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Displaying Content in Recommendations Channels

The Android TV home screen, or simply the home screen, provides a UI that displays recommended content as a table of channels and programs. Each row is a channel. A channel contains cards for every program available on that channel:

TV home screen

This document demonstrates how to add channels and programs to the home screen, update content, handle user actions, and provide the best experience for your users. (If you'd like to dig deeper into the API, try the home screen codelab and watch the I/O 2017 Android TV session.)

Note: Recommendations channels are only available in Android 8.0 (API level 26) and later. You must use them to supply recommendations for apps running in Android 8.0 (API level 26) and later. To supply recommendations for apps running on earlier versions of Android, your app must use the recommendations row instead.

The home screen UI

Apps can create new channels, add, remove, and update the programs in a channel, and control the order of programs in a channel. For example an app can create a channel called "What's New" and show cards for newly available programs.

Apps cannot control the order in which channels appear in the home screen. When your app creates a new channel, the home screen adds it to the bottom of the channel list. The user can reorder, hide, and show channels.

The Watch Next channel

The first channel that appears in the home screen is labeled "Watch Next." The system creates and maintains this channel. Your app cannot move, remove, or hide this channel. It can add programs to this channel: programs that the user marked as interesting, stopped watching in the middle, or that are related to the content the user is watching (for instance, the next episode in a series or next season of a show).

App channels

The channels that your app creates all follow this life cycle:

  1. User discovers a channel in your app and requests to add it to the home screen.
  2. App creates the channel and adds it to the TvProvider (at this point the channel is not visible).
  3. App asks the system to display the channel.
  4. System asks user to approve the new channel.
  5. New channel appears in the last row of the home screen.

The default channel

Your app can offer any number of channels for the user to add to the home screen. The user usually has to select and approve each channel before it appears in the home screen. Every app has the option of creating one default channel. The default channel is special because it automatically appears in the home screen; the user does not have to explicitly request it.

Prerequisites

The Android TV home screen uses Android's TvProvider APIs to manage the channels and programs that your app creates. To access the provider's data, add the following permissions to your app's manifest:

<uses-permission android:name="com.android.providers.tv.permission.READ_EPG_DATA" />
<uses-permission android:name="com.android.providers.tv.permission.WRITE_EPG_DATA" />

The TvProvider support library makes it easier to use the provider. Add it to the dependencies in your build.gradle file:

compile 'com.android.support:support-tv-provider:26.0.0-beta1'

To work with channels and programs, be sure to include these support library imports in your program:

import android.support.media.tv.Channel;
import android.support.media.tv.TvContractCompat;
import android.support.media.tv.ChannelLogoUtils;
import android.support.media.tv.PreviewProgram;
import android.support.media.tv.WatchNextProgram;

Channels

The first channel your app creates becomes its default channel. The default channel automatically appears in the home screen. All other channels you create must be selected and accepted by the user before they can appear in the home screen.

Creating a channel

Your app should ask the system to show newly added channels only when it is running in the foreground. This prevents your app from displaying a dialog requesting approval to add your channel while the user is running a different app. If you try to add a channel while running in the background, the activity's onActivityResult() method returns the status code RESULT_CANCELED.

To create a channel, follow these steps:

  1. Create a channel builder and set its attributes:

    Channel.Builder builder = new Channel.Builder();
    // Every channel you create must have the type `TYPE_PREVIEW`
    builder.setType(TvContractCompat.Channels.TYPE_PREVIEW)
           .setDisplayName("Channel Name")
           .setAppLinkIntentUri(uri);
    

    The channel type must be TYPE_PREVIEW. Add more attributes as required.

  2. Insert the channel into the provider:

    Uri channelUri = context.getContentResolver().insert(
      TvContractCompat.Channels.CONTENT_URI, builder.build().toContentValues());
    

    You need to save the channel ID in order to add programs to the channel later. Extract the channel ID from the returned URI:

    long channelId = ContentUris.parseId(channelUri);
    

  3. You must add a logo for your channel. Use a Uri or Bitmap:

    // Choose one or the other
    storeChannelLogo(Context context, long channelId, Uri logoUri); // also works if logoUri is a URL
    storeChannelLogo(Context context, long channelId, Bitmap logo);
    

    The logo icon should be 80dp x 80dp, and it must be opaque. It is displayed under a circular mask:

    TV home screen icon mask

  4. Create the default channel (optional):

    When your app creates its first channel, you can make it the default channel so it appears in the home screen immediately without any user action:

    TvContractCompat.requestChannelBrowsable(context, channelId);
    

    Any other channels you create aren't visible until the user explicitly selects them.

