Google will launch the Android TV platform into Australia next week with the arrival of the Asus-built Nexus Player through Dick Smith as well as JB Hi-Fi, and possibly even through the new online Google Store. As a TV platform though, the biggest question is will there be anything to watch on the platform?
The make or break for any new hardware platform these days is the app eco-system. With Android currently dominating the smartphone platform with around 80% market share, it’s not something Android users, or Google have had to worry about for a while. But with the launch of the Android TV platform in Australia, Google is yet again facing a new challenge, getting developers on-board, and more importantly local content providers.
Google faced this exact same issue last year when they launched the Chromecast into Australia. Although, all the five major TV stations now provide an Android app for their TV catch-up services, only one supports users ‘casting’ content to their Chromecast – the ABC.
Android TV is another beast again, though Android TV is simply Android, there are other considerations to take into account. Android TV is a ‘leanback’ experience and uses different control methods such as remote controls and game controllers as opposed to touch targets. So there is some work needed to get an app ‘ready to go’, Google too needs to whitelist apps for use on Android TV before they’re accessible. So the question is: Which Australian content providers will be ready for the launch of Android TV in Australia?
Ausdroid spoke to all the major players in traditional broadcast television, as well as the newer streaming video providers to find out if they will be ready for the launch, or if not, when or if they will support the new platform.
Yahoo7 provides the Plus7 Android TV Catch up app, it’s been on Android the longest, though it did enjoy a fairly long ‘exclusive’ period with Samsung. It’s now more widely available, so though it will install on a fairly wide range of tablets and phones, the app won’t install on Android TV devices. We asked Yahoo7 about availability on the Android TV platform and they advised:
At this stage there are no plans to make PLUS7 available on Google Player but the app is available on Android Smartphones and tablets.
Channel 9 was the last of the Australian TV stations to bring their TV catch-up app to Android. It’s a polished app, but still lacks Chromecast support. We’ve tried to install the 9Jumpin app but it’s not compatible. We asked Channel 9 about their plans for the service and they advised that they are evaluating the platform and the hardware as they do with all major platforms. At this stage though, they don’t have a definitive timeline for when 9Jumpin will be available as yet.
TenPlay was a big catch for Android, releasing their app in March last year. We asked Channel Ten about their plans for Android TV and the Nexus Player and they advised :
We’re always looking to expand tenplay’s reach across as many digital platforms as possible.
They further advised we will hear more when they have something to announce about releasing TenPlay for Android TV, though they have no timeline to share.
SBS was a big launch on Android, the SBS On Demand app was massively popular and still continues to enjoy intense interest with any updates they release. SBS has confirmed previously that they are working on Chromecast support, and have shown a willingness to adapt to the changing landscape of content delivery, so we spoke to them about their plans for Android TV and the Nexus Player.
SBS advised that they are looking in to launching SBS On Demand for Android TV and will share more as their plans develop.
As Australia’s state-owned and funded broadcast station, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has delivered an excellent platform with their ABC iview app. The content is excellent and they remain to this day the only terrestrial broadcast TV provider to have delivered Chromecast support in their app. With regards to Android TV and the Nexus Player, the ABC advised:
At present there are no plans to speak of to adapt our new big screen experience to Android TVs and the Google Nexus Player but we are watching this space with interest. ABC was the first free-to-air broadcaster to provide support for Google Chromecast devices, having launched beta support for Chromecast last year, and we have plans to enhance the casting experience with iview later in the year.
Streaming – On-demand video providers
Quickflix has been on Android a long time. It was as an exclusive on Kogan devices, but when Chromecast came to Australia they more broadly embraced Android as well as Chromecast as a whole, becoming the first Australian provider to support the new technology. We asked QuickFlix about the availability of the QuickFlix app on the Nexus Player and the Android TV platform as a whole and they advised:
We have a pipeline of enhancements and improvements that we’ll be making to our Android Apps over the next 3-4 months. Its our intent to support the Nexus Player and Android TV.
Foxtel, though fairly late to the party with Foxtel Go and Presto, has been pretty accepting of Chromecast, and has recently been expanding the compatibility for Android devices. We asked Foxtel about whether Foxtel would be available on Android TV and the Nexus Player and they advised that they likely to support Android TV, but they haven’t got a definitive timeline to share. We do expect to hear more from Foxtel and which apps they will support on the platform in the future.
Stan is a relative newcomer to the market, as is video streaming really. Streamco has been slow off the mark with support for Android, but supported Chromecast right out of the gates. We asked Stan about support for Nexus Player and the Android TV platform and they advised they are continuously looking to expand availability of their service to new devices.
Well, there’s no surprise here, Netflix as the incumbent in the video streaming wars, and US based where the Nexus Player has been available since November, is of course ready for Android TV and the Nexus Player, with the app one of the launch partners for the device.
There’s a lot of content available for the Nexus Player. In terms of games, Gameloft, one of the bigger names in gaming on Android, has ensured a large portion of their games are compatible with the Android TV. With video, Netflix is obviously available, as is the TED talks and Red Bull TV apps, you can also still Chromecast ABC iview content to the Google Cast reciver on the Nexus Player and there’s always good old Plex for local content playback.
It’s easy to jump down the throat of the local providers, but let’s face it – software development is a costly process and it takes time to ‘get it right’. So far, for the most part, the apps from local providers which have been delivered for Android work wonderfully for the tablets and phones they were made for.
The local providers are aware of Android TV and we’ll most likely see more on this from each of them in the future – and Ausdroid will be there to let you know when they do update.