Google to Big 3 TV Nets: Tear Down Your Walls

Google is negotiating with the big-three television networks and Hulu to unblock access to their programming to users of its new Google TV service. News Corp.’s Fox has not blocked programming but is considering the move.

There have been reports that CBS content can be viewed, noted ITIC principal Laura DiDio, even though the network is supposedly blocking its Web-based programming from Google TV viewers.

Hulu and Google are currently in discussions to bring Hulu Plus subscription service to Google TV enhanced environments.

ABC, NBC and CBS did not respond to the E-Commerce Times’ requests for comment by press time, but Google indicated it is actively negotiating with all three.

What Can You See and What Can’t You See?

Google TV, which became available in the U.S. just this month, lets viewers access Web content on their TVs. Google has negotiated content deals with a number of media companies, including Turner, HBO and others, but it’s been rebuffed by the big three.

The networks are blocking only the programming they make available on their websites — their cable and broadcast TV programming is unaffected. If a Google TV viewer is browsing the Internet and goes to a network site, full episodes will not be available. Other content on the network websites — such as short-form programs — are still accessible.

Networks Don’t Want to Give It Away

Network TV companies have seen their market share eroded by cable networks for years. The Internet is taking another chuck out of their viewership, which may in part account for their resistance to Google TV.

“I can understand why the networks are trying to block Google,” ITIC’s DiDio told the E-Commerce Times. “If you’re the network, you want to hold onto your viewers.”

The negotiating with the networks will likely hinge on financial terms.

“Unless Google wants to set up and pay for programming,” said DiDio, “it’s going to be tough. The networks look at Google’s (US)$33 billion in cash and say, ‘If you want to show our stuff, we want some of that.'”

While fees and licensing agreements are likely pivotal in the negotiations, there are also technical hurdles that must be overcome.

“Google TV runs the Android system, and ABC doesn’t support Android,” said DiDio. “Some people have found ways around that, but sometimes the program will quit playing after the first commercial break.”

Google’s Content Model May Need Tweaking

The network resistance to Google may be a result of how Google typically obtains content, suggested Rob Enderle, principal of the Enderle Group.

“The problem is that Google has been cavalier with how they deal with other people’s intellectual property,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Google is like Robin Hood — they take content from others and give it away and make their money on advertising. The networks are not happy with this model. The TV industry is saying, ‘Unless you kick into the kitty, we’re not going to play with you.'”

The blowback from the networks may change the way Google approaches content that belongs to others.

“Apple negotiated with the TV industry and the music industry before they went ahead and gave it to their customers,” noted Enderle. “Google goes forward first, and then negotiates. That won’t work much longer. Eventually it could lead to greater regulatory control.”

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