The popularity of Android TV is growing dramatically, with approximately 100 million devices expected to be shipped by 2022 and more than 160 Pay TV operators in more than 60 countries around the world using the Google TV Operating System (OS). As a result, there is an urgent need to offer television experiences on Android TV screens with at least the same quality level or better than what people are used to (i.e., broadcast quality). This quality of experience is a necessity for the mass adoption of the Android TV platform.
Android TV has been touted as one of the fastest growing platforms in the digital TV market globally. It’s expected to lead the set-top box (STB) and TV OS market by 2025, with the global Android TV STB market size anticipated to reach $695.9 million at that time. While Android TV offers several key advantages, integrating the right video delivery solutions into the framework is essential for the platform to reach this potential.
Advantages of Android TV
Android TV brings all of the benefits of the Internet to the TV environment, including a more personalised experience (i.e., on-demand content, time-shifted TV — catch-up, start-over, pause/resume live TV), innovation (i.e., voice control), openness, and flexibility, with thousands of TV-friendly applications developed throughout the community. These apps can simply be added to the STB.
A significant reason why Android TV has been so successful is because the environment is designed to aggregate and host applications, feeding the consumer appetite for content in a way that is easy to navigate and use. Each new TV service is just another app.
Deploying or upgrading a TV service has always been a significant undertaking for an operator of any size, and that’s an area where Android TV offers another advantage. Android TV is a pre-integrated and pre-certified environment that reduces the time to market (TTM) to upgrade a TV service, compared with legacy Linux-based STBs. While the typical TTM for launching new TV services or upgrades was between 9-18 months, Android TV speeds up this process to about to 3-6 months. Android TV also offers a reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) by 30% vs. legacy Linux-based STBs.
The Operator Tier edition of Android TV has triggered adoption of the solution by Pay TV operators, giving them full control over the STB UI/UX. Operators can customise the platform, which is important because the user experience is what differentiates operators from one another and what creates the special trusted link they establish with their subscribers. For instance, operators can customise launchers so that their own offering is shown every time the user boots the device or exits an app.
Video Delivery Integration is Essential
Despite its intrinsic benefits, Android TV, if taken “as is”, does not solve the issues raised by unicast video delivery over IP using Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) formats. However, by integrating the right video delivery solutions into the Android TV framework, Pay TV operators can take full advantage of the environment to deliver a “better than broadcast” quality of experience (QoE) for UHD and HDR content. Video delivery solutions that are necessary for integration include:
- Low-latency live streaming: Integrating the Android TV platform with a video delivery system that implements CMAF end-to-end, Pay TV operators can solve the latency issue inherently raised by unicast ABR distribution.
- Multicast ABR: Integrating the Android TV platform with multicast ABR, Pay TV operators can use multicast to carry ABR formats (e.g., CMAF) and solve the scalability issue, the other major challenge raised by unicast ABR distribution.
- Server-side controlled ABR streaming: The same way the Android TV Operator Tier has given operators control over the UI/UX of their managed STB, it is important for Pay TV operators to take control over the video QoE delivered on their managed networks. Controlling ABR streaming from the server side (vs. the terminal side, as is usually the case), they can arbitrate network resources allocation and give priority to certain devices, subscribers, or content.
- Server-side ad insertion and replacement: Monetising Android TV offerings is crucial. Through server-side ad insertion and replacement (SSAI&R), operators can deploy dynamic targeted advertising for linear and delinearised workflows.
- Video analytics: Video consumption needs to be closely monitored and analysed. Through video analytics, Pay TV operators can gain insight into how users experience the service and how their delivery system performs.
Additionally, integrating the Android TV platform with a cloud-based time-shifted TV solution (offering catch-up, start-over, pause/resume live TV, and cloud PVR services), and with a multi-CDN management solution (allowing for CDN selection and CDN aggregation), Pay TV operators can further improve their video delivery system.
Android TV offers several key advantages for Pay TV operators, including faster TTM for new TV services and reduced TCO. To reach the full potential of the platform, Broadpeak believes that Android TV needs to be enhanced on the video delivery side. By integrating several video delivery solutions, such as low-latency streaming, multicast ABR, and server-side ABR control into the Android TV framework, Pay TV operators can deliver outstanding television experiences on the STB OS that is set to lead the market in the coming years.