Google TV – Disrupt the TV Business?

Google TV: Will It Disrupt the TV Business?

Soon to be relaunched, Google TV has been causing the TV industry some concern and with good reason. Just as Google  flourished in the online advertising market, it is set to stake a large claim within the pay TV market, currently valued at $150 billion a year. As Google goes from strength to strength, it stands to reason TV broadcasters are wary of their new challenger, but what exactly is Google TV and what are its ambitious plans?

Groundbreaking as it was, the concept of Google TV initially failed to entice content producers, who were hesitant to take the plunge and embrace what was an untested new platform. However, rumours are rife that Google TV have hired former cable TV executive and noted expert Jeremy Stern to conduct negotiations with Time Warner, Disney and Discovery Communications to provide content for the platform.

If these media conglomerates come on board, other content producers may be more willing to buy into the new platform. However, another way to view the situation would be to argue that if Google TV becomes a resounding success, drawing a huge base of media companies, broadcasters and users, TV production companies will have no other option than to join Google TV, or risk being left out of the innovative platform’s production base, losing a significant audience.

Google TV seemingly seeks to wrest video-on-demand services from conventional TV channels and provide them through a powerful new internet service that can stream high quality video. Combining the three key communication channels of telephone, cable TV and high speed internet would put Google in a dominant market position that few would be able to match.

Possibly operating on either a national or international basis, perhaps both, Google TV could also enable a new culture of content production from smaller, specialised and localised production firms, and has the potential to transform an established platform like YouTube into something approaching an online cable TV platform delivering myriad channels targeted at niche audiences, facilitating a new era of media entrepreneurship.

What have existing TV broadcasters done to compete with this aggressive takeover move? How have they combined their significant existing powers in answer to this forthcoming disruption to their domain?

In the UK, a resistance of sorts will come in the shape of YouView, an open internet streamed TV platform to be released in February 2012. Created through a partnership between the four TV broadcasters BBC, ITV plc, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and three communications companies BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva, the platform will deliver TV channels, video-on-demand, digital radio and internet content, perhaps via a dedicated set top box.

The real questions are whether YouView will be too late or if the partners involved will feasibly be able to refrain from becoming incorporated within Google TV’s ambitious plans. Looking to the future, Google TV will obviously cause some disruption to the TV industry, but online TV platforms represent a brave new world for media whose contours and terrain have yet to be staked out and charted.

One thing is for sure, every new platform requires internal competition to sustain quality levels, and there will be plenty of that over the next few exciting years.

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