News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch's reaction to a Google TV presentations is the best explanation yet of why we won't be seeing truly integrated Internet TV any time soon. On Saturday, Murdoch took to his new Twitter account to vent about how much he hates Google: "Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying." Like many who saw the tweet, we thought that he was weighing in on SOPA, but, according to Forbes' Jeff Bercovici, it turns out he was actually recoiling in horror at seeing the web's streaming piped into a TV. Bercovici's sources said the tweet came after a Google TV presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show and he learned that search results for movie titles would include sites that offer pirated versions, just like regular Google.
The notion of the rules of the freewheeling web moving onto your TV set in your living room is a nightmare scenario for corporate media who depend on your cable box being a gateway to their content. Though cable operators and content producers bicker over carriage fees from time to time, it's a comfy, codependent relationship. The worst thing for both sides would be for TV viewers to "cut the cord," not necessarily because they'd want to pay less (though, that's certainly a fear, too) but because the handful of companies that decide what comes onto your TV screen would lose control. And nothing could demonstrate how real this threat is than connecting Google's search to a TV screen. As Bercovici tells the tale:
Murdoch asked what would happen if he were to search for a particular blockbuster film, and the presenter explained that the results would be the same ones you’d find in any Google search. Including links to content-pirating sites? Murdoch pressed. Yes, unless those sites have already been removed from search results in response to takedown requests, the presenter confirmed.
Like Murdoch, cable companies have had this attitude since TVs started getting fancy. "The big fear for cable companies is that consumers are going to start realizing that they can get a lot of this content online for free, or pay less in any case, and they're going to start cutting the cord, as they say," a Gartner analyst told NPR in 2010. And when Google first announced its set back in the fall of 2010, Hollywood foresaw this scary future, eventually blocking cable access from Google TV. That attitude has stuck ever since. Instead, we have gotten the half-baked streaming box solution, which puts some, but not all, of the Internet on TVs -- just how the cable companies like it.
With SOPA on the docket, Murdoch's statements resonates even stronger with Hollywood's fears. Though Google defended its anti-piracy efforts, Murdoch makes a valid point on behalf of an industry that's used to charging for its content, with his most recent piracy related tweet
Don't care about people not buying movies, programs or newspapers, just stealing them.— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) January 18, 2012
The Internet has free options; the old-school television doesn't. Cable companies don't want to risk devaluing what they have by putting it online and in the living room, especially with the way things are going for their great legislative hope, SOPA.