Updating a channel

Updating channels is very similar to creating them.

Use another Channel.Builder to set the attributes that need to change.

Use the ContentResolver to update the channel. Use the channel ID that you saved when the channel was originally added:

context.getContentResolver().update(TvContractCompat.buildChannelUri(channelId),
    builder.build().toContentValues(), null, null);

To update a channel's logo, use storeChannelLogo().

Deleting a channel

context.getContentResolver().delete(TvContractCompat.buildChannelUri(channelId), null, null);

Programs

Adding programs to an app channel

Create a PreviewProgram.Builder and set its attributes:

PreviewProgram.Builder builder = new PreviewProgram.Builder();
builder.setChannelId(channelId)  
       .setType(TvContractCompat.PreviewPrograms.TYPE_CLIP)
       .setTitle("Title")
       .setDescription("Program description")
       .setPosterArtUri(uri)
       .setIntentUri(uri)
       .setInternalProviderId(appProgramId);

Add more attributes depending on the type of program. (To see the attributes available for each type of program, refer to the tables below.)

Insert the program into the provider:

Uri programUri = context.getContentResolver().insert(TvContractCompat.PreviewPrograms.CONTENT_URI,
      builder.build().toContentValues());

Retrieve the program ID for later reference:

long programId = ContentUris.parseId(programUri);

Adding programs to the Watch Next channel

Inserting programs into the Watch Next channel is the same as inserting programs into your own channel. There are four types of programs; select the appropriate type:

TypeNotes
WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_CONTINUEInserted by the app when the user stops in the middle of watching content.
WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_NEXTInserted by the app to suggest the next available program in a series the user is watching. For example, if the user is watching episode 3 of a series, the app can suggest that they watch episode 4 next.
WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_NEWInserted by the app when new content is available (new episode in a series or a new season). For example, the user is watching episode number 5 from a series and episode 6 becomes available for watching.
WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_WATCHLISTInserted by the system or the app when the user indicates that they want to save a specific program.

Use a WatchNextProgram.Builder:

WatchNextProgram.Builder builder = new WatchNextProgram.Builder();
builder.setType(TvContractCompat.WatchNextPrograms.TYPE_CLIP)
       .setWatchNextType(TvContractCompat.WatchNextPrograms.WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_CONTINUE)
       .setLastEngagementTimeUtcMillis(time)
       .setTitle("Title")
       .setDescription("Program description")
       .setPosterArtUri(uri)
       .setIntentUri(uri)
       .setInternalProviderId(appProgramId);

Uri watchNextProgramUri = context.getContentResolver()
        .insert(TvContractCompat.WatchNextPrograms.CONTENT_URI, builder.build().toContentValues());

Use TvContractCompat.buildWatchNextProgramUri(long watchNextProgramId) to create the Uri you need to update a Watch Next program.

When the user adds a program to the Watch Next channel, the system copies the program to the channel. It sends the intent TvContractCompat.ACTION_PREVIEW_PROGRAM_ADDED_TO_WATCH_NEXT to notify the app that the program has been added. The intent includes two extras: the program ID that was copied and the program ID created for the program in the Watch Next channel.

Updating a program

You can change a program's information. For example, you may want to update the rental price for a the movie, or update a progress bar showing how much of a program the user has watched.

Use a PreviewProgram.Builder to set the attributes you need to change, then call getContentResolver().update to update the program. Specify the program ID that you saved when the program was originally added:

context.getContentResolver().update(TvContractCompat.buildPreviewProgramUri(programId),
    builder.build().toContentValues(), null, null);

Deleting a program

context.getContentResolver().delete(TvContractCompat.buildPreviewProgramUri(programId), null, null);

Handling user actions

Your app can help users discover content by providing a UI to display and add channels. Your app should also handle interactions with your channels after they appear in the home screen.

Discovering and adding channels

Your app can provide a UI element that lets the user select and add its channels (for example, a button that asks to add the channel). After the user requests a specific channel, execute this code to get the user's permission to add it to the home screen UI:

Intent intent = new Intent(TvContractCompat.ACTION_REQUEST_CHANNEL_BROWSABLE);
intent.putExtra(TvContractCompat.EXTRA_CHANNEL_ID, channelId);
try {
   activity.startActivityForResult(intent, 0);
} catch (ActivityNotFoundException e) {
  // handle error
}

The system displays a dialog asking the user to approve the channel. Handle the result of the request in the onActivityResult method of your activity (Activity.RESULT_CANCELED or Activity.RESULT_OK).

