Why Is Google Bothering With TV?

If at first you don't succeed, let Google try.

The search company announced its plans to merge the Web and TV yesterday with its new Google TV service. In short, they're bringing their Chrome Web browser, their mobile phone applications and search to TV. But nearly every major tech company has failed at uniting TV and the Web, so why is Google trying and what do they hope will set them apart?

Answering why is easy: the amount of ad money spent online last year, $22.7 billion, was one-third the size of that spent on TV. It stands to reason that the Web's largest ad company would want to cash in on the much-larger $68.9 billion TV ad market. But Google doesn't just want a piece of the TV ad market, it wants to wring even more money from it: "we can do even more relevant television advertising, which should be worth a lot of money," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said.

But as paidContent's Staci Kramer reminds us, Google is entering a minefield:

Anyone remember Intel Viiv? Web TV? Joost? Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Connected Life? Paul Allen's Wired World? The myriad set-top boxes and streaming devices? Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) TV? Digeo? Insert your own examples here. They were either ahead of their time, not ready for prime time, or in some cases, not worth the time.

And CNet counts nineteen mostly defunct or never truly popular Web gadgets.

Google hopes to find success by delivering what it already does well online: simplicity and search. The heart of Google TV is a simple search box and the service will deliver targeted content and most likely ads, too. A new feature called YouTube Lean Back will deliver a simple, personalized feed of videos your friends or Google's algorithm's recommend.

But how Google implements its PageRank search algorithm is most important, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban argues. If a search fails to promote the right content, then broadcasters, media companies and customers won't get on board. "It will be a mess. That would kill the product because if it doesn't work with the TV shows you want to watch, why buy it?"

Given the many failed attempts at uniting TV and the net, opinions vary on how Google TV will fare. But if the service proves popular, Google will have successfully entered an ad market three times the size of the one that made them a household name.

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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.

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