Two fairly big announcements came through this week in TV land. The first was the launch of the highly-rumored on and highly-anticipated DIRECTV NOW service from AT&T. The second was the arrival of offline playback for Netflix. Generally speaking, these represent very big news for TV in general as they both look to give more power to the consumer/end user. That said, neither announcement is applicable to Android TV, which while making sense, feels a little representative of the state of Android TV in general.
When it comes to DIRECTV NOW, this really is big news. While there are plenty of cord-cutting options already available, a new one and especially one backed by a big US carrier is going to be welcomed. As such, the offer on the table from AT&T is a standalone Live TV and On Demand streaming service. One which provides access to (at the minimum) 60 channels for a cost of (at the minimum) $35. So while it is not super-affordable, it is still affordable and especially as no additional hardware or commitment is needed. Just pay monthly for as much as you want, as long as you want. The service comes in app form and can be consumed on a range of devices and platforms with the notable exception being - Android TV. Whether or not this will change in the future remains to be seen, but as it stands, you cannot use DIRECTV NOW on Android TV. Although, you can if you own an LeEco TV powered by Android TV or a Fire TV OS product. It even works with Chromecast as well, which largely means that it works with pretty much everything and anything other than Android TV. Although, at least with Chromecast you can cast content from the DIRECTV NOW app to your Android TV device - although that is not quite the same thing.
Then we have the Netflix news. Netflix this week announced and made available the option to download movies and TV shows and watch them offline. This had also been highly-rumored over the last few weeks and months. Although the feature is now live and you now can open the Android Netflix app, click on a title and you will see the download icon listed alongside a play button (shown below). Once hit, the content is downloaded and you can then watch anywhere you find yourself and regardless of whether there is a data connection or not. This is big news for Netflix users and certainly will make the service and subscription cost even better value. That is, unless you primarily watch Netflix content on Android TV. As the Android TV app is not getting the same feature.
Of course, this does make a little more sense as TVs are always expected to be connected. Likewise, it seems that you cannot actually download Netflix content to expandable solutions (like a memory card or USB stick), so with Android TV devices typically coming with limited internal storage (compared to other Android devices), the actual usability of Netflix downloading, is a little less beneficial for Android TV. Although, if you happen to be a cord-cutter and sitting at home during an internet outage - then you might disagree. In fact, the Netflix offline playback features cannot be used to Cast either, so there really is zero-compatibility with this feature and Android TV.
Which feels rather representative of the state of Android TV in general. As these updates are very big updates for TV users, one would many might assume would automatically also be good for Android TV users - but that is not the case. These updates while good for the industry do highlight a disconnect between Android TV and TV in general. Which is something that should not be happening. For instance, when it comes to DIRECTV NOW, this is a service which works with Chromecast, Apple TV and Fire TV. Pretty much all the ‘TVs’ except Android TV...unless you have a LeEco TV that is. So it is not quite an issue of they can't offer Android TV the service and more one of not wanting to offer Android TV the service, yet - a direction which many companies, services and apps seem to be leaning towards with them assuming that including Cast functionality is sufficient enough for big screen Android viewing.
Either way, both DIRECTV NOW and Netflix offline playback are accessible on non-Android TV, Android devices so if you have yet to download either of them, you can by heading through the links below.