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YouTube Won’t Fix Google TV’s Content Problems

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Updated. There’s been an interesting development in the recent Google TV (s GOOG) saga, in which the search giant has shifted responsibility for the new TV operating system into its YouTube division, according to a report the SF Chronicle. By doing so, Google hopes its online video site can help Google TV with a lesson in striking content deals. But if that’s the case, it will probably be disappointed.

The whole issue revolves around the lack of premium content available through Google TV and a number of high-profile content companies that have blocked their content from being available on TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes powered by the Google OS. Broadcasters such as ABC, (s DIS) CBS (s CBS) and NBC (s GE) have all declined to let their web content be played back through the integrated web browser built into Google TV devices built by Sony (s SNE) and Logitech. (s LOGI)

The broadcasters were unhappy with the prospect that viewers would be able to watch their web offerings in lieu of live broadcast content on the biggest screen in the home. Since those companies rely on high-value broadcast advertising, as well as increasingly high retransmission fees from cable operators, the idea of giving viewers access to web programming that they can’t monetize as well was a bit of a turn-off. The whole affair has caused a bit of a stir, especially since it takes away from Google’s initial pitch for the TV OS, which was to enable viewers to mix and match web and TV content on the big screen.

But Google TV is primarily a technology platform, and the folks there don’t necessarily have a ton of experience in media matters. As a result, Google is reportedly shifting responsibility for the fledgling TV division into YouTube, which actually has some experience striking content deals with broadcasters like CBS.

The problem is that YouTube itself has had a hard time bringing real high-value, prime-time content onto the site. Most partnerships thus far have included short-form clips of new shows or full-length episodes of older programming. It hasn’t really proven that it can negotiate to add new hit shows or the kind of stuff you’d find on Hulu or broadcast sites.

YouTube is trying to change that, having recently added a pair of execs — Robert Kyncl, former vice president for content acquisition at Netflix, (s NFLX) and Dean Gilbert, former vice president of product management for Google TV — to bolster the amount of premium content on the site. But in the short term, it’s difficult to see broadcasters getting on board, unless Google can somehow write a check that makes up for the billions of dollars in broadcast advertising and retrans fees that are at stake if web video competes directly with broadcast programming on Google TV.

We’ve reached out for comment from Google, but haven’t gotten confirmation or more information from YouTube or Google TV representatives about the reported move just yet — but it’s early here on the West Coast. We will update if we hear back.

Update: Google has issued the following statement, denying the key assertion of the SF Chronicle story, that Google has reorged the division to move Google TV within YouTube:

Google TV has been closely aligned with YouTube for years. Although we did reorganize a division within YouTube a month ago, that was based on streamlining our operations so we could make faster decisions and align team goals with the company’s overall business objectives. Just like any rapidly growing organization, it is important for YouTube to evolve and grow to ensure further success in the future. The recently created YouTube Content Organization is run by VP of Content Partnerships Dean Gilbert.

While YouTube says there’s no actual story there, we stand by our initial take on the idea of YouTube leading Google TV content negotiations, which is: Google TV and YouTube will have a hard time convincing broadcasters to unblock their content without writing some very large checks.

To hear what Google TV product lead Rishi Chandra has to say about bringing broadcast content to Google TV, come see him speak at NewTeeVee Live on November 10 in San Francisco.

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12 Responses to “YouTube Won’t Fix Google TV’s Content Problems”

  1. This is stupid because I can just connect a computer to my “biggest screen in the home” and watch Internet content on my TV that way. So for them to block Google TV is ludicrous, I can still watch their programming on my TV regardless!

  2. Hi,

    In the UK, where the market sometimes seems a lot more evolved than all the hype that occurs in the USA, It’s become pretty established for all the networks and content-providers to have different content available on different platforms with different drm so that the content available from the bbc on the PC for iPlayer won’t be the same as available on the Wii or Cable-TV (VM), multiply that by the different video-sharing sites and hardware platforms and copyright-holders.

