In defense of Google TV

There are a lot of broadcasting executives who breathe a sigh of relief when they see headlines like With TV, Google Stumbles (again), Rescheduling Google TV May Be a Smart Move, and Google TV: Snatching Failure From The Jaws Of Success? Broadcasters, cable companies and the program providers who have a cozy and prosperous business model all know that Google TV — and applications just like it — will deliver a crushing blown when consumer content is separated from its source via the Internet.

But I’d be very careful in reading too much into those headlines. Just because the networks have decided not to play ball (right now) with Google TV doesn’t mean an end to the concept. It may slow it down, but there are trends at work that are ideally suited to a Google TV experience. Those trends are growing and accelerating, and no amount of legal maneuvering or business strategizing is going to stop them.

I’m talking about J. D. Lasica’s “personal media revolution (pmr),” outlined in his seminal book Darknet, Hollywood’s War Against The Digital Generation. The industry of making movies and TV programs is facing a bottom-up challenge to its century-old business model. Ever look at the credits of a film? That’s what the pmr disrupts — the cast of thousands “needed” to create quality content. New tools have made their way to local and network television, and, union “bargaining” notwithstanding, it’s just a matter of time before the same happens with entertainment.

Michael RosenblumMichael Rosenblum is the father of the video journalist (VJ) movement, a man who saw the handwriting on the wall many years ago. He’s been teaching people - those who used to work with crews of two or three — to work by themselves, and the results have been getting better and better. He told me in an email that the key to content today is creativity and the ability to express it at bargain rates. We’re in the midst of an explosion of creativity.

When it comes to content, the driver here is a) a really limitless appetite for content, b) increasingly smaller budgets as platforms multiply and revenue is shattered, and c) the technology that makes it increasingly easier and cheaper to make great content. HD quality films can be made with about all the difficulty of word processing — and the expense. What we saw in news, we now see percolating into fiction and that’s a basic change.

Those who make films outside the studios’ walled garden will want the easiest distribution available, and that will default to whoever has the best search for Internet TV. Can you say, “Google?”

So while people are fawning all over Netflix and suggesting that Google learn how to “do lunch” the Hollywood way, there are powerful forces at work that favor Google over the long haul. Greg Sandoval wrote for CNET that Google needs to learn how to make relationships over lunch, but I suspect it’ll ultimately be the other way around.

…Google TV was launched before it was ready. If it was fully baked, why did the company appear so unprepared by the rejection of the platform by broadcasters?

Some in Hollywood suspect the reason is that Google didn’t know it was coming. After two years wooing the film and TV sectors, Google is still not very tuned in to the industry, said two film sector insiders who spoke to CNET.

These same executives cautioned against naming Netflix the winner of Internet distribution, adding that there’s a long way to go in this contest. But both sources acknowledged that Netflix has had more success acquiring content thanks to the company’s big head start in the sector as well as adopting a smarter approach to Hollywood.

All of that grossly underestimates Google, but that’s understandable, because the perspective comes from the side of tradition. Google does not.

People who’ve had the advantage of monopoly on their side for decades are the ones most endangered by technological disruptions, because they can’t — or won’t — see things any other way. They want and expect Google TV to fail, but we’ve heard this before. The copyright industry’s biggest weakness is its assumption that only they can make “quality” entertainment, just as traditional journalists insist they alone have the market on “real” journalism. Poppycock!

I often think that our greatest problem is oxygen deprivation atop the pedestals we’ve built for ourselves. You’d think the view would be clear, but it’s not, because all we see are each other.

Make no mistake. Unbundled television is upon us, and search will be the governor. Google’s essential role in the video disruption is to provide tools that so-called amateurs can use, and usually for free. Years of subsidizing YouTube’s vast and improving library of videos will have its day, and we must not miss it in the arrogant belief that we will always own the video creation and distribution business.

Now is the time for action, not guffaws.


  1. invitedmedia says

    hey, i got selected to receive a free logitech revue that should arrive from google any day now. they are giving several thousand away to (wannabe) developers, so it’s not so much an honor as it is a great gesture that i really appreciate.

    i also appreciate that google has failed dismally in its introduction of this device because if it took off from the get all we would have done is succeeded in putting the same content available on tv, well, on tv. it would simply be based in a browser… yawn.

    i think google had to have known there was a good chance of this response from the networks, etc. didn’t they learn years ago when they introduced a platform to sell tv ads online?

    if google is really going to change how we get our entertainment, then they must actually CHANGE it.

    don’t worry, history sez the networks, like the recording industry, are really great at following along.

    btw- ever though this is slightly off topic, why not read harry jessell’s piece about “taking a three year break from new media” over at tvnewscheck . i’d like to think this was a joke, but it’s nearing Jan. 1, not April 1.

  2. Jessell’s piece was humor, but there are a TON of media types who wish it weren’t.

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