(New York Times) Google announced on Monday its first content partners for Google TV, its effort to marry two mediums — the Internet and television. But the announcement underscored the difficulties companies face as they try to work their way into the living room.
The major television networks — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — will not participate, at least for the moment. However, several Internet companies and media outlets, including HBO, CNBC, Twitter, Netflix and Amazon, will work with Google to offer Web content and programming via television sets, the company said. They will allow on-demand viewing or build apps for TV screens.
James L. McQuivey, a principal analyst at Forrester, the technology research firm, called the partnerships “underwhelming.” Still, he said, other Google TV features, like the ability to search the Web for information about an actor or chat with friends on Twitter while watching TV, are more important to its success.
“They don’t actually need content partners to start their little revolution,” he said. “They don’t need the major broadcasters to play along because they can do a lot of cool things with you as a viewer without having to share any of the money.”
Google TV is the latest and most prominent service to connect TVs to the Web, promising to make all the living room’s audio and video as searchable and instantly accessible as the Internet’s content. That promise requires significant cooperation from media companies, and many have been reluctant to help.
With Google TV, the company wants to be a leader in the budding industry of Internet-connected television sets, which Forrester expects to be in 43 million United States homes by 2015, up from two million this year.
The average American watches five hours of TV a day, making it the biggest medium for advertisers. “One of our goals with Google TV is to finally open up the living room and enable new innovation from content creators, programmers, developers and advertisers,” Ambarish Kenghe, developer product manager for Google TV, wrote in the company blog post on Monday. Google faces competition from makers of set-top boxes including Apple, TiVo, Boxee and Roku, and from television distributors.
In addition to media companies’ caution, they all face another overarching challenge: TV viewers unimpressed with Internet-connected televisions. Just 3 percent of people own or intend to buy one, and almost two-thirds have not heard of them, according to Forrester. Of those who own them, a quarter do not use the Web capabilities. Still, major players in the technology and media sectors are largely in agreement that Internet-connected sets are poised to take off.
The Google TV technology, which was announced in May and will be available to consumers in the coming weeks, will be built into new Sony high-definition televisions and Blu-ray players, and into a Logitech set-top box that viewers can use with their existing sets. Google will make its software available to other makers of TVs and set-top boxes. The companies have not yet said how much the equipment would cost.
Logitech is building a remote control for searching the TV and the Web, and viewers can also use their Android phones or iPhones as a remote control and “fling” a video they are watching on their phones to the television.
Google TV has been in talks with the major networks and Hollywood studios about optimizing their Web sites for TV screens and about obtaining data about their programs for search purposes. But one executive described the relationship between Google and the networks as being at the “first date” stage.
According to executives involved, some networks want Google to share revenue from the ads that it overlays on videos. Some want Google to weed out illegal Internet sources of their shows and make sure that their marquee programs still stand out on a service that potentially levels the playing field for all makers of video.
The executives insisted on anonymity because the networks uniformly declined on Monday to comment on Google TV, and because they did not want to perturb a company as big as Google.
One of Google TV’s deals is with Turner Broadcasting, which owns TBS, TNT and other cable channels. Turner said it would optimize the Web sites of its channels for big-screen viewing.
HBO, which like Turner is a unit of Time Warner, will make its online on-demand Web site HBO Go available through Google TV, though only for HBO subscribers. Apps are another priority for Google TV, and another area where the company needs help from content providers. NBC Universal said it would deploy CNBC Real-Time, which allows for stock tracking on the screen alongside the live broadcast of the CNBC business channel, and the National Basketball Association said it would modify its existing N.B.A. Game Time app for TV screens.
Several media and Internet companies have also built new versions of their Web sites for viewing on televisions. These include the music services Vevo, Pandora and Napster, along with YouTube, Twitter, USA Today and The New York Times.