    While It does seem that the most intransigent on making content available are the big global media congloms. you then have to bare in mind that the studio’s are the world’s experts in slicing-and-dicing availability-windows to completely maximise the revenue-potential; and at least in the UK, that’s then meant they’re also able to have seperate content-supply agreements with the IPTV providers for VoD content that might otherwise be included with the standard services.

    This is an industry that still has seperate mobile content-rights agreements years after iPhone and Android first launched, removing the once-necessary concept of a seperate mobile web.

    To paraphrase a certain banker, when the music’s playing, who’s going to be the first to stop!

    My personal suggestion, if google was serious, and having proven various bsuiness-models and technological concepts, would be for it to simply use all that valuable equity/cash to out-compensate any providers of the content that it wants.
    At this stage in web-tv development, content still needs network exposure to get meaningful traction, and the new distribution/access-platforms still need what is familiar from those networks; however, if Google was to make strategic investments, either after production or slightly before, for co-web rights so that it can prove the case that everyone can either make money, or to producers that they should first come to it, then it could make an impact.
    Google could learn a lot, both from how it acted when the mobile radio frequencies were being auctioned, more as a catalyst than with any actual ambition of direct involvement, or like HBO/showtime where creatives have been offered risk or freedom.

    If it’s serious, it won’t be a quick unless it wants to get out its money.

    Coincidentally, CBS is only worth abou $11.5bn, its’ and News Corp.’s owner aren’t long for this world; they might be receptive to private-equity style deals where their family-control is consolidated away from public markets and with better value. At the same time, if HBO was willing to do a bulk deal with BSkyB Plc for all of it previous and future programming for the next 5 years to a single customer, including VoD, something tells me that TIme-Warner wouldn’t have a problem doing the same thing with granting broad online access to Google – if it was serious.

    Yours kindly,

    Shakir Razak

  3. Apparently no one told Google that Hollywood plays by their own set of rules. Google TV needs a Hollywood/IPTV/OTT Producer, such as @MsMobileConverg. She knows the media, medium, the post-tv audience, its producers, and how media and revenue flow. We are all aware that content for today’s audience on an IP is different than our Grandfather’s golden age of television; society is different and entertainment is different and it’s time someone understood that fact. I look forward to the new broadcaster – the GBS (Google Broadcasting System!) Once they figure it out (contact MsMobileConverg) they will be the media darling.

  4. It would seem they could do a better job integrating some of the content I already have also! For example, I understand that I can’t stream Office, the Community etc. from, but what is stopping Google’s search function from searching my cable on demand? I already have access to HD episodes there?? Same with a ton of on demand movies.

    My next big gripe, is the netflix app. No ability to search, or add movies through the app?? I have to open up chrome and use the awkward sony controller. Additionally instead up pulling up pay to view results why aren’t my searches turning up free streaming netflix results!?! They talk about content integration but it isn’t nearly as seamless as they advertise… Right now I’m better off using netflix on my PS3, atleast there I can add movies and change screen size so I don’t have to watch 4:3 content with big black bars.

    • Ryan Lawler

      Anthony, NewTeeVee cover interesting web originals all the time. And while we definitely think it’s a valuable part of the web video ecosystem, it doesn’t help the large portion of Google TV customers that want ABC, CBS, NBC or Hulu content.

      • Sorry for the hit and run comment-let me explain. If “the Guild” is the accepted standard bearer for “web originals” we a) have to start to get people to realize it’s premium content and b) develop a system where other shows can obtain the same level of quality. This should be seen as an opportunity and net a setback. Google/Youtube is an a position to do both and in the long run it would probably be cheaper.

  5. Bourgoise Pig

    Perhaps Google TV should have a built-in Tor client.

    Screw the USA-based networks. What is stopping Google from offering programming from TV stations all over the world. For example, I should be able to watch all the German TV stations as if I were sitting in front of a TV in Berlin. Even programming from all of the other English-speaking countries would be better than nothing.

  6. FutureToob

    Google TV being blocked from the Network websites and Hulu is a hack. Blocking an operating system because it was optimized for a TV screen instead of a computer screen is inane. Google shouldn’t be trying to figure out how to play nice with the networks, but using their vast technical resources to get around the websites being blocked. They’re being hacked, so they should just hack back.