The adoption of Android TV as a platform by Australian terrestrial broadcasters has been terrible. Yahoo7 are the only company currently offering a full experience, but it looks like ABC could be the second with Xiaomi Mi Box owners now able to install the ABC iview Android TV app from the Play Store.
The app first started showing up on Thursday, when Neerav found the app on the Play Store while updating his other apps. A subsequent check on other platforms including the Sony Bravia and Nexus Player found it wasn’t showing, while other Australian Mi Box owners confirmed a search for ‘iview’ was indeed bringing the entry up. Mi Box owners are able to install it from Google Play on the web as well.
While it’s not officially available, the app of course has been extracted and uploaded to APKMirror (thanks to /u/tbgoose) if you want to give it a go…BUT, it’s not working on most other Android TV devices.
After sideloading on my Nexus Player and Sony Bravia TV (2015) (it’s not working on the 2016 model either), we’ve found that the app loads, but won’t stream any video. The app does however work on the Nvidia Shield TV, but doesn’t show up in the Play Store.
The app itself is pretty decent with a leanback launcher experience that lets you control the app with your remote. There’s five options at the top of the app:
You can live stream any of the ABC channels – ABC1, ABC2, ABC3/Me etc. – or you can play episodes from the catch-up side of iview. Each episode uploaded has an expiry date, as well as an estimated file size, both of which are clearly listed below each entry.
The Android TV iview app as it stands is definitely missing a few features, first and foremost is personalisation options. Unlike the iview app for Android which has options to add a show to your Watchlist, there’s no option in the Android TV app.
The iview app does support binge watching though, auto-playing the next episode in the series after a 15 second countdown.
The iview Android TV app exists but it’s not yet official. We’ve reached out to ABC for comment but they’ve not yet responded. So, what’s happening?
The Android TV scene in Australia is, as we’ve pointed out previously is fairly dismal. It’s improved slightly since launched, Channel 7 offers an Android TV app, but despite other terrestrial TV services offering Android apps now, only ABC and Channel 9 offer even basics like Chromecast support, let alone a full blown Android TV app.
Streaming Video on Demand services Netflix and Stan do have Android TV apps but it’s another service: Foxtel Now, that may shed some light on this latest development in Android TV.
Foxtel announced their new Foxtel Now streaming service back in June, alongside an Android TV powered ‘Puck’ which will launch later this year. While Foxtel Now isn’t available for Android TV devices, the launch of the puck, an Android TV running device manufactured by Technicolor and re-badged by Foxtel will change this and it’s this puck which we feel may be spurring on development of Android TV in Australia.
Foxtel’s Android TV device is expected to sell for around $100 when it launches, making it the first cost effective, widely available Android TV device to be sold in Australia since Google stopped making the Asus built Nexus Player. Our working theory is that ABC has prepped their iview Android TV app in order to be ready for the launch of the Foxtel puck which may soon be ready to launch.
The fact that the iview Android TV works on two devices never sold here in Australia leads us to suspect that the ABC dev team has imported some devices for development and is now testing on them specifically so they can exert a little more control over the release. Until the ABC comments on this release though, we’re still in the realms of speculation.
The ABC iview Android TV app is certainly looking good though, and if you have an Nvidia Shield or Xiaomi Mi Box give it a go and see what you think. For the rest of us, we hopefully don’t have long to wait.