TV apps use the same structure as apps for phones and tablets. This similarity means you can modify your existing apps to also run on TV devices or create new apps based on what you already know about building apps for Android.
Important: Your app must meet specific requirements to qualify as an Android TV app on Google Play. For more information, see the requirements listed in TV app quality.
This guide describes how to prepare your development environment for building TV apps and the minimum required changes to enable an app to run on TV devices.
For information about designing apps for TV, see Designing for TV and Build TV layouts. To review a sample TV app, see the Android Leanback sample app in the Android TV GitHub repository .
Determine media format support
See the following documentation for information about the codecs, protocols, and formats supported by Android TV:
Set up a TV project
This section discusses how to set up a TV project, whether you are modifying an existing Android app to run on TV devices or creating a new TV app. If you have an existing Android app, adding Android TV support lets you design a user interface for TV while re-using your existing app architecture.
There are two main components you use when creating an app that runs on TV devices:
- Activity for TV: In your application manifest, declare an activity that is intended to run on TV devices.
- TV libraries: Optionally, include one or more of the androidx libraries available for TV devices, which are listed in another section of this guide. These libraries provide widgets for building user interfaces.
Before you begin building an app for TV, you must take the following steps:
Update your SDK tools to version 24.0.0 or higher.
The updated SDK tools let you build and test apps for TV.
- Update your SDK with Android 5.0 (API 21) or higher.
The updated platform version provides new APIs for TV apps.
Create or update your app project.
To access new APIs for TV devices, create a project or modify an existing project that targets Android 5.0 (API level 21) or higher.
Declare a TV activity
An application intended to run on TV devices must declare a launcher activity for TV
in its manifest. It uses a
filter to do this. This filter identifies your app as being enabled for TV and lets
Google Play identify it as a TV app. When a user selects your app on their TV home screen,
this intent identifies which activity to launch.
The following code snippet shows how to include this intent filter in your manifest:
<application android:banner="@drawable/banner" > ... <activity android:name="com.example.android.MainActivity" android:label="@string/app_name" > <intent-filter> <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" /> </intent-filter> </activity> <activity android:name="com.example.android.TvActivity" android:label="@string/app_name" android:theme="@style/Theme.Leanback"> <intent-filter> <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LEANBACK_LAUNCHER" /> </intent-filter> </activity> </application>
The second activity manifest entry in this example specifies that it is the activity to launch on a TV device.
Caution: If you don't include the
CATEGORY_LEANBACK_LAUNCHER intent filter in
your app, it's not visible to users running Google Play on TV devices. Also, if your
app doesn't have this filter when you use developer tools to load it onto a TV device, the app
does not appear in the TV user interface.
Your TV app's user interface, or the TV portion of your existing app, must provide a simple interface for easy navigation using a remote control from 10 feet away. If you are modifying an existing app for use on TV, don't use the same activity layout for TV that you use for phones and tablets. For guidelines on designing an app for TV, see Designing for TV. For more information on the minimum implementation requirements for interface layouts on TV, see Build TV layouts.
Declare Leanback support
Declare that your app uses the Leanback user interface required by Android TV. If your
app runs on mobile as well as Android TV, set the
required attribute value to
false. If you set the
required attribute value
true, your app can only run on devices that use the Leanback UI.
<manifest> <uses-feature android:name="android.software.leanback" android:required="false" /> ... </manifest>
Declare touchscreen not required
Applications that are intended to run on TV devices don't rely on touch screens for input.
To make this clear, your TV app's manifest must declare that the
android.hardware.touchscreen feature is not required. This setting identifies your app as being
able to work on a TV device, and it is required for your app to be considered a TV app in Google
Play. The following code example shows how to include this manifest declaration:
<manifest> <uses-feature android:name="android.hardware.touchscreen" android:required="false" /> ... </manifest>
Caution: In your app manifest, you must declare that a touch screen is not required, as shown this example code. Otherwise, your app doesn't appear in Google Play on TV devices.
Provide a home screen banner
If an application includes a Leanback launcher intent filter, it must provide a home screen banner image for each localization. The banner is the app launch point that appears on the home screen in the apps and games rows. To add the banner to your app, describe the banner in the manifest as follows:
<application ... android:banner="@drawable/banner" > ... </application>
attribute with the
tag, to supply a default banner for all application activities, or with the
tag to supply a banner for a specific activity.
