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Google TV has been in the headlines for its trouble with broadcasters, with major networks like ABC, (s DIS) NBC (s GE) and CBS (s CBS) blocking Google TV owners from accessing full-episode streams of their shows online. Owners of Logitech’s (s LOGI) new Revue set-top box or Sony’s Internet TV also don’t have access to Hulu or its CBS-owned competitor TV.com. However, a number of cable channels seem to be just fine with Google TV accessing their shows. In fact, we found that most popular shows on cable TV can be accessed freely with Google TV devices.
Turner Broadcasting was one of the official Google TV launch partners, so it’s not surprising to see the company’s networks TBS and TNT embrace Google TV. But we were pleasantly surprised to see that Syfy.com is streaming its shows to Google TV as well, despite being owned by NBC, and we loved the streams made available by Comedy Central. Daily Show, anyone?
Here’s a quick overview of what kind of content you get where, complete with a few words about the picture quality and overall experience:
Fox (s NWS) is the only major broadcaster not blocking Google TV. Shows like Glee, House, Bones, Good Guys and The Simpsons are available for free, and the quality is actually pretty good, even when watched on a 37” screen.
Comedy Central: The Viacom-owned (s VIA) network doesn’t bother with blocking Google TV, and many of its successful shows are available online for your viewing pleasure. Google TV owners can tune into full episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Colbert Report, South Park, Drawn Together and other network hits in beautiful HD.
Syfy also doesn’t block Google TV, despite being owned by NBC Universal. Go to Syfy.com for shows like Caprica, Eureka, Sanctuary, Ghost Hunters, Stargate Universe and more — but don’t expect too much fun: The video quality was inconsistent, sometimes notably pixelated, and the player doesn’t offer any real full-screen experience. Instead, you’re stuck with a control bar and occasional banner ads at the bottom of the screen.
TBS offers access to full episodes of shows like My Name Is Earl, The Office, American Dad and Seinfeld. The player offers a true full-screen mode, but the video tends to be kind of pixelated. TNT is supposed to launch a Google TV-optimized site soon.
TNT serves up shows like Leverage, The Closer, Numb3rs and Supernatural. The picture quality could be better; a launch of a Google-optimized site is forthcoming.
Bravo is another basic cable site open for Google TV’s business. The site offers Google TV users access to full episodes of Flipping Out, Top Chef, The Millionaire Matchmaker and various Real Housewives franchises. However, the video quality is once again nothing to write home about, leaving those real housewives oftentimes really, really pixelated, and the player also tends to display banner ads at the bottom of the screen.
PBS is one of the official Google TV launch partners. The network optimized its PBS Kids site for Google TV, offering easy access to full episodes of shows like Arthur, Sesame Street and Martha Speaks. The newly-launched main PBS site is not yet optimized for Google TV, but it offers tons of programming, including full episodes of Bill Moyers, POV and Antiques Roadshow. The quality is good enough for PBS-type content, and the player works really well on the big screen.
USA Network doesn’t seem to have any full episodes of anything available right now, but their random collection of Comic-Con panel recordings played just fine on Google TV.
Spike delivers video with a nice full-screen player in full HD, and its catalog includes shows like Entourage, TNA Impact and The Ultimate Fighter.
To sum it up, there is a lot of content freely available for Google TV, but some of the sites could improve their video players and picture quality for devices like these. Navigating some of the sites was also pretty painful, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if others followed the example of Turner and PBS to launch Google TV-optimized sites soon.
Of course, the network’s stance could change. Syfy could decide to clamp down on Google TV, or CBS could decide to ease up. We’ll go back and update the list to reflect these changes, so check back occasionally, and feel free to recommend your own Google TV-compatible finds in the comments.
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