Simple Live Channels library for Android TV


This project has been deprecated in favor of the Tv Input Framework Companion Library. You can learn more on the Android Developers Blog or through the post on Android TV News.

This libray decouples the player from the model, and makes several improvements overall. It's a complete rewrite of this project, and it is much cleaner.

What is this?

I had already gotten some experience with creating an app which supported Android TV's Live Channels when I developed and published Cumulus TV.

As a fan of the feature, I wanted more apps to implement it. However, I knew firsthand that it could be difficult and time consuming. You had to deal with sync adapters, sqlite, and a lot of Live Channel code which isn't documented very much. (StackOverflow is not going to help.)

ChannelSurfer takes care of all these headaches. You can simply use a single class to take care of both the EPG (electronic program guide) and playback. It contains all the boilerplate code and XML files which can simply be imported by:

compile 'com.github.fleker:channelsurfer:0.2.12'

Manifest Changes

The necessary permissions are already added to your app, as are a built-in SyncAdapter and DummyAccount implementation.

You do need to add a service to the manifest. This service is your Tv Input Provider.

            <action android:name="" />
            android:resource="@xml/channel_surfer_tv_input" />

It is using the permission android.permission.BIND_TV_INPUT and has an intnet for being a Tv Input Service. This service will also have meta-data linking to an xml file that is included in the library.

You also need to have another piece of meta-data inside your application. This will tell the library which service you have selected so it can interface with it.

        android:value="com.hitherejoe.vineyard.livechannels.VineInputProvider" />

An activity needs to be declared that is opened when Live Channels sets up your source. It must be declared in the manifest as well:

            <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />

And as a string resource pointing to it must declare the full class name:

<string name="tv_input_activity">com.felkertech.sample.channelsurfer.SampleTvSetup</string>

But this can simply extend the SimpleTvSetup activity without overriding any methods.

public class SampleTvSetup extends SimpleTvSetup {


If you want to provide an icon for your app in the system's account settings, you can provide a custom drawable named ic_account.

Customizing Sync Adapter

You can't do this yet. Neither can you configure the DummyAccount class. If people think it's a good idea, I'm all for it.

Customizing Setup Activity

The default setup activity is not very attractive. You may want to create a setup activity that uses your own branding. If so, your Setup Activity can override a couple of methods.

public void displayLayout() 

The displayLayout method, as the name suggests, sets the content view of your window based on a layout. Any view based logic should be placed here.

public void setupTvInputProvider()

The setupTvInputProvider method is called when the syncing process begins. This methods should contain your activity's behaviors. If you override this, make sure you call requestSync at some point.


Create your service with the same package and class name as stated above. This service should extend one of the following classes:

When this happens you will be asked to implement a handful of classes.

NOTE: This service must have a constructor with no parameters. It doesn't have to be populated.

public SampleTvInputProvider() { }

Methods to Override

List<Channel> getAllChannels(Context)

This method is meant to return all of the channels that this app provides. You can return a list where each item is a channel that you want to appear in the Live Channels app.

List<Program> getProgramsForChannel(Context, Uri channelUri, Channel channelInfo, long startTimeMs, long endTimeMs)

This method is meant to return all of the programs within a given time interval (now to two weeks from now) for a specific channel. If you don't have any specific programs, you can use the getGenericProgram method listed a little later. However, you still need to adjust the start and end time for each program.

boolean onSetSurface(Surface surface)

NOT required in the MediaPlayerInputProvider

When the channel is loaded, it applies a surface. You can use this surface to display media.

void onSetStreamVolume(float volume)

NOT required in the MediaPlayerInputProvider

This method is called when the channel's volume changes.

void onRelease()

NOT required in the MediaPlayerInputProvider

This method is called when the service closes.

View onCreateOverlayView()

You can display a view on top of your media source. Ordinarily this will be used for something simple like closed captioning but it can consist of any type of view.

If you don't plan on using this, you can simply return null.

boolean onTune(Channel channel)

This method is called when a particular channel is selected. You will have to adjust what media is being played to reflect the channel switch.

Other Useful Methods

void performCustomSync(SyncAdapter syncAdapter, String inputId)

If you are pulling channel and program data from a web source or are otherwise doing it asynchronously, override the performCustomSync method and grab your data. Once you're done syncing, call super.performCustomSync to finish syncing.

List<Channel> getCurrentChannels(Context mContext)

You can get a list of channels that are already available in Live Channels

List<Program> getPrograms(Context mContext, Uri channelUri)

You can get a list of programs already available in Live Channels for a given channel

Program getGenericProgram(Channel channel)

You can create a simple program object that can be placed in the guide if you don't want to develop a static program guide. It'll be called "{channel name} Live".

void notifyVideoAvailable()

When your video is available, notify the system so that it can display the channel surface.

void notifyVideoUnavailable(int reason)

When your video is not available, notify the system with a particular reason to not display janky or borken media. You can use on the constants below.

void setOverlayEnabled(boolean enable)

To display your custom view on top of the channel surface, you must enable it. Additionally, you must notify the system that your video is available.

Program getProgramRightNow(Channel channel)

What's playing on a given channel right now? This method returns that program.

Get Nearest Hour / Half-Hour

Rounding is nice. Many channels will organize programs into hour or half-hour segments so that it's easy for people to remember.

getNearestHour() and getNearestHalfHour() will round the current time down to the hour or half-hour respectively so you can quickly insert those times into your programs.

You can also pass any number of milliseconds and that time will be rounded down as well.

Get local video uri

If your stream is playing a video that already exists, you can use the method getLocalVideoUri(int resId, String packageName) to get the Uri of this video as a string. There is an alias method getLocalAudioUri(int resId, String packageName) which can be used for local audio files.


