Google may be best known as an online search and advertising provider, but its operating system Android is driving substantial streams of revenue on its own.

Android is distributed as an open-source operating system – device manufacturers can use it freely provided that the devices that ship with it come with Google’s proprietary apps pre-installed. This includes Google Mobile Services: applications like Google Play Store and Google Search, and Google Play Services.

Licensing the apps from Google also means that manufacturers of mobile phones need to meet stringent compatibility guidelines set out in the Android Compatibility Program. This ensures that the device can run Google apps smoothly and without limitations. As a bonus, manufacturers are free to customize the Android distributions on their devices by altering it to some extent. For example, they can add a personal touch to it through shipping the device with a unique launcher like TouchWiz (Samsung), Sense (HTC) or EMUI (Huawei).

Until recently, however, this wasn’t the case for Android TV – Google’s version of Android dedicated to digital media players. TV operators were not allowed to modify the system on their devices as they pleased.

What is Android TV Operator Tier distribution

As of 2016 Android TV, Google’s TV operating system, among other versions, is offered as an operator tier distribution. This means that the platform can be customized to some extent by pay TV operators who want to use it in their set-top boxes (or other OTT devices). This is a huge shift from Google’s original insistence to keep Android TV unadulterated by all means.

While the Android TV platform still can’t be modified in ways possible on mobile phones today, the concession introduced by Operator Tier is somewhat remarkable and has already led to a growth of the platform. Why? TV operators are now attracted to the system for the same reasons mobile phone manufacturers were attracted to Android OS.

What Operator Tier means for TV operators

So what does it really mean for the operators? For once, it reduces the degree to which Google wields control over the look and feel of Android TV on compatible OTT devices, and provides it more as a “white-label” platform for its clients. For example, TV companies can now make the look of Android TV more their own in certain ways:

  • Customize boot-up screens with their own logos
  • Create custom setup menus
  • Have users to sign in with both their pay TV and Google accounts
  • simplify setting up a remote or internet connection
  • Companies can use this to highlight their own apps, increasing the chances of users watching that content.
  • TV companies can now set permanent locations for the first two apps in the top row in the menu. Also, they can pin “Watch Later” row somewhere on the homescreen. At the operator’s discretion, the end user may or may not be allowed to move or delete specific positions in the menu.

Not just the looks

But upon closer inspection, the Operator Tier Android TV distribution is more than just a customized Android TV application launcher.

Regular updates. Operators that go for Android TV can rest assured that the system is always up-to-date and regularly updated. Operating systems used in Smart TVs and set-top-boxes are notoriously neglected by their manufacturers, meaning that there is only a narrow time window of regular updates (if any at all). Android TV is different. It gives the comfort of guaranteed regular updates, which makes the hardware more future-proof, and increases its attractiveness for clients. This extends the lifecycle of the set-top-box.

Apps. Android TV runs a plethora of compatible apps available for install through Google’s Play Store. Android TV comes with all the apps on board, including YouTube and Netflix – if the operator allows it.

Frictionless setup. Operator Tier allows operators a way to customize first device boot (including boot animations). This could serve as an introduction to the hardware (e.g. explanation of button layout) and basic operations like cable connection or inserting batteries into the remote control. This could be a very cost-efficient deployment from a TV Operator’s point of view, possibly sparing hours of support desk work in the long term.

Custom authentication and onboarding. The onboarding process can include user’s acceptance of service terms and conditions, authentication and activation of the service (e.g. with the TV provider’s login). The device can manage the whole process via API and help set up TV services without the need for a technician’s support (or in-house visit).

Android TV Operator Tier Launcher

Android TV comes with a bunch of cool features out of the box. For example, it allows users to cast content from compatible mobile phones (essentially it’s built-in chromecast functionality). This is a great selling point for the TV operators who want to differentiate, and possibly gain a business edge over competitors not offering Android TV.

Smart interaction methods. Powered by Google’s AI prowess, Android TV also comes with Google Assistant built-in. This means that users can interact with the TV using voice.

Final words

The benefits of Android TV operator tier may reach beyond the superficial customization and a few fancy features. The most evident benefits lie in Google’s immense profiling and recommendation capabilities, which can be harnessed to provide a rewarding viewing experience by ensuring that the right content is targeted at every viewer. Ergo – a happy, returning subscriber.

For an in-depth breakdown of Android TV Operator Tier, go to a detailed article by Wetek.