13 March 2015

Haystack TV Doubles Engagement with Android TV

Posted by Joshua Gordon, Developer Advocate

Haystack TV is a small six person startup with an ambitious goal: personalize the news. Traditionally, watching news on TV means viewing a list of stories curated by the network. Wouldn’t it be better if you could watch a personalized news channel, based on interesting YouTube stories?

Haystack already had a mobile app, but entering the living room space seemed daunting. Although “Smart TVs” have been on the market for a while, they remain challenging for developers to work with. Many hardware OEMs have proprietary platforms, but Android TV is different. It’s an open ecosystem with great developer resources. Developers can reach millions of users with familiar Android APIs. If you have an existing Android app, it’s easy to bring it to the living room.

Two weeks was all it took for Haystack TV to bring their mobile app to Android TV. That includes building an immersive, cinematic UI (a task greatly simplified by the Android framework). Since launching on Android TV, Haystack TV’s viewership is growing at 40% per month. Previously, users were spending about 40 minutes watching content on mobile per week. Now that’s up to 80 minutes in the living room. Their longest engagements are through Chromecast and Android TV.

Hear from Daniel Barreto, CEO of Haystack TV, on developing for Android TV

Haystack TV’s success on Android TV is a great example of how the Android multi-form factor developer experience shines. Once you’ve learned the ropes of writing Android apps, developing for another form factor (Wear, Auto, TV) is simple.

Android TV helps you create cinematic UIs

Haystack TV’s UI is smooth and cinematic. How were they able to build a great one so quickly? Developing an immersive UI/UX with Android TV is surprisingly easy. The Leanback support library provides fragments for browsing content, showing a details screen, and search. You can use these to get transitions and animations almost for free. To learn more about building UIs for Android TV, watch the Using the Leanback Library DevByte and check out the code samples.

Browsing recommended stories

Your content, front and center

The recommendations row is a central feature of the Android TV home screen. It’s the first thing users see when they turn on their TVs. You can surface content to appear on the recommendations row by implementing the recommendation service. For example, your app can suggest videos your users will want to watch next (say, the next episode in a series, or a related news story). This is great for getting noticed and increasing engagements.

Make your content searchable

How can users find their favorite movie or show from a library of thousands? On Android TV, they can search for it using their voice. This is much faster and more relaxing than typing on the screen with a remote control! In addition to providing in-app search, your app can surface content to appear on the global search results page. The framework takes care of speech recognition for you and delivers the result to your app as a plain text string.

Next Steps

Android TV makes it possible for small startups to create apps for the living room. There are extensive developer resources. For an overview, watch the Introduction to Android TV DevByte. For details, see the developer training docs. Watch this episode of Coffee with a Googler to learn more about the vision for the platform. To get started on your app, visit developer.android.com/tv.