Android TV’s U.S. Invasion Has Officially Begun

We’ve been hearing about it for more than a year now, but the Android TV invasion of the U.S. pay TV business has officially hit our shore lines.

Just look at all the U.S. pay TV activity surrounding the platform that occurred in July.

In the coming weeks, AT&T will begin the beta deployment of “thin-client” set-tops, based on the Google OTT platform, powering the new IP-based AT&T TV pay TV service.

Meanwhile, Madison, Wisc.-based TDS Telecom, which is using TiVo’s Next-Gen Platform to transition its video business into IPTV delivery, is choosing the TiVo cloud-based systems’ option to deploy video to Android TV-based CPE, as well as iOS and Android-powered mobile devices. TDS will become the first North American operator to deploy Arris’ Android TV-powered set-tops, selecting the Arris VIP6102W UHD IP model device.

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Midco said it’s following the same plan. It just signed onto use the TiVo Next-Gen Platform and will also choose Android TV clients on the CPE end.

It was also noted by MCN in July that Buckeye Broadband and MaxxSouth, two cable operators owned by Toledo, Ohio-based Block Communications, started advertising new app-based video services powered by Evolution Digital’s full IP-based platform. The Evolution platform delivers IPTV services to iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as branded versions of Evolution Digital’s proprietary Android TV powered eStream 4K device.

Sikeston, Missouri-based operator Vast Broadband has also signed onto the Evolution Digital IPTV solution and will begin deployments toward the end fo the year.

Android TV is used by a limited number of smart TV manufacturers, as well as OTT devices such as Dish’s AirTV, but it’s market share among the big OTT ecosystems sold through retail channels—Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, etc.— is pretty nascent.

However, the operator tier version of Android TV, which lets cable companies and other video service proprietors deliver highly customized managed services based on the technology, is thriving. Operators are able to deliver their branded, managed services, keeping control of their user data, to relatively inexpensive set-top hardware. They’re able to provide their customers access to most major OTT apps through the Google Play store. That now includes Amazon Prime Video, thanks to the detente recently carved out between Amazon and Google. Oh, and vMVPD service Hulu with Live TV will also soon be available on Android TV.

And these operators are also able to deliver voice control through Google Assistant technology.

In a U.S. pay TV business where Comcast’s X1 has helped make voice control and integration of Netflix, Hulu and other OTT apps table stakes, Android TV is providing a path for smaller operators that don’t have tech development labs to deliver next-generation video services.

The infiltration of Android TV is also being driven by the major video software suppliers, including TiVo, MobiTV and Evolution Digital and Amino, which have made Android TV compatibility a key component of end-to-end IPTV SaaS solution they’re providing to operators.

In December, a Google rep told MCN that 100 pay TV operators around the world were using Android TV. Shalini Govil-Pai, senior director of product management for Android TV, said the platform, designed to provide access to over-the-top apps on digital video players, is now being used by “tens of millions” of consumers, primarily in Europe and Asia.

By April, that number had increased to 140, a number that is certainly even higher still with all of the U.S. Android TV activity that was announced in July.

Android TV is making this push despite opposition from the biggest names in the cable business. Comcast, Charter Communications and Liberty Global back the rival Reference Design Kit (RDK), defines a different software stack for pay TV set-tops, network gateways and other CPE. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!