So What Exactly is Google TV, and How is it Different from Google TV?

As rumors about Google’s new Chromecast began to pile up, we started seeing more and more evidence it would run on something called Google TV — and one of the running theories was it was the new name for the Android TV operating system. But with its official unveiling earlier this week, it turns out the Chromecast with Google TV is still running on Android TV, just with a new layer on top that the company is calling Google TV. Meanwhile, the company is also renaming its Google Play Movies & TV to simply Google TV. And neither of these new instances of Google TV are directly related to the company’s discontinued smart TV platform that launched in 2010 and also went by the name Google TV. Let’s try and clear things up.

Google TV: What’s In a Name?

The company has used the term “Google TV” before, when it launched a smart TV initiative with help from Intel, Logitech, and Sony. By 2014, however, the company moved on to a new approach based on the Android operating system. That became known as Android TV, and we’ve seen several devices leverage the platform over the years, including TiVo’s Stream 4K and Nvidia’s Shield TV line.

Fast-forward to 2020, and we started seeing mention of Google TV once more, this time in rumors surrounding a new Chromecast device. However, instead of being a simple rebranding or renaming of Android TV, the version of Google TV that ships with the company’s new Chromecast can be thought of as a new software layer on top of the existing operating system. So instead of seeing the same kind of menus and interfaces you’d see on a Shield TV Pro, for example, buyers of the Chromecast will get a different experience — one deeply centered on voice commands and search. This new user interface is being made available to other device makers and, over the next couple years, it’ll eventually replace the experience current Android TV users are accustomed to. So, depending on how you look at it, earlier rumors that Google TV would replace Android TV aren’t off base — it’ll just be a longer process than some were predicting.

But that’s not all. Google is also renaming its existing Google Play Movies & TV, which will now be known as simply “Google TV.” This version, available first to Android phone users, is an app you can use to buy or rent content, just like you would with the Play Movies & TV app. So yes: We have two, distinct things called Google TV right now, and which one you’d turn to depends on which device you’re using.

Chromcast-with-Google-TV

So What Can You Do In Google TV or Google TV?

The app version of Google TV, the one that replaces Google Play Movies & TV, serves as a content aggregator, meaning it can pull from a variety of services and offer them up in one place you. So, if you searched for a specific show or movie, the app would offer up which service, or services, currently offer the content you’re looking for. As of now, here are the services currently supported by the app version of Google TV:

  • ABC
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • AMC
  • A&E
  • CBS All Access
  • Crackle
  • Comedy Central
  • DC Universe
  • Disney NOW
  • Disney+
  • Epix Now
  • Fox Now
  • Hulu
  • HBO Go
  • HBO Max
  • History
  • Lifetime
  • MTV
  • NBC
  • Netflix
  • Pluto TV
  • Showtime
  • Showtime Anytime
  • Sling TV
  • Starz
  • TBS
  • The CW
  • TNT
  • Tubi TV
  • VH1

On the new Chromecast, Google TV serves as the user interface you’ll see when you use the device. If you’re used to standard Android TV, this new approach might require some adjustment. Movies, shows, and other content are arranged by category, regardless of which service is offering up the title itself. So you’ll see options from, say, Disney+ side-by-side with Netflix movies. You can customize things to highlight the services you’re subscribed to, but early reviews indicate you’ll still see content suggestions from other services you’re not signed up for.

Google TV Screenshot
HBO Max content is displayed alongside Amazon Prime Video offerings on the new Chromecast with Google TV.

In all, regardless of which one you’re using, Google TV looks to gather up various services and make it easier for you to sort through them. Again, which one you’ll interact with depends on which device you’re using, but both currently offer up a solid glimpse at where Google plans to take streaming content in the future.