It sure seems like “Google Play Movies & TV,” Google’s video content store, is on the way out. Late last year, the Android version of the Play Movies & TV app was rebranded as “Google TV,” and now, Google is announcing (via 9to5Google) that on many smart TV platforms, Google’s purchased video content will be accessible from the YouTube app. The transition will start June 15, when Google says the “Google Play Movies & TV app will no longer be available on Roku, Samsung, LG, and Vizio smart TVs.”
Like any Google service transition (we are experts at this by now), this move comes with some caveats. Google notes that all your old purchases will be available on YouTube, but new purchases made on YouTube don’t support family sharing across family-member accounts. The Google Play TV watchlist also won’t be making the jump. Additionally, there are several forum complaints already saying that the YouTube app on certain platforms lacks the surround sound audio or HDR support that Play Movies had.
Google Play Movies & TV launched in 2012 (previously, it was “Google Movies”) as a way to buy and rent professional, Hollywood-style video content through Google’s ecosystem. It launched as part of the unified Google Play ecosystem, alongside the Google Play app store, Google Play Books, Play Music, and Play Magazines. Google Play Magazines eventually became Google Play Newsstand and shut down in 2018 in favor of the revamped Google News. Google Play Music died in 2020, and users were pushed to YouTube Music. That makes two dead Google Play brands so far.
As for Play Movies & TV, the app has already been replaced on Android phones, where it is now called “Google TV.” Google launched this app alongside another “Google TV” product, the Google TV operating system, which is an eventual replacement for Android TV and first shipped on the latest Chromecast. Both Google TVs, in addition to being Google content stores, aggregate content from other services, like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.
Google’s half-launched, inconsistent rebranding efforts make watching a purchased Google movie a complicated proposition. The company has a whole “where you can watch” support page explaining which brands exist on which platforms. On Android, purchased content is available on the YouTube app and Google TV, while on iOS, you can pick from YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV, since the app hasn’t been rebranded yet. On the web, content lives on the YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV website. On smart TVs mentioned in today’s announcement, you’re looking for the YouTube app, while on Android TV, which is still around, you want Play Movies & TV. It’s also apparently possible to play purchased content on the YouTube TV app (Google’s monthly-fee cable TV replacement) but the support article does not mention this.
The situation will probably be further complicated by which country you’re in. According to Google’s support pages, Google Play Movies & TV supports purchased movies in 117 counties and TV shows in nine countries, while YouTube only supports movies in 44 countries and TV shows in eight. That doesn’t bode well for a smooth transition, but Google has two months to figure it out.