For the banner, use an xhdpi resource with a size of 320 x 180 px. Text must be included in the image. If your app is available in more than one language, you must provide separate versions of the banner with text for each supported language.
Change the launcher color
Caution: In Android 12 and higher, custom splash screen animations built using the
SplashScreen platform API are not supported for Android TV apps.
When a TV app launches, the system displays an animation that resembles an expanding, filled
circle. To customize the color of this animation, set the
attribute of your TV app or activity to a specific color. Also, set two
transition overlap attributes to
true as shown in the following snippet from a
theme resource XML file:
<resources> <style ... > <item name="android:colorPrimary">@color/primary</item> <item name="android:windowAllowReturnTransitionOverlap">true</item> <item name="android:windowAllowEnterTransitionOverlap">true</item> </style> </resources>
For more information about working with themes and styles, see Styles and Themes.
Add TV libraries
Jetpack includes androidx package libraries for use with TV apps. These libraries provide APIs and user interface widgets for TV devices:
Build TV apps
After you complete the previously listed steps, it is time to start building apps for the big screen! Check out these additional topics to help you build your app for TV:
- Build TV playback apps: TVs are built to entertain, so Android provides a set of user interface tools and widgets for building TV apps that play videos and music and let users browse for the content they want.
- Help users find your content on Android TV: With all the content choices at users' fingertips, helping them find content they enjoy is almost as important as providing that content. This guide discusses how to surface your content on TV devices.
- Build TV games: TV devices are a great platform for games. See this topic for information on building great game experiences for TV.
- Build TV input services: Present your video content in a linear, "broadcast TV" style with channels and programs that your users can access through a program guide as well as the channel up or down buttons.
Run TV apps
Running your app is an important part of the development process. You can run your app on TV devices configured to support USB debugging or use virtual TV devices.
Run on a real device
Set up your TV device as follows:
- Use a USB cable to connect your TV device to your development machine. If needed, refer to documentation provided by your device manufacturer.
- On your TV device, navigate to Settings.
- In the Device row, select About.
- Scroll down to Build and select Build several times until you get the message "You are now a developer!"
- Return to Settings. In the Preferences row, select Developer options.
- Select Debugging > USB debugging and select On.
- Navigate back to the TV home screen.
To test your application on your TV device:
- In Android Studio, select your project and click Run from the toolbar.
- In the Select Deployment Target window, select your TV device and click OK.
Run on a virtual device
The AVD Manager in the Android SDK provides device definitions that let you create virtual TV devices for running and testing your applications.
To create a virtual TV device:
- Start the AVD Manager. For more information, see Create and manage virtual devices.
- In the AVD Manager dialog, click the Device Definitions tab.
- Select one of the Android TV device definitions and click Create AVD.
- Select the emulator options and click OK to create the AVD.
Note: For best performance of the TV emulator device, use the x86 emulator and enable the Use Host GPU option. Also use virtual device acceleration when it's available. For more information on the emulator's hardware acceleration, see Configure hardware acceleration for the Android Emulator.
To test your application on the virtual TV device:
- In Android Studio, select your project and click Run from the toolbar.
- In the Select Deployment Target window, select your virtual TV device and click OK.
For more information about using emulators, see Run apps on the Android Emulator. For more information on deploying apps from Android Studio to virtual devices, see Debug your app.
Enable your TV app to run as an instant experience
Instant experiences make it easy for users to try out your TV app and can help increase adoption.
To set up your TV app to run as an instant app on an Android TV device or emulator, first follow the instructions to create an instant-enabled app bundle.
Next, in the
intent-filter for your TV app's
MainActivity, be sure that both
LEANBACK_LAUNCHER are declared in
<activity android:name="com.example.android.MainActivity" android:label="@string/app_name" > <intent-filter> <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" /> <category android:name="android.intent.category.LEANBACK_LAUNCHER" /> </intent-filter> </activity>
Your TV app is now configured to run as an instant experience.
Prepare your TV app for publication
Review the TV Apps checklist for the next steps to prepare your TV app for publication and distribution.