also creates stickier subscribers. In November, subscribers through Showtime’s Android TV App had a free trial conversion rate that’s twice as high as those coming through Android mobile. And, overall, the lifetime of an Android TV subscriber is 2X longer than that of a subscriber purchasing through Android mobile. People who experience their favorite programs in tandem with a content-forward, assistant-enabled Android TV experience are more committed to both their subscriptions and the platform as a whole.

Binge watch with Android TV

Even for apps that don’t monetize with subscriptions Android TV has been shown to keep people engaged. On average, TV apps show 1.8–3x more minutes watched per month on Android TV versus on mobile and building out new O features, like live previews, increases this engagement even more.

What’s new with Android O?

The Google Assistant launched on Android TV in the fall and now extends across platforms. A conversational assistant allows people to dive deeper into content they know and love, and discover what’s new. The Assistant on Android TV makes content discovery and navigation easy. A user can a control the TV with commands like “rewind five minutes” or “play the next episode” or search for content across apps. In addition, Android TV can now serve as the living room fulcrum, letting people control their Internet of Things devices (“turn the lights to movie mode”) or access third party services (“order my favorite from Domino’s.”). And for the true entertainment connoisseur, the Assistant can function as your know-it-all movie buff buddy answering questions about the content on the screen such as “what planet was Luke Skywalker raised on?”

Android O comes with a total redesign of the home screen on Android TV. With the new home screen, content comes first so the user can access the most relevant content with a single click. Android TV now features channels that enable easy, intuitive browsing and functionality that allows you to program for individuals. With these changes, user retention, engagement and re-engagement are the foundation of the design.

Let’s take a closer look

A new, streamlined setup flow allows user to easily find and download the apps they use and love.

With a channel-based, content-first user interface people can easily see and access the programs they want to watch. At the top of the screen, viewers can deploy the Assistant for easy search, while just below it there’s a “favorite apps” row, along with a “watch next” option.

As you move down the screen you’ll see multiple rows of “channels.” These channels are a key part of the new homescreen design. By allowing you to program these channels, more than ever before, you can target people with the content you know they’ll want to binge. You now have full control over what content is promoted in the channel, the order of the programs, the content metadata and the channel name and branding.

And, you aren’t limited to one channel, content creators can build and program additional channels based on specific user interest. As an example, you can create a holiday channel or Marvel heros or one that features new, original programming.

Finally, the new Android TV UI features video previews that are played when the program is in focus. In these previews you will have the option to include live TV, trailers, or VOD clips. Early data suggest that these previews are highly compelling, motivating people to click through to the content within.

Building for Android TV is easy using a single APK

Android TV apps use the same architecture as mobile, so it’s easy to take your existing Android APK and expand it to work on Android TV. Typically, developers rely on just one APK to take advantage of both mobile and TV platforms. The Android resource subsystem offers clever solutions when it comes to handling different screen sizes and layout, and using the leanback library developers can build a custom UI that’s made for premiere content experiences.

I hope that the insights I’ve shared of the latest features from Android TV will help you create more compelling and engaging content for viewers. You can also discover more resources to help you make a best-in-class Android TV app that will attract and retain high value users for years to come. The future of Android TV is now!


What do you think?

Do you have thoughts on on the latest updates to Android TV? Let us know in the comments below or tweet using #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.