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Google TV may be the search giant's most ambitious initiative yet, but its success is far from guaranteed. While the time seems right for television-internet convergence, making it happen is going to be hard work.
One of the biggest difficulties Google has with Google TV is getting content owners on board. Recently, a number of American television networks, namely ABC, CBS and NBC, blocked consumers from accessing video content on their websites through Google TV.
Short-sighted? Sure. But if Google is going to marry the internet and television with Google TV, it's going to have to restore sight to the blind. Unfortunately, the company doesn't seem to know how.
Yesterday, Rishi Chandra, the lead product manager for Google TV, said that there is a "misunderstanding" amongst content owners who block Google TV. According to The Canadian Press, Chandra "likened the broadcasters' payment requests to a network demanding fees from Microsoft Corp. so video would work on its Internet Explorer browser." He explained that while Google could work with content owners to extend revenue sharing from YouTube to Google TV views, "Google TV itself is literally just a platform."
It's worth pointing out that not every content owner has blocked Google TV, although some seem to be leaving the possibility open. And Google has made great strides in mending its relationships with big media companies vis-à-vis YouTube.
But the fact that Google launched Google TV after months of fan fare and now has to negotiate, post-launch, in an effort to get big media companies to let consumers view their web content via Google TV, shows just how little Google seems to have learned over the years.
At some point, you can't simply blame big media. Instead, you have to conclude that "big media" always seems to 'misunderstand' Google in large part because Google clearly isn't doing the best job of selling its new offerings, let alone explaining cogently what those offerings are in terms that make sense to big media companies. Sure, negotiating with big media is never easy, and in some cases it may seem next to impossible.
But by failing to get some level of buy-in from major content owners before launching Google TV, Google has shot itself in the foot as it has no real leverage. Certainly, Google TV isn't going to take off and thrive if consumers can't use it to view popular content on their televisions, so it's somewhat baffling that Google would leave any room for the kind of "misunderstanding" that Chandra says exists but still launch Google TV knowing full well that big media could weaken or derail its appeal to consumers. Launch first, figure it out later was never viable here.
Google is a great technology company, and with Google TV it has the potential to bring together two wonderful technologies -- the internet and the television. But it's not just about technology. For Google to do big things, it's increasingly going to have to bring together more than just technologies. It's going to have to learn to bring together people in different industries. Whether it can do that remains to be seen.
Photo credit: sam_churchill via Flickr.