What is Google TV and how does it work?

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(Pocket-lint) – In 2020 Google launched a new Chromecast device running Google TV and there were additional announcements for Google TV devices in 2021.

If you’re wondering what happened to Android TV, or just want to learn more about Google TV, here’s what you need to know.

What is Google TV?

  • Google TV is content

Google TV is an interface for Android TV powered by Google Machine Learning, Google Assistant and Google Knowledge Graph. It does not replace Android TV. Google TV isn’t even an operating system. Think of it as something built on Android TV, designed to make it easier for you to find the content you want. Gone are the days of searching a cluttered home screen to find a streaming service.

Google TV is a software layer, or interface, that runs on Android TV, Google’s full-fledged operating system for set-top boxes, streaming devices, and smart TVs. It’s smarter and meant to optimize the existing Android TV experience so it’s more intuitive and useful.

For more on Android TV, check out our guide here.

How does Google TV work?

  • Uses Knowledge Graph, Google Assistant and machine learning

When developing Google TV, Google studied the different ways people experience media, whether searching for a title or browsing aimlessly. It improved the Knowledge Graph and used machine learning to better understand how to move that information into topics and genres. The aim is to stimulate discovery and ensure that you never wonder what to watch.

The interface is divided into several tabs, allowing you to browse movies, shows, apps or access your library, which contains content you previously purchased from Google through Play Movies & TV. Content is recommended to you based on your profile – you must be logged in to use it – and will draw from the streaming services you are logged in to. If you watch Netflix and Disney+, you’ll likely see it dominated by content from those services, but you’ll also see trending recommendations, often showing you new releases available to buy.

In February 2021, the Apple TV app was added to Google TV, adding access to Apple TV+ as well as purchased content.

Navigation is straightforward, but the biggest downside is the lack of top-level profile support. While individual services (like Netflix or Amazon Video) will support user profiles, there are no user profiles for Google TV as a whole. This means that in a family environment, everyone accesses the same recommendations, regardless of age or preferences.

Custom Profiles was originally scheduled to launch in December 2021, but was delayed. However, their implementation should not delay.

Google TV also supports live TV services, starting with YouTube TV in the US. You can also add movies and shows you find to a watchlist.


Which devices use Google TV?

Google TV first launched on the Chromecast with Google TV.


In 2021, Sony confirmed that it would offer Google TV on its new Bravia XR line of TVs which will launch throughout the year. TCL has also confirmed that it will launch a series of Google TV sets in 2021. We expect there will be other manufacturers as well, most likely those who have launched Android TVs in the past.

The Google TV app is also available for Android phone users. The Google Play Movies & TV app was updated on September 30, 2020 and rebranded as the Google TV app. It lets you search for something to watch, buy or rent movies and TV shows, and manage your watchlist.

Services supported by the Android app vary by region. For example, in the UK it’s currently quite limited, but Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are among the supported platforms.

Written by Maggie Tillman. Edited by Luke Baker.

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