How to Get Started with Live Channels

Live Channels is Android TV’s “killer app”, seamlessly blending live TV with app-based channels in a singular UI with DVR capabilities coming soon. It represents the new age of media where anyone can become a media mogul just by creating content. The barrier to entry is lower than ever before.

If you have just started using Android TV, you may be wondering how to start using Live Channels. Where’s the app? It may not be on the homescreen. How do you get more channels? All of these things will be explained in this guide.

We’re going to continually refer to our Running List of Live Channel Sources, which we curate with all of the supported apps.

Get some channels

By default, the app does not appear in the launcher. If you don’t have any channels, then there’s nothing to watch. Currently the app does not appear until you install a supported app.

Download an app like Haystack TV. After it is downloaded and installed, you should see the Live Channels app in your app grid.

When you open the app, you’ll be told that there are new sources to be added. Go to the sources screen and tap on Haystack TV. This will open the app’s setup activity where the app will initialize all of their channels.

It's just Live Channels
It’s just Live Channels

If you want to find more apps, you can look at our running list or go directly to the Play Store category from within the app.

Live Channels apps

Now that your channels are setup, you can start to watch linear TV just as expected. Pressing down on your remote decrements a channel, and pressing up increments. You can tap to open a program guide and quickly see what’s playing on every installed channel.

The guide allows for filtering by genre. If you only want to browse channels playing sports programs right now, you can quickly do that.

There are also app links, which can be programmed to open up custom activities set by the app. Usually they will just launch the app’s main activity.

If the channel supports playback controls, they will appear by pressing the center button on the DPAD and then moving up. From here you can skip back, rewind, pause, fast-forward, and skip forward.

Parental Controls

Live Channels Parental Controls

If you have parental controls set up, you can set particular program ratings or channels to be blocked unless they are specifically overriden.

Channel Selection

Live Channels Channel Selection

If there are channels you never watch, you can manually disable them in the settings. They will not appear in your channel guide or by manually flipping through channels.

DVR

I/O 2016 DVR Live Channels

Tv Recording is a new API that is available on Android TVs running Android Nougat and above. Apps need to manually support the APIs. The Live Channels app will soon be updated to allow this feature.

It will handle the user interface for recording and send the app lifecycle callbacks (start recording, stop recording). The app will have to handle recording and storing the video in the system database. Then the Live Channels app (or another DVR app) will be able to play this content at a later time.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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  • NashGuy

    Any word on when the next version of the Live Channels app is going to hit? I had been under the impression that it would accompany Nougat but it’s still not here. (Although, given that the Nexus Player is the only Android TV device that’s currently running Nougat, maybe Google’s in no big rush.) I’m wondering if it will come with built-in drivers for USB TV tuners (as the developer preview apparently does).

    • NF

      As far as I’ve heard it should be available early next month. I’m hoping it’s soon

    • Tysl332

      From DVR functionality I’ve been reading up on, my guess is only the shield may have DVR support and not the Nexus player regardless if we see the update or not. If you have read anything on Plex’s DVR functionality with the HD HO ERUN and the HD HomeRuns new white DVR app they state devices with enough internal storage like the Shield and that has USB 3.0 will get support for DVR capabilities, now last I checked the Nexus player has a micro USB 2.0 port and not a 3.0 the new MiUi Mi Box that just came out my not either since they never added a USB 3.0 port but instead yup a standard USB 2.0 port and it’s an A type not micro.

      • DVR functionality is not just raw storage. It is an API that is part of Android which gives callbacks to apps based on user interaction.

        The apps can handle this in any way. For example, Haystack may just bookmark the clip URL and stream it later. Other apps like HDHomeRun could do the recording locally or in the cloud.

        The APIs already exist on the Nexus Player (as it is part of Nougat), although it isn’t too accessible since the Live Channels app hasn’t exposed the UI for it yet.

      • ike301

        Good info. I pretty much concluded the same from my research. It appears that the Nvidia Shield is the box that will benefit the most from this, since it’s basically a HTPC. They should allow for network storage, which would take care of the lack of USB 3.0 support on the Nexus Player and new Mi Box.

  • stellamaris5

    Can someone help? I have a SOny Android TV (UK Version) and the Live Channels up is not downloadable from the PlayStore – it just says it is not compatible with my device. I’ve installed Haystack but the app till doesn’t appear as described in the article.

    • On Sony TVs, they have a custom TV app. You should be able to go to Channel Inputs in your system settings and add Haystack. Then you can watch in your standard TV app.

      I don’t have a Sony TV, so I don’t have screenshots.