With the popularity of smart TVs and OTT devices on the rise, there has never been a better time to invest in smart TV app development. There are many ways of approaching such projects, depending on your budget and goals. In this article we talk about the different ways to make your own Android TV app – there’s an option for every budget and deadline. 

Let’s see which one is the best fit for your new Android TV app.


Build upon your existing Android TV app

Android apps can be extended to also run on OTT devices, so if you already have an Android app, you are off to a good start with Android TV development. Because Android TV apps use the same structure as those for phones and tablets, you can use your existing Android development knowledge and resources to create new TV apps. 

What’s different on Android TV, however, is user interaction. Input and viewing distance are two things which need special attention. The user is limited to the D-pad and OK button on the remote control. Your original Android layouts need to be redesigned to make sure they are easily understood when read from a distance, e.g. from the comfort of the sofa a few meters away. 

Your TV app’s user interface (or TV portion of your existing app) should provide a simpler interface for easy navigation using a remote control from a couch. Smart TV remotes come in a variety of styles – ranging from minimalist to very complex – but each includes a D-pad, select, home, and back buttons. This is an important change from the UX point of view.

The OTT app’s user interface needs to be designed with this limitation in mind. For guidelines on designing an app for TV. For more information on the minimum implementation requirements for interface layouts on Android TV, see the Android Developers page.

Android remote controle

Source: Android

Use a white-Label OTT Solution

The easiest way to create an Android TV app that not only looks great but also offers all the key functionalities out of the box is by using an OTT solution. This is an effective and budget-friendly way to create your Android TV app at a relatively low cost. 

At Better Software Group, we developed The Better: a solution for presenting video content (OTT and IPTV) on smart TVs, mobile devices, websites, and many other platforms in a single and multi-tenant model. It is an end-to-end solution that offers high-quality features such as analytics, content monetization, CMS, live and VOD streaming, video player, and white-label apps for different screens. You basically get your own, branded video streaming website.

The platform can be extended with useful features like: payment gateways for in-app purchases and live streaming.

The Better makes it possible to create, design, and introduce changes in the appearance of applications on various platforms without the need to change the application code. Thanks to this, you do not need to re-publish the application on stores, web servers, or take other actions.

OTT platforms like The Better host your apps and act as a vehicle for your content. Instead of creating an app from scratch, or spending time coding a template, the OTT platform’s development team takes care of the process from start to finish – from design to development and testing. We also help you choose a suitable monetization model.

A ready-made OTT platform should make it easy to customize your app, but there’s also a backend with detailed analytics so you can learn more about your users. It also takes care of the important stuff like user experience and navigational elements so they’ll fit perfectly on everyone’s TV screens. 

Finally, you need to submit your app to the Google Play store and wait for approval. Our team will assist you along the way. It’s hard to tell how long it takes for the relevant app store to approve your app. For certain developer accounts, Google will take time to review the app to help better protect users. This may result in review times of up to seven days or longer in exceptional cases. 

Use a fully-coded Android TV app template

Using Android app templates is a relatively low-risk and hassle-free way to build your own smart TV app. This especially makes sense if you’re trying to establish your minimum viable product or test the waters of a new market.

You’ll need to integrate it into your system’s backend and make it viable enough for Google Play to accept on its platform. If you aren’t technically savvy, this can be a challenging feat. 

Marketplaces like Envato offer a selection of Android TV app templates for between $14 and $500 that can give your app the professional look and feel – out of the box. This is a cheaper option and makes sense if you’re not planning to heavily customize the app. This method will give you a headstart for building an Android app with a big part of the coding heavy-lifting already done for you. This can save countless hours building the app from scratch.

However, there are also certain disadvantages and limitations.

Disadvantages of using Android TV app templates

Using ready-made templates removes the burden of development. It also saves you from the burden of fixing critical code bugs and maintaining the code later on. However, using templates is associated with certain limitations: 

  • Limited customization – you may be stuck with elements – like fonts or notifications  – that affect the user experience.
  • Customer support can be patchy – it must be remembered that developers of such apps are probably handling dozens of similar requests every day, and may not be as responsive as you’d expect. However, it has to be remembered we’re comparing as little as $14 for a template to as much as $14,000 for a custom-built app with full-time support.

Build an own streaming app from scratch

Building an Android TV app takes a long time, especially if you have no prior experience in the area. And even for experienced teams, it can take dozens of hours of coding until you see the first results of the TV screen.

If you decide to build your own app from scratch, Android provides you with Android TV software development kit (SDK) with UI templates from the Leanback coding library. This makes the developer’s life much easier as many key components are available at their fingertips without unnecessary coding.

Build with remote control navigation in mind

While most modern TVs offer the user a range of input options: voice commands, touchpad, and mobile phone, it’s still good practice to make sure the good ol’ remote control is properly taken care of. This involves designing the app with the D-pad in mind.

Keep clicks to a minimum and try to simplify the flow of the app. Navigation should never discriminate against users who want to stick with the remote. At the same time entering data like passwords and credit card details on the TV can be a chore, and severe punishment for typos compounds the problem.

Although Google has come up with some very useful APIs like Smart Lock and Autofill to ease the TV users’ input pains, certain more complex cases of on-screen input still badly call for the keyboard. This is where Nearby Connections API comes in handy and enables developers to use another Android device, e.g. a mobile phone, to let users enter text on the smart TV more easily.

Recommendations engine

When developing an app offering video streaming (TV shows, movies etc.), you can consider supporting video previews and integrating the app with the Watch Next channel on Android TV’s home screen.

In this way, your app can feed recommendations to the channel (e.g. programs the user has marked as interesting, started watching but did not finish, or content recommendations, e.g. the next episode of a series).

Watch Next channel is maintained by the Android TV System and appears on the TV home screen, right after the apps row. Your app can add content. For more information, see Add programs to the Watch Next chann


Hiring an expert team

If you have a healthy budget, and you’re looking for more of a custom-built solution, then it’s worth looking into hiring a developer or app development agency to help you. An experienced agency can build an app from scratch and customize it to fit your brand perfectly. Developing an Android TV app with an expert developer team gives you the biggest flexibility and customization in terms of user interface, navigational controls, and the minor UI details like text sizes. 

When on the lookout for a developer team for your smart TV app, it’s worth considering a contractor who has developed similar projects in the past and is willing to show a portfolio of previous work in the smart TV area. A specialized, well-established smart TV developer will help to ensure the quality of services and long term support for the application (i.e. updates, fixes and improvements).

Knowledge of specific platform SDK and understanding of software architecture certainly helps, especially when combined with practical experience in HTML, CSS, and Java.

Of course, before you start developing an app for Smart TV you should research your main target platforms. The variety of platforms doesn’t make it easy but may be important from the business point of view. Development of the app for several smart TV platforms will make it more difficult to support in the future.



Developing an Android TV app is a great way to tap into new, TV-focused audiences. However, developing apps for smart TVs is certainly not easy. There are many important design decisions to be made and mistakes to be avoided. However, because Android TV app development is still a relatively new territory for many brands, the importance of partnering with the right development company is even higher. The first-mover’s advantages for businesses are plenty, and TV production companies and brands must seize this opportunity to get ahead of the game. 


If you’re looking to develop your own Smart TV app or are curious to find out what we can do for you, send us an email. Our experts will be happy to discuss your project.