What pay-TV operators need to now about Android TV

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After initial struggles, Android TV has established itself as a mainstream option for pay-TV operators. Google listened to what they want and made updates accordingly. And now, it’s becoming an opportunity that’s hard to ignore – more than a million devices are activated every two months.

Having an app store can be a real benefit for smaller operators particularly, as they can’t negotiate with the content owners to the same level as larger multi-national and multi-play providers. But with Android TV that work is already done for them.

That said, we have to recognise there are many different platforms out there that operators want to use. We can’t adhere to one religion.

And as such, some operators are still sitting on the fence. To help with those inevitable tough business decisions, here are four considerations pay-TV operators need to know about Android TV.

1. Security

Securing Android STBs according to the strict requirements for broadcast operations is a highly complex task, not to be taken lightly. Due to the security challenges posed by Android’s requirements, operators may wonder if offering Android on an STB is worth the potential risks to the operation. Many aspects need to be taken into consideration when building a solution. From a security standpoint, it is imperative that device implements complete separation of the pay-TV environment from the heavily-exposed Android environment to ensure that the attack does not compromise the pay-TV operation.

2. There’s more than one flavor!

There are several flavors of Android that can be used with consumer devices. And with them comes a range of different licensing terms, requirements and business implications, that pay-TV operators need to consider before they choose a flavor for their business needs.

They also differ in terms of the user experience, the availability of apps and games, monetization options, device interaction, the bill-of-materials and maintenance costs.

With many different flavors of client operating systems and middleware on the market, understanding what each one offers should be key to the pay-TV operator’s selection process.

3. The data question

How much data is Google taking for itself? For some operators, Android TV means that Google is trying to move into their territory. But that’s not necessarily the case – for example, it’s possible to have your own search results returned first, not Google’s.

And while there are questions whether Google is collecting data or not, it’s certainly the case that it’s making it easier for operators to do so. Of course, if an operator wants to use Google Assistant then realistically some of the data must be transferred to make the service effective.

4. Maintenance cycles

The last major issue for operators is the three-year maintenance cycle. But the fact is, if the market ever moves completely to BYOD, this will be much less of an issue as it will align with the market for smartphone usage. It’s part of a bigger industry trend – client horizontalization, which already exists in other industries.

And let’s remember, the cycle is for a minimum of three years, meaning operators are guaranteed that at least. There’s no reason they couldn’t agree to longer with the STB provider. The period is mandatory to provide updates as long as the device fulfils the minimum hardware requirements. This is ultimately to provide new services to subscribers, which is a good thing. It also means operators can add new solutions to legacy boxes in the field, like Google Assistant and security patching.

To help those investing in Android, the NAGRA Android TV Fast Track program was designed to support operators along their Android TV journey. But the important thing to remember here is collaboration. Operators must work with solutions providers to find those service-defining ingredients – from security and the user experience to data analytics and hardware. After all, Android TV – in any flavour – doesn’t fundamentally solve the challenge of creating a coherent end-to-end service. It simply provides a framework for OTT app on-boarding that comes with an ecosystem-size lever.

The question still remains – how do you balance between elegant and frictionless OTT on-boarding (content and app) with your own content line-up?

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