Good friend Paul Rodriguez over at the NCTA pointed my attention this afternoon to a post over at CNET on the promise of Google TV. The author focuses on the idea that Google can open up the TV ecosystem, making the television interface simpler and combining paid cable content with freely available Internet video. The sentiment is understandable, but the post is missing some critical context. A new Google layer for television would not plug into existing cable services, and any direct deals Google might do with television networks would have to be negotiated around deals already in place with cable and telco TV providers. Google could certainly make an impact, but not at the level envisioned in the CNET post. Also, without working directly with cable and telco companies to use their networks, Google will be reliant on Internet transmission of any content. That’s workable up to a point, but the approach doesn’t scale well given today’s home broadband connections and local network traffic loads. And that doesn’t even get into caps on home broadband usage.
The good news is that with big Internet companies like Google getting into the TV market, there’s continuing pressure on cable and telco operators to advance their own services. The industry is moving toward IP, which allows for access to more content, a better multi-screen strategy, and faster deployment of new software and services. In short, the pay TV operators are bringing the good stuff from the Internet to their own platforms. It won’t happen overnight, but these service providers have already done a lot of the heavy lifting around infrastructure support and proving out a business model that works.
It’s conceivable that Google could end up working with cable and telco providers (or with a company like Motorola), but an independent, mass-market solution is not in the cards any time soon – at least not a solution that can compete with what’s already available on TV.