Google TV is back, and it runs on Android TV

Yes, it's very confusing.


A year after it launched the original Chromecast, Google debuted Android TV with the Nexus Player in 2014. The OS eventually found its way onto devices by a dozen companies like Sony, TCL, Xiaomi, NVIDIA, Philips and Sharp, and offers a library of 6,500 apps. Yet, it didn’t have the sophistication of platforms like Roku and Fire TV, which offered better ways to recommend shows for the viewer. Today, with the new Chromecast, the company is ready to bring back the Google TV name with a new interface built upon Android TV.

We’ve seen plenty of leaks already, since retailers have already been accidentally selling these Chromecasts to users who’ve then detailed their experiences. Google’s Launch Night In event, is basically just confirmation of what we already saw.

Google TV’s main home page will feature titles pulled from all your integrated streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. It’ll also show options from other channels that you haven’t used, like Tubi TV or Crackle perhaps. The top two thirds or so of the page is dedicated to a carousel of featured shows based on what the system thinks you’ll want to watch next.

Tabs at the top let you view suggestions for movies, TV shows, apps and your content library. The rest of the main page presents several rows of content, including genres Google thinks you like, as well as titles from specific services like Netflix and YouTube. Like Play Movies and TV already do, Google TV will canvas all available streaming providers to make it easier to find a show you like rather than search each channel for a show.

Google said it updated the search knowledge graph it used in previous offerings like Play Movies & TV to help Google TV better understand what you’re looking for. You’ll also be able to continue to use the Cast system to stream your photos or phone screen to your TV, and those who liked Ambient mode for displaying art on their television sets will still find it here. Google also said Stadia support will be available in the first half of 2021.

Importantly, Google TV will also be available as a mobile app for Android devices starting today, so you can already experience the new interface on your phone. Start adding shows to your watchlist and they’ll carry over to the big screen, too. The Play Movies and TV app will also be renamed and feature the new interface, essentially becoming the Google TV app.

It might be confusing, but Android TV isn't going away with the introduction of Google TV. The latter is simply an interface that runs on the Android TV operating system. But, while both will continue to exist, Google TV appears to be the new consumer-facing branding. The company said that Sony and other partners will offer televisions with Google TV next year.

Update (at 3:20pm ET): This article was edited to clarify the continued existence of both Google TV and Android TV, spelling out that Google TV will be consumer-facing branding. The post was also updated to spell out that Play Movies and TV will become the new Google TV mobile app.