Yesterday Google finally opened the curtain on Google TV, giving the world some much-needed detail on what the product is and what it will be able to do.  And I was pretty impressed.

But then today I notice a series of articles talking about the content partnerships Google has announced for Google TV, and there's a strange perception in the media that Google needs the major networks to sign on as content partners in order to succeed.  And I think that's just silly.

But let's back up a moment.  Google has landed some seriously high-profile programming and content partners.  Here are just a few… you might recognize a couple of them:

  • HBO
  • CNBC
  • Amazon
  • Twitter
  • Netflix
  • Turner Broadcasting (TNT, TBS)
  • CNN
  • Cartoon Network

That's pretty impressive..  I remember back before the iPad came out, when they announced content partners who were building special apps like the New York Times and Wired Magazine, and everyone was all aflutter.

But the announcement from Google on their partners list is being met with some strange criticism.  Specifically, the fact the four major television networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, & NBC—are not yet signed on.  And their absence from the list is all some media outlets can seem to focus on.

But either they're completely missing the point of Google TV… or I am (which, admittedly, is entirely possible).  Google TV is about the operating system—the software—more than the programming.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'll still be able to get the standard network programming on my Google TV-enabled television.  And I'll still be able to DVR shows I'm going to miss.  Or use Google TV's Internet access to go watch reruns on Hulu--this article even claims Google is in active negotiations with Hulu to bring Hulu Plus to Google TV.  Or use the new Netflix app that's being developed.

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I really don't think Google is terribly concerned with network shows.  The "content partners" they really care about are the ones building apps for content not traditionally found in a television signal—Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, and the like.

Think of Google TV like Android—and really, the similarities are many.  It's a platform that hopes to reinvent the way we interact with our televisions.  Some of that will involve software and apps.  Some of it will involve the search functions, Internet access, or voice-commands.  But do you really think Google is going to cry if NBC doesn't develop a custom Law & Order app?

This is in stark contrast to Apple's "competing" product, Apple TV, which won't let you browse the entire web as much as it will let you purchase iTunes videos straight to your television.

I think the TV networks are probably right to be wary.  If Google TV succeeds, it could mean the start of a real revolution in the area of entertainment—one that could see the four big networks entering a time of struggle similar to what newspapers and record labels are currently experiencing.

As it always is with Google, I believe Google TV is really about advertising.  Own the platform, and you can own the ad distribution.  And that's what's got the networks scared.  They're not ready to cede that kind of power to the search giant—particularly since they've owned the marketplace for decades.

But as long as I have a signal running into my television, I will still be able to access my favorite shows using Google TV, whether or not the individual networks develop custom apps.  Stay tuned; I have a feeling we're going to be hearing a lot about Google TV this week, as apparently Logitech plans to show off their new Google TV device, the Revue, tomorrow.

  • PaulZ

    The big problem is if you subscribe to a program to view on your computer that is provided based on either MacOS or Windows, It won't work on Google TV.

    I purchased a Sony Google TV to view the NHL hockey package "NHL.Gamecenter" and they say it only works on Windows or Mac NOT Androit!! Yet when I bought it Nov 1 it did work just fine then on Nov 6th it suddenly started buffering every 4-5 seconds.

    Sounds suspicious no?? Are the networks looking for a way to make more money. I am already paying for it through NHL who are paying for it to the networks. Since you can only watch it on one device at a time, why should anyone pay more - it doesn't matter on what device you are watching it.

    It worked on Google TV when Sony introduced it and now it doesn't.

    Also Netflix doesn't support the platform was the comment I got when I tried to play an online movie from them. Only movies I get to play are the Sample ones included with the TV. Why? Does it matter if I see that movie on my computer or Google TV?

  • Jimm Fox

    Jeremy, good article. The networks have been delivering 'programmed' content to a relatively undifferentiated mass audience for the last 60+ years. Up until now now advertisers have found this to be an effective means of getting their message out, as there were few alternatives. The Internet, mobile communications, always-on lifestyles, social media, consumer generated content, micro-targeting, the long tail of everything, cheap..verging on free computing power, open source tools and services, cheap bandwidth, cloud computing, changing lifestyles and a hundred other factors are all conspiring against the network's stranglehold on our media consumption. We live in interesting times.

  • Christophor Rick

    Jeremy, you've hit it spot on...Why would they need the broadcast networks to partner with them on a TV product? It would be like Samsung of Sony saying "hey our new TV is compatible with TV broadcasts!" hehehe...

  • Tech

    sigh. We heard this when android launched on the phone as well. I've been waiting for M$ to do it for years and finally finally FINALLY google has come out with it. Google Rocks.

  • kuram

    when we can access the internet why do we need apps? Mobile devices need apps because it needs customization for smaller screen and some location based advantages.

    GoogleTV is Internet on your giant LCD. Sure apps will make easier to get to consumers, but people can always watch shows on the broadcaster's website or Hulu, Netflix and others.

    The only problem I see with Google TV is the additional price tag, which a lot might not be willing to invest, and Google does not have a large enough fan base like apple to buy everything that Apple puts out, even half-assed products like the iPad.

    • Christophor Rick

      The Apps will format the content so that it is more easily navigable from your couch. That's really why we need them. I'm certain most of the will be free of charge. You can see my article on Optimizing Content for Google TV to see what the apps will do that standard web pages don't which is make it a more visual, simpler navigation experience :)