Google TV is the Android based smart TV platform that powers Chromecast, as well as a few smart TVs from companies like TCL and Samsung. It is a content delivery vehicle for the various streaming apps including Netflix, Disney+ among others.
Google looks to have more plans for Google TV, as reports suggest that the tech giant is planning to add free channels directly into the platform. The free channels will be supported with the look and feel of traditional TV networks, with ad breaks and on-screen graphics.
To achieve this, Google is already reportedly holding talks with companies offering these channels, referred to as ‘FAST channels’ (Free, ad-supported television channels).
If all goes to plan, the free streaming channels could be launched on Google TV as early as late this year, but waiting to announce the initiative in conjunction with its Smart TV partners in early 2022 is also another possibility that Google could explore.
How will the free channels be delivered?
Those of us with Chromecast will likely be able to browse the channels through a dedicated live TV menu, which Google currently only uses to offer access to paid TV services like its own YouTube subscription service.
On Smart TVs, the streaming channels will most likely be presented alongside over the air programming that can be accessed with an antenna.
This approach will mirror how TV makers like LG and Samsung have integrated free streaming channels into their platforms.
Free channels have already become hugely successful for these TV makers. To illustrate this, Samsung alone streams “billions of minutes” of linear programming via its TV Plus service every month.
This success has prompted other TV platform operators to also embrace free programming. Roku, Vizio and Amazon have already embraced these free channels on their devices, with Roku particularly boasting over 200 of them.
The seamless transition incorporated in most Smart TVs, allowing smooth switching from live broadcast to streamed channels, effectively turns FAST channels into a free alternative to basic cable, which will in turn put pressure on the likes of DSTV and StarTimes.
Is this venture viable in the Kenyan scene?
Kenya makes a negligible impact in the streaming market, especially when compared to power houses like the USA, Canada and Australia. What works in our favour, however, is that much of what we consume largely falls in line with what the average person in the aforementioned countries would also consume.
This pretty much guarantees that any near feature introduced to cater to these powerhouse markets, will also be appealing to us, unless the feature is region blocked, which I highly doubt the free channels will be.
The adverts on the free channels will definitely be annoying, as they already are on cable TV. What is not clear, is whether the ads will be tailored like on YouTube or Facebook where you are served with ads that match your browsing patterns, or they will be uniform to all users regardless of whether the service or product advertised is available in your region.
All these uncertainties will however be put to rest once Google TV launches the free service, all we have to do now is wait.