Here's what you need to know before launching on Android TV


by Jason Bradwell


by Jason Bradwell

*This blog post first appeared on the Massive Interactive blog. Massive was acquired by Deltatre in November 2018.

Android TV – everyone’s talking about it. It’s quickly become a staple on the technology roadmaps of an overwhelming number of pay-TV professionals (72% to be precise, according to a study produced by Irdeto and Ovum) and many expect it to be the market-leading TV platform by 2025.

In just the last two months alone there have been a slew of deployments around the globe, from Com Hem deploying its TV Hub to the Swedish public to Vodafone Australia going toe-to-toe with Telstra by launching its Android-powered Vodafone TV box.

But while many demonstrate enthusiasm and confidence in Android as the TV platform of the future, there still seems to be a lack of understanding of the critical differences between the different flavors of the technology, and what the primary drivers are for choosing one over the other.

In the following paragraphs, we hope to bring a level of clarification to these questions and help arm you with the knowledge you’ll need before launching on Android TV. Read on!

Difference between Android Operator Tier and AOSP

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re interested in learning more about Android TV, you’ll have undoubtedly heard about its two distinct ‘flavours’ – the Android TV Operator Tier Launcher and the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). But what the heck is the difference?

We think of it like this – convenience vs. control. Let’s break it down.


You’re building off the pure Android code-base, and as such, you have full ownership over the user experience. It’s entirely in your power to restrict the apps and services used on your platform, through an app store that you’ve built from scratch. If it’s a ‘walled-garden’ environment that you want, then simply make it so. AOSP is your kingdom.

The trade-off is that as you’re building the majority of the middleware from scratch, you’ll spend a lot of time, effort and money doing so. Sure, you won’t have trouble finding developers, as Android is built on Java, but expect a time-to-market of at least 18 months and higher-than-average upfront project costs.

Android TV Operator Tier

This is where things get interesting. Announced in 2014 and refreshed in 2017, the Android TV Operator Tier allows pay-TV businesses to take advantage of many elements of Google proprietary software, including Play Store, Chromecast, in-app billing and the Google Assistant, straight out of the box.

Yes, this means that you can offer your users access to over 3,000 popular games, apps and services within an environment you control. This is critical for anyone concerned with making their platform as sticky as possible. Through the Android TV Operator Tier, you can eliminate the need for viewers to continually switch devices to access different services and keep them in your branded environment.

It’s also not necessary to invest valuable time and engineering resource building out functionality like picture-in-picture, search and voice control because it comes as packaged and integrated as standard.

Perhaps most importantly, the Android TV Operator Tier allows you to customise and tweak the white-label UX launcher in a way that stays true to your brand’s identity. This is vital for brands looking to differentiate amongst an increasingly volatile and competitive market, where a static UI can mean the difference between resubscription or abandonment.

Of course, there are some downsides. Your options on Google-certified set-top-boxes are limited when compared to AOSP, meaning that there may be higher hardware costs both upfront and across future maintenance. And of course, you can’t stop your competitor’s apps from being installed on the platform by users. For some operators, this is a deal-breaker.

We’ve also heard some clients express concern about ongoing OPEX costs, as to run Android TV, you need to implement regular upgrades to the platform. But remember that these will be offset by the significant savings you’ve already made through not having to develop features and functionality that come with Android TV as standard.

At a glance

To make your choice as easy as possible, we’ve put together the table below to help you see the main differences between AOSP and Android TV Operator Tier. Got a question on which path to choose? Send us a message!

Summing up

Android TV is on the radar of all major players in the media space and it’s well on its way to becoming the preferred choice for pay-TV operators. Indeed, David Burke of Google revealed at Google I/O last year that the platform is experiencing over 1 million user activations every 60 days.

We anticipate the Android TV Operator Tier option is the most suited for the majority of pay-TV operators worldwide. At the cost of relinquishing some control over your environment, you get access to one of the most powerful and widely adopted ecosystems in the world, rapid time-to-market, and near-complete ownership over the user experience. To us, this seems like a fair trade-off.

After all, wasn’t it Victor Hugo who said, “let us sacrifice one day to gain perhaps a whole life”?

Want to learn more about Android TV? Send us your details and we’ll get back to you. Shout out to the resource provided by Ovum and Irdeto that was referenced when writing this article!


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