Following the redesign of the Google TV app last year, which added features like movie and TV recommendations, review ratings and more, the company announced today at its conference Google I/O developers that later this year users will be able to stream TV shows and movies directly from their Android phone or tablet to their TV. The company also offered updated measures related to its growing Android OS footprint and introduced new Android OS development tools.
Google has been working on revamping its connected TV experience and associated app since 2020, when it first introduced the new Google TV interface for its Chromecast streaming devices. It also applied the Google TV name to the app which was previously known as the Google Play Movies & TV app. Earlier this year, Google also removed the “Movies & TV” section from the Play Store, noting that the Google TV app would be the centralized place to buy, rent and watch movies and TV shows on mobile devices.
The company didn’t provide any further details on its plans to add streaming support to the app, saying these will come closer to launch. But in a photo provided by Google, it showed that at least one of the supported apps is NBCU’s Peacock.
As part of its announcements, the company also offered some updates on the Android TV ecosystem, noting that there are now 110 million monthly active devices on Android TV OS, including Google TV. That’s up from the monthly figure of 80 million active devices announced by Google at last year’s Google I/O event.
He also said that the Android TV operating system now offers over 10,000 apps.
Of course, the Android TV operating system isn’t a direct equivalent of something like Roku or Amazon Fire TV, as it’s not only used on the company’s first-party devices, like Chromecast. Instead, Google’s strategy is to license its platform to partners, including TV equipment makers and pay-TV operators around the world. Currently, more than 300 partners use the platform, including seven of the top 10 TV OEMs, Google said.
But Google’s figure of 110 million active devices cannot be directly compared to metrics shared by rivals Roku and Amazon.
The Android TV OS numbers are actually calculated by counting the number of devices that have been actively used in a month – meaning a user with multiple devices could have those devices counted separately, but a family with multiple people watching on one device would be counted once.
Roku and Amazon define monthly active users as “accounts” that have been active during the month. This means that even if this account is broadcast on several different devices during the period, it will only be counted once. If Roku or Amazon were to calculate active devices like Google does, their numbers would be higher.
In December 2020, Amazon said Fire TV had surpassed 50 millions monthly active users – a number still reference today on its Amazon Ads website. In January, Amazon also noted that it had sold more than 150 million Fire TV devices to further align its metrics with Google’s device claims. Roku, meanwhile, said it was done with 2021 with 60.1 million active accounts. It updated that figure to 61.3 million accounts in the first quarter of 2022. It doesn’t count active devices.
Google also highlighted several features and developer tools on Android 13 related to its Android TV efforts. The tools focus on performance and quality, accessibility and multitasking, Google said, and include:
- AudioManager: This allows applications to anticipate audio routes and understand precisely what playback mode is available.
- MediaSession: Integration with the app allows Android TV to react to HDMI state changes to save power and signal that content should be paused.
- InputDevice API: Added support for different keyboard layouts. (For game developers, added support for different physical keyboard layouts, such as QWERTZ and AZERTY keyboards.)
- System-Wide Accessibility Preference: Allow users to enable audio descriptions in apps.
- Picture-in-picture (PIP) API: PIP on TV supports an extended mode to display videos from a group call and a docked mode to avoid overlapping content on other apps.
- Keep Clear API: Prevents the overlay from hiding important content in full screen apps.
The Picture-in-Picture API is particularly interesting because it could introduce more co-watching features to the Android TV ecosystem, following Apple’s introduction of SharePlay, which enables co-watching on FaceTime on all devices. platforms, including Apple TV.