If you have been holding out for Hulu’s Live TV option to become available in Android TV app form, you can stop waiting. As it is not likely to be arriving anytime soon, if ever. For those who have been waiting it’s now time to move on and start using one of the alternatives such as DIRECTV NOW, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and/or YouTube TV.
Hulu's SVP of Experience, Ben Smith, held a company AMA this week on Reddit and it was here that Smith confirmed Android TV support is not in the pipeline, after being pressed on the topic by some redditors. While Smith did make it clear that Hulu is “constantly evaluating” the situation, Smith started the response with “we don’t have current plans to support Android TV.” Essentially confirming not only Android TV support should not be expected soon, but it is highly unlikely Hulu is even actively working on support at the moment. Interestingly, Smith did provide two reasons as to why support for Android TV is not currently on the agenda. The first reason was due to the apparent lack of users on the Android TV platform. Smith did qualify this statement by specifically referencing “the number of Hulu viewers” on Android TV, although it is unclear what, if any difference, exists between the two. For example, whether Smith is referring to the current number of active Hulu users on the platform, or what it sees as the potential number of users available through the platform. For reference, the Google Play Store listing for the Android TV-optimized Hulu app currently shows it has been installed somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 times. So regardless of anything else, there are Hulu users on Android TV.
Hulu Live TV supported devices
The second reason Smith gave for the lack of Hulu support is “technical complexity of supporting the platform.” After some redditors suggested that it was “mind boggling” how Hulu does not support Android TV and that the reasoning given “doesn't pass the smell test” Smith offered a slightly greater level of insight into the complexity issue by stating the problem was “the device matrix that we have to support for continuous integration testing.” A device matrix is something app developers often reference when trying to limit the likelihood of bugs and issues being present due to differences between device hardware. For example, Android mobile is likely to require a much greater device matrix compared to iOS simply due to the hundreds (more accurately, thousands) of different models compared to the small selection of iOS handsets. The age-old fragmentation problem. Therefore, based on the comments made by Smith it seems Hulu is not too impressed with what it sees as a fragmented Android TV hardware market. Which is somewhat ironic considering most Android TV users consider the platform to be in dire need of more hardware options. In either case, and taken on face value, and while Smith suggests it is a combination of the two, it could be argued that the latter reason (perceived variation of hardware) is likely to be the true (or at least, leading) cause of why Hulu’s Live TV is not likely to be coming to Android TV. As taking away the hardware fragmentation issue for a moment, there would be little reason for Hulu to not release a dedicated Live TV app for Android TV. While the user count might be low, it is still a count and one that is likely to grow if the options were available. So there would be reasons to release the app if there were no hardware limitations or issues involved.
What is abundantly clear, however, if app developers take a stance such as where they view the Android TV hardware market as too much effort to service, the platform is unlikely to grow at the rate it should. Platforms like Android TV require apps to be invested in, as without them there is no platform. So while it might be understandable that Hulu is not keen on the work involved, and even something which may lead to a lesser experience on some (non-tested) devices, these are things that can be remedied after the fact. Android TV users have already grown accustomed to these situations and will be willing to accommodate if they were to see app developers actively supporting the platform. YouTube TV is a example. Not only did Google beta test the app in a limited number of locations at first, but has released it on a limited Android TV device basis as well. For instance, it is no secret that Xiaomi’s Mi Box is suffering with compatibility issues with YouTube TV and while it is not great for Mi Box owners, it is not something which stops owners of an NVIDIA SHIELD, the Nexus Player, or one of the many TV sets powered by Android TV, from experiencing YouTube's live TV service. That commitment to support is what would solve both of Hulu’s issues with the platform, as developers who support the platform are likely to see support from the platform in return.