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22.7.2021 | 5 min read.

Is Android TV the right Platform for your Operator OTT Offering?

Hibox & Accedo OTT Platform Strategy Series: Part 2

Jan Macku

Ernest Axelbank

OTT video services have been gaining popularity in recent years and luring viewers in from more traditional operator services. Operators are realizing that the only way to remain relevant in this new TV landscape is by launching their own OTT services to complement a linear channel lineup. If done well, not only can these services compete, but they can become the central hub for consumers to access all of their video content. Getting the right platform strategy in place is crucial to being able to do that effectively.

In the first in our platform strategy series, we outlined four reasons why it is crucial to get the platform strategy right in your OTT video service. In this blog post, we will take a deeper look into Android TV and how it addresses four major pillars of an operator OTT offering.

What is Android TV?

Originally created as a mobile operating system for smartphones, Android has been making waves in the TV industry. It has already disrupted the set-top-box market, which was previously dominated by Linux-based OSes hosting HTML apps. Android TV brought a new approach offering additional features to make the set-top-box experience more akin to an OTT UX. Fast forward to today and we have more and more device OEMs turning to Android TV as their preferred operating system. A recent report from Rethink Research shows that Android TV adoption has accelerated in both set-top-boxes and smart TVs and is set to increase further. The analyst estimates the Android TV Operator Tier to grow globally from around 5% of the installed operator set-top base to some 23%, in 2026.

This is not surprising given the amount of development put into Android for TV by Google. Today there are two prominent variants: Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which we will explore in our next post and Android TV (ATV), which is also known as certified Android TV.

So, can Android TV respond to the major focus points for an operator strategy?

1. To maximize the entertainment appeal

This is an area where Android TV really excels. As we highlighted in the first of this series, the real differentiator for an operator offering is the ability to amalgamate content from various sources and serve it to customers in one service. Android TV enables access to third-party apps via the Google Play Store, which has thousands of video apps for Android TV. This paves the way for operators to build a comprehensive and compelling service. With Android TV Operator Tier Custom Launcher, an aggregated content catalog may be served under the operator’s flag, meaning consumers don’t need to access other content via a separate service. Android TV also comes with integration with major DRM services, which is important as many of those services will not play, or will be limited, without those services in place.

The known limitation with Android TV is the predefined user interface which limits customizability by a service provider. It is also often criticised because Google takes control from the operators and promotes other 3rd party services. Enter Google’s Operator Tier Custom Launcher program, where it is possible to replace the built-in launcher and TV app, enabling deep customization and helping to maximize the entertainment appeal, while retaining control and access to the Google ecosystem and underlying capabilities exposed by Android TV.

2. Keeping costs to a minimum

As there are a plethora of features and capabilities that may be tapped into on Android TV, there is also an element of maintenance and overhead associated with keeping up-to-date with Android OS updates and certification requirements. A certification-ready custom Launcher ensures that certification requirements and OS updates are handled on an on-going basis as part of a product roadmap, all while maintaining control of the Launcher user experience, layout, and content prioritization. With AOSP, the timeline and scheduling of updates rests entirely under the control of the operator. Linux set-top-boxes used to be the most cost effective option, however increased memory requirements for running more services has ultimately brought the costs closer together.

It is also worth noting that offering an Android TV device as part of a service means that end users do not need to purchase a separate retail Android TV device. This can attract users to your service as they wouldn’t need to bother buying an off-the-shelf Android TV device.

3. Enabling innovation

Innovation is key to keeping subscribers engaged with your service. Android TV has a number of features that enable operators to deliver an innovative service. Firstly, the platform comes with built-in Chromecast. This means that users can cast content from a mobile device to the big screen, something that is becoming increasingly popular. Android TV also features voice control, enabling users to get quick access to entertainment and control smart devices with voice commands.

4. Ensuring adaptability

Consumers want to be able to view the content they want when and where they want it. If you cannot reach multiple platforms, you will very quickly lose subscribers. Android is powering more and more devices each year, from Smart TVs and set-top-boxes to mobile devices. The fact that Google has put a lot of development effort into evolving the capabilities also helps to ensure it will continue to remain relevant as consumer trends change.

Is Android TV the right platform for me?

Android TV is an increasingly interesting option for operators and could certainly be the right choice, although it depends largely on your priorities. Certified Android TV devices are suited for projects where you are planning to provide, or you already are providing, OTT or a hybrid service with IPTV or DVB, in a highly competitive market, where end users subscribe to multiple streaming services and expect access across their devices. In that scenario, it definitely makes sense to provide an end user device with all services in one.

However, tailoring Android TV for operator requirements is best accomplished through Google’s Operator Tier program to ensure you can deliver a fully-featured and customized video service. As an operator tier partner, Accedo has a flexible solution for this called Accedo Android Launcher, which delivers everything you need to deliver a premium Android TV Operator Tier user experience. It is a Google certification-ready, specialist product framework that enables global TV operators to replace the standard Android TV Launcher with a set-top box experience that is customized to their brand.

For a deep dive into the major platforms for OTT operators, check out the other parts of this OTT platform strategy series:

  1. OTT Platform Strategy
  2. Android TV (ATV)
  3. Android Open Source Project (AOSP)
  4. RDK
  5. Apple TV

This blog post is part of a five-piece blog series on platform strategy for OTT providers. The series is co-authored with Hibox's parent company Accedo and is also published on the Accedo blog.

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