Blocking Google and its consequences

Google TVSo the networks have decided to block their programs from the reach of GoogleTV? Interesting, albeit expected response to the awful (for them) disruption that the service represents to the television industry.

Let’s begin.

Television’s early model was network affiliation. After all, you couldn’t serve your programs to viewers unless those programs could go out over the air to waiting antennas atop housetops in the community. For this, the networks paid broadcasters.

Then came cable. Networks bought or created their own channels are marveled at the dual revenue stream of advertising and subscribers. It evolved to a triple-dip, because rather than paying affiliates to carry programs, affiliates receiving compensation from cable companies had to share that compensation with the networks.

Then came the Web, and networks discovered — thanks to Apple — that they could deliver programs directly to viewers, absent advertising, for an even bigger fee. Content was disconnected from its source.

Then came Hulu, and the promise of big fees, direct distribution AND advertising brought everybody on board. Content is back connected to a source, which allows for the shoving of advertising into the equation. This is threatening cable companies, because why do you need cable, if you can get your programs delivered — to your TV set — via the Web?

Now comes Google (and Apple) TV. Google’s application is search-driven, something highly attractive to consumers. Once again, however, content is separated from source. Google is going to make money off of search and the networks want a cut of that. Hulu, which is owned by the networks, was first to block Google TV. Now the networks have done it themselves. You can have your Google TV, they’re saying, but you won’t get our programs.

This is a transparent negotiating ploy, but it does remind one of the RIAA’s battle against separating music cuts from their source. We all know how that ended, and I have to believe this will go down a similar path. The networks, studios and their lawyers are ready, no doubt, but it’s going to get ugly. Meanwhile, there’s a remarkable door opening wide for creative alternatives to network programming, a lot of which is already available via YouTube, which Google owns.

What do broadcasters do? I’m encouraging my clients to attach marketing to their videos and make them available, unbundled, to Google. We don’t want the network’s actions to interfere with what we’re doing.

Meanwhile, MDTV waits in the wings as the next iteration of network viewing. If the nets want their programming distributed this way, they’ll have to, once again, go through someone with a tower that can transmit the signal to waiting portable devices. What goes around, comes around, and it’s going to get very interesting. The only thing that could screw it up is broadcaster greed — a model that requires a subscriber fee to access the “free” signals. Good luck with that, practically and politically.

To quote the old proverb, we live in interesting times. Beware the law of unintended consequences in messing with empowered consumers today.


  1. Kevin Selle says

    Isn’t there going to be a fundamental problem at the source, the producers of the network shows?

    Listening to companies like Time Warner and NBC avoid platforms like Apple TV saying, “…we think 99 cents devalues our content” suggests fear to me. The old Nielsen system is based on “maybe”. It says, “we took a small sample, extrapolated it, and maybe “x” number of people watched it”. Now, we can get much closer to a real number of viewers. What happens if that real number is much smaller, and doesn’t cover the cost of production, and doesn’t cover the infrastructure at the network? Pretty scary. The ABC app on the iPad alone should strike fear into the hearts of ABC affiliates.

    Just like newspapers. A few ads on a web page does not create the same revenue as hundreds of ads in an entire paper.

    Some major corrections are coming, none of which are good for the old local TV news model.

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