TiVo: TV and Web Convergence ‘Started Years Ago,’ Not With Google TV


TiVo is launching an assault against Google TV ahead of the new web-on-TV platform’s launch later this year. While Google is hoping to have its integrated TV and web offering available on Sony TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as Logitech set-top boxes, in stores by the holidays, TiVo says you can already get similar functionality on its existing products — and have been able to do so for years.

TiVo VP of Marketing Tony Lee in a blog post yesterday talked up TiVo’s advancements in the TV space: how it revolutionized the industry by creating the DVR, and later, how it added search functionality to make it easier to find the content that users wanted to watch, long before competing products were able to. But where the blog post gets really interesting is when he moves on to talk about web content on TiVo devices. Lee writes:

“With your broadband connection, we bring you the best of the Web all into one TiVo box –- currently 6 million content options and counting. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Blockbuster and more are only one click away with your TiVo Premiere. Not up for a movie? Explore new tunes with options like Rhapsody or Pandora, which is coming soon.”

In other words, TiVo already gives users access to a wide variety of web content. He goes on to say that:

“We believe this new vision of TV entertainment is only complete when you can watch both television and Web content. Why should you have to choose between one and the other? Choose the TiVo box and service and you get both.”

The bottom line? You don’t need a newfangled device that isn’t even on the market yet to get the best of the web on your TV. TiVo already lets you do that, and by the way, you can buy a TiVo Premiere DVR today.

But Lee’s money quote is as follows:

“We haven’t just entered a new era of TV and Web convergence –- that era started years ago. We believe the defining theme of this era is about making all the content you want television-centric, in one single approach.”

In other words, Google TV is nothing new.

Importantly, Lee alludes to one big difference between the two: While TiVo’s DVRs offer web content through certain pre-integrated applications for Netflix, YouTube and others, Google TV is a platform that can enable its users to find and view anything on the web, right alongside their TV programming. It’s essentially the difference between the same old walled-garden approach taken by existing carriers and TV operators vs. the open platform approach, which gives viewers access to all web content.

What’s notable is that TiVo believes that its users want that web content to be available in a television-centric model, rather than through Google’s more web-friendly platform. It believes that users will want a YouTube channel listing in their program guide, rather than being able to search for YouTube in a more browser-based model.

The problem is that the TV-centric programming guide is broken and it’s not fit for harnessing all of the great content available on the web. While TiVo has made great strides in making finding that content easier — through integrated search between broadcast content and broadband services that are available through its products — its current search model isn’t robust enough for the broader global web.

It will be interesting to see what consumers choose: TiVo’s walled garden approach, where they have access to a few, pre-chosen content sources, or Google’s open web model. With Google TV available by the end of the year, we’ll soon know.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Google TV: Overview and Strategic Analysis (subscription required)

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