ABC, CBS and NBC's Crusade Against Google TV

The networks stage a last-ditch effort to obstruct the search giant

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The nation's largest television networks are thwarting Google's attempts to seamlessly integrate TV and the Internet. ABC, CBS and NBC are preventing episodes on their websites from playing on Google TV. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The move marks an escalation in ongoing disputes between Google and some media companies, which are skeptical that Google can provide a business model that would compensate them for potentially cannibalizing existing broadcast businesses.

Why are the networks doing this?

  • Here's What's Going On, explains Andrew Baron at TechCrunch:
If you have a TV now, you are almost certainly paying for TV content with a monthly cable bill and if you start to get your TV content through the web, it will be just a matter of time before you will cut your cable bill. The cable companies know this and they appear to be doing everything they can to force the networks to comply with their demands to block their streaming Web video from appearing on TVs. The networks have their hands tied because almost all of their revenue comes from cable right now and if they break up with cable, and go hard-core internet on their own, they will likely implode overnight. For, as you know, Google TV is not offering them anything, and Apple isn’t offering a good enough deal to exist on. So there you have the problems of the traditional TV networks, once rivals now conspiring to sustain their long held control of a medium that is slipping away.
  • Who's Going to Want Google TV Now?  As Faith Merino at Vator News observes, Google TV's offerings will be pretty hollow:
For now, Google TV will be missing some of the top rated TV shows and programs, including ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, which took the largest number of total viewers last week, according to Nielsen’s rankings.  Among viewers aged 18-49, the top ranking program last week was NBC’s Sunday Night Football, followed by NBC’s Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, and ABC’s Modern Family.  Among total viewers, ABC, CBS, and NBC account for all of the 18 top rated shows, followed by Fox’s Glee, which came in at number 19 (19?!?!), and the OT, which came in at number 20.
  • This Is Why They're Stalling, explains Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land:

Presumably, the networks want something from Google, though exactly what isn’t clear. As Google doesn’t alter their ads, they continue to benefit directly from the viewers the service sends to them... However, they may fear that some type of ad substitution might come, or that down the line, Gogole might place additional ads around their content. If so, they’d likely want some type of protection or a slice of any revenues generated.

The networks may also fear that if Google TV (as well as similar services such as Boxee or Roku) become popular, people might be more inclined to shift away from watching live or recorded TV... If Google’s going to enable this shift, the networks may seek some type of licensing agreement.

Some, including Disney and NBC, were also concerned about Google’s stance on websites that offer pirated content, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Disney executives, for example, asked that Google filter out results from pirate sites when users search for Disney content, like “Desperate Housewives.” But they were unsatisfied with Google’s response, according to people familiar with the conversations.

  • Want Pirating Protection? Sign Up for Google TV! insists Sullivan: "Ironically, Google TV is one of the best ways to prevent this. By default, the service gives preference to authorized copies of content, only providing a web search option if all else fails. It is designed to route you to official places, especially given that at those places, your viewing experience will be much better."
  • It's an Unstoppable Trend, People Want to Watch TV Online, writes Ian Paul at PC World:
Users are moving towards online video streaming in ever larger numbers and spending more time than ever viewing online video. In September, 175 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 14.4 hours of online video per user, according to metrics firm comScore. The year previous, comScore found that 168 million users in the U.S. watched an average of 9.8 hours of online video during the month of September.
  • Google's Besieged on Two Sides Here, writes Addy Dugdale at Fast Company:
Google seems to be fighting a war on two fronts here: firstly with the networks who, it has to be said, are dealing with the online TV issue in the same way that the music business dealt with the thorny issue of digital music a decade ago. And secondly, with Apple, its first direct competitor on the Internet TV front, and currently in pole position in the digital music marketplace.

Ultimately, the mano-a-mano between Google and the networks will sort itself out, and it will go Google's way... But it's the ongoing war with Apple that is the most interesting to watch. Steve Jobs has been dismissive of Google TV (although he was so dismissive of Google TV that you would barely know he was being dismissive). And Google's forays into hardware have, so far, not been as successful as their online offerings.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.