Android TV home screen events

When the user interacts with the programs/channels published by the app, the home screen sends intents to the app:

Make sure to create intent filters for all the Uris that the home screen sends for user interactions; for example:

<receiver
   android:name=".WatchNextProgramRemoved"
   android:enabled="true"
   android:exported="true">
   <intent-filter>
       <action android:name="android.media.tv.ACTION_WATCH_NEXT_PROGRAM_BROWSABLE_DISABLED" />
   </intent-filter>
</receiver>

Best practices

Backwards compatibility

Attributes

This section describes the channel and program attributes separately.

Channel attributes

You must specify these attributes for every channel:

Attribute Notes
TYPE set to TYPE_PREVIEW.
DISPLAY_NAME set to the name of the channel.
APP_LINK_INTENT_URI When the user selects the channel's logo the system sends an intent to start an activity that presents content relevant to the channel. Set this attribute to the Uri used in the intent filter for that activity.

In addition, a channel also has six fields reserved for internal app usage. These fields can be used to store keys or other values that can help the app map the channel to its internal data structure:

Program attributes

Video program attributes

Attributes for video programs depend on the type of the program. Video programs can be one of these types:

Attributes fall into two groups: required attributes and optional attributes.

Required video attributes

You must specify these attributes for all types of video programs:

These attributes are required for some types of video programs and are optional for others. When an attribute is optional, it's enclosed in parenthesis:

Attribute Movie TV Series TV Season TV Episode Clip Event Channel
CONTENT_RATING (✔)(✔)(✔)
DURATION_MILLIS(✔)
EPISODE_DISPLAY_NUMBER
SEASON_DISPLAY_NUMBER
Optional video attributes

These optional attributes are available, depending on the program's type:

Attribute Movie TV Series TV Season TV Episode Clip Event Channel
AUTHOR
AVAILABILITY
CANONICAL_GENRE
EPISODE_TITLE
INTERACTION_COUNT
INTERACTION_TYPE
INTERNAL_PROVIDER_ID
ITEM_COUNT
LIVE
LOGO_URI
OFFER_PRICE
PREVIEW_VIDEO_URI
RELEASE_DATE
REVIEW_RATING
REVIEW_RATING_STYLE
SHORT_DESCRIPTION
STARTING_PRICE
THUMBNAIL_ASPECT_RATIO
THUMBNAIL_URI
VIDEO_HEIGHT
VIDEO_WIDTH
WEIGHT
Preview images

The recommended sizes for preview images are:

Aspect Ratio Width Height
16:9 272dp 153dp
3:2 229.5dp 153dp
4:3 204dp 153dp
1:1 153dp 153dp
2:3 102dp 153dp

For best quality, preview videos should be 16:9 or 4:3 and at least the sizes specified in the table above. The logo should also be opaque for the best user experience.

You can specify the exact preview video sizes using VIDEO_WIDTH and VIDEO_HEIGHT.

Audio program attributes

Attributes for audio programs depend on the type of the program. Audio programs can be one of these types:

Attributes fall into two groups: required attributes and optional attributes.

Required audio attributes

You must specify these attributes for all types of audio programs:

In addition, DURATION_MILLIS is required for audio tracks.

Optional audio attributes

These optional attributes are available, depending on the program's type:

AttributeTrackAlbumArtistPlaylistStation
AUTHOR
AVAILABILITY
INTERACTION_COUNT
INTERACTION_TYPE
INTERNAL_PROVIDER_ID
LIVE
LOGO_URI
OFFER_PRICE
PREVIEW_VIDEO_URI
RELEASE_DATE
SHORT_DESCRIPTION
STARTING_PRICE
THUMBNAIL_ASPECT_RATIO
THUMBNAIL_URI
VIDEO_HEIGHT
VIDEO_WIDTH
WEIGHT

Watch Next program attributes

When you add an audio or video program to the Watch Next channel, you must include the following attributes, in addition to the required and optional attributes for audio/video:

Attribute Notes
WATCH_NEXT_TYPE Select one of the Watch Next channel program types.
LAST_ENGAGEMENT_TIME_UTC_MILLIS The time the user/app last engaged with the program.
LAST_PLAYBACK_POSITION_MILLIS Only required for WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_CONTINUE
DURATION_MILLIS Only required for WATCH_NEXT_TYPE_CONTINUE

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