Live Channels is an exciting app that we have mentioned many times here at Android TV News. For those who have never heard of it before, it is a system app by Google that attempts to compile all of your live video sources into one traditional, channel-surfing interface. Smart TVs and content on demand are obviously the future of television, but “flipping through the channels to see what’s on” is still a core experience.
The potential of being able to browse through your local OTA stations, favorite Twitch channels, Internet TV, and live Periscope seamlessly would be a perfect use case for Smart TV. Now this isn’t quite possible yet, but it is a simple and powerful idea just waiting to be unleashed. Developers need to “hook” their app up to Live Channels in order for this to take off.
Once people find out about Live Channels, the first thing they ask is, “Where is it?” If you search for it on the Google Play Store, you will see that it is already installed on your Android TV. It only appears on the Leanback Launcher once a proper source has been added. Therefore, the next question asked is, “What sources can I can get?” and that is the purpose of this article!
With Live Channels version 1.11 and Android 7.0, Android TV now supports OTA antennas using certain USB tuners. These allow you to view and record broadcast channels.
This app requires you to have an HDHomeRun network tuner (see here) to be functional. But once you do, this gives you the ability to watch OTA or CableCard channels in the Live Channels app. Besides being nice to have your sources together, Live Channels just looks and works better than the VIEW app (my opinion). The app is $0.99 on the Google Play Store.
One of the first apps to support Live Channels, and still one of the best. Pluto TV launched last year as an internet video curator of sorts. They created “channels” based on certain subjects, and then fill these channels with videos from all around the internet (YouTube, Daily Motion, Vimeo). They even have deals with other internet video providers like Bloomberg TV and Funny or Die for more “channels.” There really are too many to list so go check it out! Added bonus: You can add/remove only the channels you want from Pluto TV in Live Channels! This app is FREE on the Google Play Store.
By our very own Nick Felker, this app was developed at the request of some Reddit users. Users can import any web live stream to the app manually or in bulk through a playlist. These streams can then be watched through the Live Channels app. By connecting the app to a file in Google Drive, you can keep all your channels in sync. If you don’t have any streams, a few legal streams are included in the app. The app is also open sourced on GitHub. It is FREE on the Google Play Store.
The Weather Network
The Weather Network appears to have gone all in on Android TV. They have a pretty nice app that follows Android TV design guidelines and they also have a “recommendation card” on the home page that displays the current weather. This is the only app I know of that has utilized the recommendation bar in this manner. They also have Live Channel support. The stream seems to jump from national forecasts, to local forecasts, to top weather videos and around again… your standard weather channel. The app is FREE on the Google Play Store.
Read Article: Toonaft Brings Live Channels to Android TV
ToonAft is an app that hooks into the Toonami Aftermath website that streams old cartoons 24/7. This app allows you to bring that functionality to the Live Channels app. Also included is a Rifftrax channel which is just old movies or shorts with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary track added… very funny! The app has been removed from Google Play, but you can sideload the APK here. However, the app doesn’t appear to be streaming media anymore.
Google Play Movies and TV
Read Article: Google Play Movies and TV Gets Live Channel for Trailers
This channel appears to showcase a number of trailers from Google’s most popular movies. Opening up the UI shows users a button that they can press to immediately go to Google Play and rent the movie. It’s a pretty clever way to showcase content.
Read Article: Bloomberg Adds Live Channel
Bloomberg, the financial news media outlet, has made their West US channel available to cordcutters by adding it to Live Channels. The channel includes commercials. It also includes closed captioning so anyone can learn about the latest business news.
Read Article: Haystack TV Adds Live Channels
Haystack TV personalizes news by curating videos based on your preferences. With Live Channels, you can use one of their prebuilt channels for science or political news or watch a stream of personalized news.
Looking for a different app that interfaces with HDHomeRun? Try InstaTV. It lets you connect to your HDHomeRun from your phone, tablet, and TV. The app is free to download from Google Play.
Read Article: AirShare tries to make Sharing to Your TV Easy
AirShare is an app that lets you quickly share any type of content, not just media, to your TV. When you do cast media though, it collects all of it and displays it back to you later in three Live Channels for music, photos, and video. Additionally, sharing any HLS stream will also add that as a channel. The app is free to download on Google Play.
Read Article: PuppetMaster.TV Adds Support for Live Channels
PuppetMaster.TV is an app that, similar to Kodi, allows users to install video sources from a variety of online sources in a single interface. In addition to using Android TV’s built-in Leanback interface, there is also support for Live Channels. Puppets, their name for plugins, may have live sources and if so are available in the Live Channels app.
Future Apps ?
The following apps are either currently in development for Live Channels or there is speculation that they are.
DVBLink is like the “Live Channels” of your computer. It gives you the ability to start “your very personal TV server” using different sources. The DVBLink Live app has been in development for Android TV, designed to integrate with the Live Channels feature. When completed, it will supply channels, epg (electronic program guide), and TV streams to Live Channels so you can watch them with the rest of your channel sources. You can find more info HERE but you can sideload the beta and try it out today!
Tablo TV is a competitor of HDHomeRun that already has its DVR functionality up and running. They have a great app and interface and I have heard nothing but great things from this company (I plan on reviewing their product very soon). Official Tablo TV reps have confirmed that Live Channels integration is on their roadmap. They have never given an ETA which is fine but have stated in multiple threads that it is in development (also HERE). The rep said that they were working on utilizing the Recommendation Bar and Universal Search Index of Android TV, too. Interestingly enough, the representative also seemed to confirm that they were working on getting the DVR to function WITHIN Live Channels…
Sling TV is a streaming cable package available for Android TV. The first time I found out about Live Channels, I immediately thought of Sling TV. To be able to have streaming cable channels next to my OTA stations next to my IPTV would be a dream come true.
Now, this entry is purely speculative as there has been no confirmation of Live Channels development with Sling TV. However, when I asked Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV, if there were any plans to bring Live Channel integration, he answered, “As it relates to the “Live Channels” app on Android TV, we are looking into this. At the moment, I can’t comment any further, but stay tuned.” This very well could be a PR non-answer. But if you read the article, Roger doesn’t seem to have a problem saying, “We have no current plans” to some of my other questions. This leads me to believe that they really are working on! Only time will tell…
This is the list as it currently stands and I plan to update it as time moves on. It really wasn’t too long ago that there were only 1 or 2 apps that made use of Live Channels so it is expanding quite nicely. I wish Google would make a bigger deal about this neat application and push it as much as they can, but that is also what this community is for. If we can build up enough awareness of Live Channels and show enough demand, we can really help get the ball rolling. Please let us know if there are any new apps that we might have missed!