Why Are the Major Networks Afraid of Google TV?

ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox are skeptical of Google's new foray

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Plans for Google TV--the search giant's hotly-anticipated foray into television--aren't going so well. According to the Wall Street Journal, the major television networks are reluctant to license their programming to Google. Evidently, executives from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are "skeptical that Google can provide a business model that would compensate for potentially cannibalizing TV owners' existing broadcast businesses." The networks' cooperation is critical in this respect because the major selling point of Google TV is that it offers a rich menu of content from both the Internet and traditional television. Why are the networks scared?

Google looks to be facing a chicken or the egg type of problem. They need to convince network executives that Google's platform can adequately reimburse them for content (as well as offset the exodus of traditional cable subscribers who switch to GoogleTV). But without content they can't sign on the kind of advertisers who can pay for those coveted high profile show commercials. Google may have to invest some additional money to get the cycle rolling.

A muddying factor to all of this is Google will be able to play Flash content from the Web (unless blocked), like from Hulu, Comedy Central and CBS. This 'open pipe' allows people to watch on TV what was meant for the computer, directly competing against the living room cable lines that have been cash cows in the past.

  • The Networks Cooperated With Apple TV--Here's the Difference, explains Don Reisinger at CNET: "Right now, the services Google TV will be competing against, such as Apple TV, allow users to watch episodes from popular shows from the major networks. On Apple TV, for example, consumers are required to either buy an individual episode or pay for a season pass from iTunes. The major difference for the networks, the Journal reports, is that Google TV rivals won't give users access to any site on the Internet--so the networks reason that their content won't get lost in the world of Web content and pirated clips the way it might on a Google TV device."
  • They're Scared Because Google TV Is Revolutionary, writes Alex Williams at Read Write Web: "What Google TV demonstrates is more than just the disruption of the television market. It's a clear example of the media industry and the software market rolling into an interface that crosses television, the Web and mobile devices. It represents the next generation of the distributed living room and the rise of a mass culture that has come to prize the eccentricities of individual creative works and the traditional, comforting forms of standard entertainment. And it's not just Google. This new interface culture is an ecosystem of analytics providers, collaboration technologies and social Web applications. These forces are converging to create new experiences that transform the ways we view television, the Web and mobile media."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.