Cable Technology Feature Article
Google Approaching Media Cos for OTT-Yet-Traditional TV Service
By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor
Google (News - Alert) is apparently back to the TV drawing board, looking to create a subscription-based “online cable” service that would stream traditional linear TV programming.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the search giant is looking to replicate a standard cable or satellite package, with the only real difference being that it would be delivered online and via mobile apps rather than via a standard set-top box. Sources told the WSJ that Google envisions users being able to flip through a programming guide and linear channels the same way that they do now, along with having access to on-demand content.
It’s unclear what, if any, differentiator Google is planning to bring to the table to woo cable subscribers away from the Comcasts and Time Warners of the world. Presumably it would be less expensive, although technology issues (delivering secure, managed video over the Internet is easier said than done) and business model hurdles likely loom.
To the latter point, media companies typically license their content in programming blocks that combine popular channels with niche channels in order to leverage audiences for the lesser-known networks. Content licensing for a full channel feed is an expensive endeavor, and Google would need a subscription volume large enough to wrangle discounts from the content owners in order to be able to offer savings to customers.
And, media companies are wary when it comes to striking digital distribution deals with over-the-top upstarts that replicate traditional subscriptions, not wanting to jeopardize the arrangements they have with the larger incumbent distributors. Most are instead interested in getting on board with TV Everywhere with cable, IPTV (News - Alert) and satellite partners, expanding on-demand availability of library content or using OTT providers to provide a home for niche programming.
Creating a TV-like experience online is not a new idea of course. Roku offers a set of streamed channels, which is a range of online-only content and niche networks. Google’s own YouTube (News - Alert) is working on its original channels strategy, again with online-only content. Hulu, Netflix and Amazon have all embraced the launches of network-like TV shows to compete with the broadcast experience. And Apple (News - Alert) continues to add live TV channels to the Apple TV lineup.
But none of those offerings seek to beat cable on its own, linear-channel turf.
Now, a range of companies are looking to do the traditional TV thing online. Intel (News - Alert) and Sony are both working on OTT launches that aim to out-cable the cablecos. In Intel’s case, it’s planning a STB-based service that would offer all the standard cable offerings but allow subscribers to pick and choose the networks they want to pay for, in an a la carte format. Sony will stream cable nets over broadband connections to Sony-made devices like PlayStation gaming consoles, connected TV sets and Blu-ray players.
Apple is reportedly trying to invigorate its TV play with a premium TV offering that gives consumers the ability to pay a subscription in order to skip over ads; Apple would then compensate TV networks and cable/IPTV/satellite for the lost revenue. Rumors of an Apple HDTV and STB combo continue to persist as well.
Google itself has been eyeing the TV space for some time. It tried and failed and faltered with its Google TV software, which it built into a range of set-tops, TVs and Blu-ray players. The idea was to index traditional and online sources of programming, allowing users to search for and watch content across a number of sources. More successfully, it’s offering traditional IPTV in its Google Fiber markets.
Edited by Alisen Downey