Google plans to add free channels to Google TV

Google is looking to make Chromecast more attractive. So the company plans to add free TV channels to Google TV, the Android smart TV platform that powers Chromecast as well as select smart TVs from companies including Sony and TCL. In order to achieve this, the company has held talks with companies that distribute so-called FAST (Free, Ad-supported TV) channels. These channels have the look of traditional TV networks, complete with ad breaks and graphics across the screen.

And the free Google TV streaming channels could launch as early as this fall. But the company may also wait to announce the initiative jointly with its smart TV partners in early 2022. Chromecast owners will likely be able to browse channels through the dedicated Live TV menu, which the company has used so far to provide access to pay-TV services such as its YouTube TV subscription service.

On smart TVs, broadcast channels are expected to be shown along with over-the-air programming that can be accessed using an antenna. This approach mirrors the way TV makers such as LG and Samsung have integrated free-to-air channels into their platforms. For these TV makers, free channels became a hit. Samsung alone broadcasts billions of minutes on TV Plus every month.

This success prompted other TV platform operators to adopt it as well. Roku has added more than 200 free channels to its platform, and both VIZIO and Amazon have adopted direct channels across their devices as well. Most smart TV makers integrate these channels directly into their existing program guides, allowing for a seamless transition from live TV to broadcast channels. This turns FAST Ducts into a free alternative to basic cable.

The growing demand for free streaming channels has been met by the growing interest from media companies looking for ways to monetize. AMC Networks, for example, launched multiple FAST channels, including one dedicated to The Walking Dead and one featuring IFC comedies like Portlandia. Other media companies that have their own free streaming channels include Weather Channel, Scripps, Meredith, Reuters, and Bloomberg.

It is not clear which of these channels find their way to Google TV. But Google is expected to make deals that give the company bulk access to dozens of free channels. And when Google unveiled Android TV in 2014. It included the Live Channels app designed to aggregate live programming from streaming apps and stations. However, the application did not gain much traction. And Google didn't port it to Chromecast when it relaunched the mini-streaming device a year ago.


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