Google TV is bolstering support for free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services on the smart TV platform, announcing Tuesday that it has integrated access to Fox’s Tubi, Plex and Haystack News.
The additions join Pluto TV as FAST services available from the Google TV interface, now housed together under a ‘Live’ TV tab. The three new services come alongside additional Google TV-built free channels the company is launching.
Notably, Google TV’s new live TV experience lets users browse more than 800 TV channels across multiple free providers through a single electronic programming guide, organized by topic. And as consumers continue to feel overwhelmed by a wide array of content choices and where to find them, it’s not just free channels that Google is aggregating within the new experience. The company said that if users have a premium live TV subscription from its virtual MVPD YouTube TV or Dish’s Sling TV, or access to over-the-air channels, viewers can use the Live tab to browse channels on those services as well, alongside free channels.
“Now all your live channels can be found in one place,” Google said in the announcement. Users can also save their “Favorites” to the top of the guide for easy access each time.
The new live TV experience is rolling out on all Google TV devices in the U.S., including Chromecast with Google TV and TVs using the Google TV OS from Sony, TCL, Hisense, and Philips. Google said it plans to bring the new TV guide and free channels to eligible Android TV devices later this year.
With new FAST services supported on Google TV users will get access to news channels from NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, along with shows like “Westworld,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Walking Dead.” Tubi in January inked a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery that bolstered its FAST library by 225 AVOD titles. Google also noted it will have programming in more than 10 languages including Spanish, Hindi and Japanese.
Adding and aggregating free live streaming TV channels for users to browse comes as a recent study from LG Ads found the average consumer spends nearly 6 minutes finding something to watch, with too many options and confusion over where to find content topping the list as the biggest barriers to consuming content.
Google TV is also enhancing its user experience for live channels as the company gains share in the smart TV and streaming media device market globally, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. A recent S&P report found Android TV grew its market share of the combined global smart TV and SMD installed base by 2.1 percentage points year over year and S&P analyst Neil Barbour told Fierce that Google is seeing similar gains in the U.S.
“Alphabet was able to achieve this growth in part by sacrificing its legacy Chromecast production line in late 2022,” Barbour noted. “Android TV is also supported by a wide array of smart TV partners, which accounted for half of all net additions.” For a deeper dive on Google gaining OS share and increased TVOS competition read here.
Google is a player in the increasingly competitive TVOS market, alongside leaders like Samsung, gainers such as Amazon Fire TV and recently Roku’s nascent branded smart TV moves, among others. Owning the operating system and hardware offers opportunities beyond just devices sales with the ability to collect data on viewing and consumption habits as well as drive revenue from advertisers and marketers as the smart TV home screen serves as the entry point of TV viewing.
Also coming together at the right time for smart TV makers is increased consumer preference for those devices over streaming sticks or dongles, as well as expectations for a smart TV refresh cycle in the U.S. to replace older installed TVs. Data this week from Hub Entertainment Research found American homes now own an estimated 204 million smart TV sets. Hub cited growth in adoption, with now almost 8 in 10 households (77%) reporting they own a smart TV, up from 66% three years ago. And many households could soon look to upgrade their current set. Separate research from Circana found that the average age of installed smart TVs in the U.S. is 5.2 years old, with most TVs replaced after 6.6 years.
In a recent column on Fierce, TVREV analyst Alan Wolk highlighted how Google is doubling down on its Google TV and Android-based OS. Wolk said it’s easy to imagine Google pulling learnings from its virtual MVPD YouTube TV, as well as YouTube itself, into the mix – pointing to the latter’s own FAST services as well as a library of movies for rent or purchase.
“So all the makings of an integrated operating system similar to what Samsung, VIZIO and LG have in the U.S., where their own FAST services form the backbone of their user interface,” wrote Wolk. “Integrate Google’s popular mail and chat apps into that interface too, and it could be an especially compelling device.”