Google TV is taking another step in its takeover of Google Play Movies. The app is rolling out to iOS on Wednesday, where it is an in-place upgrade for Google Play Movies & TV. As announced in March, Play Movies & TV is also losing its spot in the Play Store on Android this week, where it was a top-level tab. There’s now not much left of Play Movies & TV or Google’s original ambitions for the Play brand.
We can talk about the new thing first: The Google TV app is out on iOS. On Android, the app is part media store, part content-aggregation guide. You might have noticed that there are a lot of streaming services. Google TV is like a modern-day TV guide, letting you know what shows are playing on which apps, and that function is making the jump to iOS. Google says iOS users can “take your library on the go” but only for “movies and shows you have previously rented or purchased with your Google account.” So it sounds like the store part of Google TV is not making the cut. If you have to run the Android TV or Google TV operating systems on your TV, you can also now use your iOS device as a remote control.
Google also finally went ahead with its plan to strip video purchases from the Play Store this week, making Google TV (well, and YouTube, I guess) the primary way to buy video content from Google on Android. Google Play was originally envisioned as an all-encompassing media empire, covering Google Play Music, Google Play Magazines/Newsstand, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books, all sold inside the Google Play Store. The Play Store ships as the default app store on all of the world’s 3 billion Android devices (“Android” is a registered trademark of Google and does not include forks). Lining Google’s highly trafficked app store with a slew of media content stores seemed (and still seems) like a solid strategy.
Google can’t stick with it, though, and turned what’s left of these media stores into standalone properties. Newsstand/Magazines was shut down in favor of Google News in 2018. Google Music was tragically shut down for YouTube Music in 2020. Play Movies has been headed out the door since Google TV’s launch in 2020, and now the Play Store only sells the awkward combination of apps and books.
Play Movies & TV is not getting as clean of a death as other Google Play brands. Contrary to its name, Google TV also handles movie duties on some platforms, but so does YouTube, and Play Movies still exists for some platforms and countries. Google has a support page detailing its definitely-not-dysfunctional video app lineup, showing which of its three competing brands are available on specific platforms. Phones still apparently have YouTube, Play Movies & TV, and Google TV, depending on your country. On the web, you can still pick from Google Play or YouTube.
Smart TVs are super complicated: On third-party platforms like Roku, you have to use the YouTube app. Google does not provide a Google TV app for Android TV; instead, you’ll still have to use the Play Movies & TV app. Google has a new fork of Android TV, also called “Google TV” (this one is a whole operating system), which integrates Google TV the service into the operating system. That sort of explains why Android TV doesn’t have a Google TV app.
Unilaterally replacing everything with Google’s strongest media content brand—YouTube—would make the most sense, but rights negotiations would complicate that. Google Play Movies & TV is offering purchases in 117 countries, while YouTube has only struck deals to offer purchases in 46 countries. There’s also already a service called “YouTube TV,” but that’s a cable TV replacement. Ars Technica