Extend your media app to Android TV

Android offers a rich user experience that's optimized for apps running on large screen devices, such as high-definition televisions. You can extend your app's audience by developing it for Android TV. This document provides guidance on how to do it effectively.

Build TV apps

TV apps use the same structure as those for phones and tablets. This approach means you can create new TV apps based on what you already know about building apps for Android, or extend your existing apps to also run on TV devices.

However, the user interaction model for TV is substantially different from phone and tablet devices. In order to make your app successful on TV devices, you must design new layouts that can be clearly understood from 10 feet away, and provide navigation that works with just a directional pad and a select button.

For more information about considerations such as how to handle TV hardware controllers, building TV layouts, and creating TV navigation, see Build TV apps.

Use Media3 ExoPlayer

Jetpack Media3 provides a Player interface that defines basic features such as the ability to play, pause, seek, and display track information. ExoPlayer is the default implementation of this interface in Media3.

Compared to Android's MediaPlayer API, it adds additional conveniences such as support for multiple streaming protocols, default audio and video renderers, and components that handle media buffering.

You can customize and extend ExoPlayer, and it can be updated through Play Store application updates. For more information, see Media3 ExoPlayer.

Use Media3 MediaSession

Media sessions provide a universal way for the system to interact with your app's audio or video player. One of the primary characteristics that distinguishes Media3 from previous media APIs is that there is no longer a need for connectors between components.

The new MediaSession class takes any class that implements the Player interface. Both ExoPlayer and MediaController are classes which implement that interface. This facilitates much simpler interaction between the components. For more information, see The Player interface.

For more information about creating a media playback app, see Create a basic media player using ExoPlayer.

To create the best experience for the end users of your media app, you need to implement MediaSession. To do so, initialize a Player and supply it to MediaSession.Builder like this:


val player = ExoPlayer.Builder(context).build()
val mediaSession = MediaSession.Builder(context, player).build()


ExoPlayer player = new ExoPlayer.Builder(context).build();
MediaSession mediaSession = new MediaSession.Builder(context, player).build();

Automatic state handling

The Media3 library automatically updates the media session using the player's state. As such, you don't need to manually handle the mapping from player to session. This helps ensure that your users always see the up-to-date information on the playing media, including in the Now Playing card.

Control and advertise playback

In Media3, the default player is the ExoPlayer class, which implements the Player interface. Connecting the media session to the player allows an app to advertise media playback externally and to receive playback commands from external sources. The media session delegates these commands to the media app's player.

The media session is the key to controlling playback. It lets you route commands from external sources to the player that does the work of playing your media. External clients can use a media controller to issue playback commands to your media app. These are received by your media session, which ultimately delegates commands to the media player.

For more information about playback, such as how to customize playback command behavior, see Control and advertise playback using MediaSession.

Avoid disruptions in your app

Using MediaSession lets you avoid unnecessary disruptions such as:

  • Unexpected and continued playback when switching off the TV or switching TV inputs. This also causes high energy consumption for TV hardware. With MediaSession, your app can inform the platform that it's playing media, and the platform is able to inform the app that playback can stop.

  • Music playback stops unexpectedly when switching out of the app, or switching off the TV display. Using MediaSession APIs enables continued playback in a background service.

  • Restricted interaction with content that inhibits users from controlling playback. For example, returning to your app if it's playing music in the background, or supporting voice commands. With MediaSession in your app, users can use voice commands to seek and skip songs or episodes.

Further Considerations

As you extend your media app to Android for TV, you need to consider accessibility issues, how to drive engagement, how to enable users to find content, as well as how to build games and TV input services.

TV accessibility

Although assistive technologies can and do help users with low vision, it's important to support accessibility in content discovery journeys for TV apps.

For example, pay extra attention to providing navigation guidance and properly labeling elements, and help ensure that TV apps work well with accessibility features like TalkBack. These steps can significantly improve the experience for users with vision impairments.

The first step toward improving accessibility is awareness. For more information about text scaling, keyboard layouts, and audio descriptions, see accessibility resources.

Best practices to drive engagement on Google TV

All apps built for Android TV work on devices running Google TV. To provide the best user experience on Google TV, we recommend that you apply the following best practices.

You need to use MediaSession, to provide a universal way of interacting with an audio or video player. For more information about how to implement this, see Use Media3 MediaSession.

As a baseline, your app needs to support Google Cast. It lets you extend your Android, iOS, and Chrome apps to enable audio and video streaming to Android TVs as well as Chromecast devices and Assistant devices. For more information, see the Google Cast documentation.

You also can help users:

  • Discover content across surfaces by offering a media actions feed, or integrating Watch Next.

  • Take advantage of voice and engagement by supporting account linking and entitlement sync, offering voice casting, and enabling Cast Connect.

  • Pay more easily by integrating Google Play billing, and providing frictionless subscriptions.

Build TV input framework

Watching live TV shows and other continuous, channel-based content is a big part of the TV experience. Users are accustomed to selecting and watching shows on TV by channel browsing. The TV Input Framework creates channels for publishing ideo or music content in the TV programming guide.

The TV Input Framework provides a unified method for the receiving and playback of live video content from hardware sources, such as HDMI ports and built-in-tuners, and software sources, such as video streamed over the internet. For further information, see Build TV input services.