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British digital terrestrial operator and multibroadcaster joint venture, Freeview, launched its video-on-demand (VOD) app, Freeview Play, on Android TV. This marks the first major British broadcaster launch on the platform. Until now, the UK has been uncharacteristically at arm’s length from Android TV, with users being able to access only non-British apps via their Android TV smart TV sets.

The prevalence of Android TV smart TVs made this an easy decision for Freeview

The UK TV content and media player’s decision not to adopt Android TV has not been a consequence of any animosity with Google, but rather that their commercial paths have simply not crossed in the past five years (except for BBC America, which launched in the US in 2018). Whereas most other major Western markets have operator partners on Android TV – either through apps or operator Android TV set-top boxes – the UK’s major pay-TV operators have alternative platforms: Sky and Virgin with RDK, and BT with the hybrid YouView platform. With its NowTV streaming box, Sky preceded the inception of Android TV with its Roku-powered box in 2013, thus taking the potential to adopt Android TV out of the equation.

As a result, the likelihood was always going to be that the public broadcasters’ joint venture, Freeview, would embrace Android TV. Along with other major recent Android TV launches such as AT&T in the US, Freeview has increased Google operator partners to over 160.

By the end of this year, over half of all TV sets in use in the UK will be smart, placing the UK in the top ten globally for smart TV penetration as per Omdia’s TV Devices Forecast: 2020–25 (see Figure 1). Globally, sales of Android TV have been skyrocketing. Last year, Google said that six out of the top ten TV manufacturers had adopted Android TV, and that one set out of every ten shipped was running on the Android TV OS. Although operator partnerships with Google have not materialized prior to Freeview’s announcement, Android TV sets have been flooding the UK retail landscape, and the ratio of Android TV sets sold in the market is very likely to be higher than Google’s stated figure of one in ten. Freeview decided to tap into this by launching its VOD app, which owners of Android TV sets can download and use to stream on-demand content from BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My 5, and UKTV Play among others. It should be mentioned that Freeview live streaming is not yet available, as the Freeview consortium is probably still hesitant to cannibalize its broadcasting services.


Further reading

Android TV: Pay-TV Operator Outlook, CES004-000067 (April 2019)

TV Devices Forecast: Regular, Smart, Connected, and 4K UHD TV, 2020–25, CES004-000142 (March 2020)


Ismail Patel, Senior Analyst, TV & Consumer Tech

[email protected]

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