What if you could set any website as a Live Channel? There's any easy way to do that. Just extend the WebViewInputProvider class. It simplifies the methods that you need to override.

In your onTune method, you can simply call loadUrl(String url) to load the site.


The MediaPlayer class is built-in, but the external ExoPlayer library provides more functionality and support. This class can play most types of video URLs through the play(String) method.


If you plan for your TvInputService to use both video streams through ExoPlayer and load websites, you can extend this class. When you start a program through the play method, it will play a video or open a website depending on the type of URL passed.

Additional APIs

When running a website, you may want to procedurally input content to get the site to behave in particular ways. There are some APIs that can be used to do this.


This is the simplest class, designed for any sort of web URL or web stream. All you have to do is provide a list of channels, making sure you provide a URL in the setInternalProviderData(String) method. Program generation and playback are provided.



The channel class represents a single channel, or a single stream of content. A channel should, at the very least, have a channel name and channel number.

Methods Return Description
Channel() Channel Creates a new channel object
getNumber() String Returns the channel number
setNumber(String) Channel Changes the channel number, returns itself
getName() String Returns the name of the channel
setName(String) Channel Changes the channel name, returns itself
getLogoUrl() String Returns the URL of the channel's logo
setLogoUrl(String) Channel Changes the channel logo, returns itself
getOriginalNetworkId() int Returns the channel's original network id (don't worry about this)
setOriginalNetworkId(int) Channel Changes the channel's original network id (don't wory about this)
getTransportStreamId() int Returns the channel's transport stream id (don't worry about this)
setTransportStreamId(int) Channel Changes the channel's transport stream id (don't wory about this)
getServiceId() int Returns the channel's service id (don't worry about this)
setServiceId(int) Channel Changes the channel's service id (don't wory about this)
getVideoWidth() int Gets the width of a standard video on this channel
setVideoWidth(int) Channel Changes the width of a standard video on the channel (ie. 1920), returns itself
getVideoheight() int Gets the height of a standard video on this channel
setVideoheight(int) Channel Changes the height of a standard video on the channel (ie. 1080), returns itself
getInternalProviderData() String Gets a user-defined string of data
setInternalProviderData(String) Channel Changes the user-defined string of data
getPrograms() List<Program> Returns a list of programs that are on this channel
setPrograms(List<Program>) Channel Sets the list of programs that are on this channel, returns itself. Note this will not be used. You should set your programs through the getProgramsForChannel method.
toString() String Returns a string representation of this channel


The program class represents a single program, ie. a single tv show, movie, or video.

To create a new Program, create a new Program.Builder() object.

Methods in Program.Builder

Method Name Description
setProgramId(long) Sets the id of this program
setTitle(String) Sets the name of this program, ie. the series name
setEpisodeTitle(String) For episodic content, this sets the title of that particular episode
setSeasonNumber(int) For episodic content, this sets the season or series of that particular episode
setEpisodeNumber(int) For episodic content, this sets the number of that particular episode within a given season
setStartTimeUtcMillis(long) Sets the start time of this program, in MS since the Unix epoch
setEndTimeUtcMillis(long) Sets the end time of this program, in MS since the Unix epoch
setDescription(String) Sets the description of your program, can be an episode summary. It should <= 255 chars
setLongDescription(String) Sets a long description of your program. This is optional, and it doesn't seem exposed in the UI at the moment
setVideoWidth(int) Sets the video width for this program
setVideoHeight(int) Sets the video height for this program
setContentRatings(TvContentRating[]) Sets the ratings for your program ,useful for parental controls, but not strictly necessary
setPosterArtUri(String) Sets the location for the program's poster art; can be null
setThumbnailUri(String) Sets the location for the program's thumbnail; can be null
setCanonicalGenres(String) Sets the program's genres. When set, they will allow users to find this program by filtering in the program guide
setInternalProviderData(String) If you want to set any particular data, here is where you would do it
build() This creates your program object
setChannelId(long) Sets the channel. (Don't worry about this)

Methods in Program Class

When you finished building your program, there are more things you can do with it. There are getters for all of the properties that you have set. Additionally,

setStartTimeUtcMillis(long) and setEndTimeUtcMillis(long) allow you to adjust the start and end time for a given program, fine tuning it until you return the final list for syncing.

To find out how long a program is in milliseconds, call the getDuration() method.

Time Shifting

In many modern channel streaming services, you don't only have to provide a live stream of the chosen content but also the ability to pause and move back in time. For some Tv input services, this may not be valid if it's being streamed directly from a third-party stream. However, for channels and programs that have this ability, it should be implemented to provide users the best experience.

In order to support time shifting, your TvInputProvider must implement the TimeShiftable interface and then implement the methods. It does not appear as if these APIs enabled in the Live Channels app though.

Note: these APIs on only available on Android Marshmallow (API version 23) or higher


Returning generic channels

In a Live Channel for quick videos, like a stream of Vines, it may not make sense to add hundreds of tiny videos to a guide. Instead, you can just display long chunks of time devoted to streams.

In this snippet, we create a number of programs, each an hour long on the hour, with some custom properties based on the channel name.

public List<Program> getProgramsForChannel(Uri channelUri, Channel channelInfo, long startTimeMs, long endTimeMs) {
    int programs = (int) ((endTimeMs-startTimeMs)/1000/60/60); //Hour long segments
    int SEGMENT = 1000*60*60; //Hour long segments
    List<Program> programList = new ArrayList<>();
    for(int i=0;i<programs;i++) {
        programList.add(new Program.Builder(getGenericProgram(channelInfo))
                        .setStartTimeUtcMillis((getNearestHour() + SEGMENT * i))
                        .setEndTimeUtcMillis((getNearestHour() + SEGMENT * (i + 1)))
    return programList;

Release Notes