Skip to main content

Google's 'Live Channels for Android TV' app will do live channels for TV ... just like Google said it would

What's new is that that Google's got a dedicated app in Google Play

Peep at Google's own app listings (opens in new tab) in the Google Play Store today and you'll find a new entry — Live Channels for Android TV (opens in new tab). Don't get too excited just yet — you can't install it on any current devices, and chances are it's going to end up in the upcoming crop of sets running Android TV anyway. And seeing as how CES is right around the corner — if you think we went big last year, just wait — that's a pretty solid bet.

And here's the thing: It's exactly what Google's Dave Burke told us about during the Google I/O in June in San Francisco. What's new today is that there's an app in Google Play.

Here's Burke at Google I/O:

Let's start with the most integral part of television — live TV. So In (Lollipop), we added what we call the TV input framework to Android. So it enables Android-based Vs to handle video from sources such as HDMI, TV tuners and IPTV receivers. And the UI provides a unified view of your channels, in a familiar, channel-hopping UI with channel information on the top.

Keep watching and you clearly see a "TV" app running on that Sony set.

The prospect of live, IP-based television isn't exactly new for Android. The now-defunct Google TV tried to tap into it, and the likes of Bloomberg already has a live feed on the Nexus Player. The included screen shots here feature a "channel sources" option, but it'll probably be a cold day in Hell before you're able to simply pick from, say, Comcast, DISH, Time Warner or some new source as simply as you'd ... wait for it ... change channels. (Wouldn't it be great if we were wrong, though.) But that doesn't mean there won't be some sort of options. And if you were using an Android-based television UI to move between, say, an HD antenna and a satellite box, that might be how you do it. (It's also just icons on a screen so far as you an I are concerned at this point, so things may very well change.)

What we have right here, right now is Google getting ready ... for something.

21 Comments
  • Connects to cable?
  • Short-to-medium term, I wouldn't be surprised to see Android TV in cable boxes (probably where it makes the most sense and avoids the pass-through issue), just not here in the US.
  • I'd love to see an Android TV ATSC DVR. I know the market is shrinking, but for those of us with antennas it would be perfect. Posted via Android Central App
  • This. Give me this with a built-in tuner and DVR and I can replace my current TiVo Romio using the external antenna along with my chromecast and Roku. I'd happily take on a solution that can serve all those needs and take over Input 1.
  • Have you looked into Tablo yet? I've been able to cut the satellite stream and watch live and recorded shows for free via Tablo and my chromecast. It's actually a pretty nice setup so far.
  • Well that's just freaking awesome. Posted from my Motorola Moto G
  • Too bad I don't have Google fiber Slow Comcast internet makes it useless and who knows if they'll implement data caps in the future
  • So I wonder if this will work with cable card tuners that sit on the network like SiliconDust's HDHomeRun Prime? It sounds like it might..... That would be cool....
  • That's what I'm hoping for. Need to replace the troublesome Windows 7 Media Center. Supposedly it works with the Prime though, would still like to have a way to DVR.
  • Sounds like it, but without Cablelabs cerification, you won't be able to watch protected content. If they are able to get some devices Cablelabs ceritifed, it would be huge
  • It's necessary for standalone boxes that have HDMI pass-through too. While it may be a cold day in hell with Comcast, they can't stop me from getting a 3rd party Android TV.
  • How much data is wasted by cable companies pushing HD television? I wonder if there's any benefit for them from turning off standard cable broadcasting and switch to a pure IP-based channel service (where the only data piping into your house is the actual show you're watching as well as the internet you're using).
  • This. If the greedy bastards sitting in lazy-boys smoking cigars lit from hundred dollar bills in the corner offices at the MegaCable Central Office would put down the vodka long enough to catch up on some of their technology costs... They might actually have the means to survive once Google Fiber blows up.
  • There was talk of doing something like this with "switched digital video" and "tuning adapters" a while back. Not sure if it ever got implemented. It would also help if they didn't broadcast the same content on 3 or 4 channels. On FiOS, a lot of content comes in SD on one channel and HD on up to 3 separate channels. I would think that since they require cable boxes for everything anyway, they could have a single HD channel with down-conversion for SD hookups and alternate audio channels if needed.
  • Agreed. Especially for the foreign versions of the same channel. If you want an English and Spanish version of the same exact video, why not just have two audio streams attached to the same video signal, then let the user switch between the two if they want to change language. It's like children are running these companies.
  • Will this device do the hdmi thru inputs like the xbox one?
  • This is coming pre-installed on HDTVs using Android TV as opposed to OEM smart TV software. It's an overlay that accepts the cable/antenna input and interacts with it (IE, on-screen guides, picture in picture, etc.). It's been detailed a lot over the past two months regarding Sony's upcoming Bravia lineup. We'll be seeing this lineup by CES, with a February-April release window of the first Android TV enhanced sets.
  • I'm not sure how this app is different than the one pre-installed on the Nexus Player. I wrote an app using the TV Input Framework that can create channels using live HLS streams, and the TV player icon appeared once the app was installed. Silicondust has an app that uses the TIF as well. Pretty cool interface. I was waiting for the Nexus Player to come out to try this out, as it was the most interesting thing I saw at Google I/O.
  • So this is internet streaming of TV channels? Wouldn't that use up a ton of bandwidth? To me, this seems more like an app that will play whatever TV signal that is coming into the device, even a regular cable box plugged in with HDMI. Is that not correct? I hope it is. This would be a nice way to switch between regular TV and Netflix or whatever other app. It could also bring back Google TV features like searching for content everywhere, including TV listings, the DVR and On Demand. It would also mean we wouldn't have to switch back and forth between HDMI ports. If the Nexus Player had come with an HDMI input and this functionality, I would have likely bought one. Although, I want the ability to attach a webcam to it for video chats also.
  • I think the idea is for cable providers to modify their service for Android TV so that the channels can be streamed directly to the player over IP, instead of being sent via this ridiculous water-hose method they're using right now. Ideally, each channel will have its own stream that the app/device can switch to, provided that you're a paying customer. I have NO IDEA why the providers wouldn't want to go for this, honestly. It gives them so much better access to users' viewing habits this way. They would know exactly when you switch channels, exactly when/what you watch, how long, etc. Right now, broadcast companies base all of their information off of a very limited number of survey results and social media trends, instead of going directly to the source and seeing what users watch. If nothing else, providers could pick this up and work around the ISPs/cable companies, but that would mean using the users' data (which, if you actually read the Terms and Conditions, are capped). Cox's data cap for their basic internet service (the $50 plan, in my area) is 500GBs, which really isn't much if you're streaming limited-compression HD video. If ISPs would just get rid of their cable throughput (the basic cable video streams that can only be watched via a cable box) and use that signal to push regular IP traffic, we would be easily able to stream 4k TV while still getting all of the regular internet use we already enjoy!
  • Good. Now give me a Nexus Player with HDMI passthrough.