Android TV Catches on in Pay TV World

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.”

Related: Evolution Digital Debuts App-Based OTT-TV Platform for Smaller Cable Ops

Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder at nScreen Media, 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.