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Add Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Viacom’s other networks to the growing list of those slamming barriers up for Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV. This might seem like a no brainer given the company’s longstanding lawsuit of Goggle and YouTube but a source familiar with the situation says the two are unrelated.
Instead, it sounds more like the situation with Hulu. Viacom (NYSE: VIA) pulled its content from the site earlier this year after deciding not to extend a distribution agreement when the two couldn’t agree on payment. The blockade was first reported by GTVHub.
Viacom responded to our inquiry with this statement: “We’re blocking access to our full episode content from Google TV’s Web browser. We continue to evaluate Google TV to identify opportunities where it may make sense to optimize our Web content for the platform.”
I’m not sure Viacom execs realize the conflict in those two sentences. If they view Google TV as a web browser, then let people use it that way. Imagine the uproar if someone insisted you needed a distribution agreement to watch Jon Stewart on ComedyCentral.com via Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari — or computer-based Google Chrome. Are they going to bar access to Viacom shows on TVs used as monitors with a computer?
Instead, Viacom is joining NBC (NYSE: GE), Fox, ABC (NYSE: DIS) and CBS (NYSE: CBS) in treating Google TV as a new form of distribution. Browser statement aside, it’s not hard to see why. Google, despite its protests about not wanting to get in the way of multichannel pay operators or programmers, pitches Google TV as a new platform that makes the web into channels — and changes the way people can watch content. It’s brought on some programmers and content providers as partners. It wants to be seen as something new and different. The networks are reacting the way they do to most things in those categories, like armadillos closing their shells until someone either provides incentive or they have to find their own if the service catches on.
Is it smart? In a precedent-avoiding way, probably. In a fan-friendly way? No. Why not borrow a page from the people who want to reserve rights to charge for apps? Let viewers through, watch how they use it and add a note that says Viacom is trying this out as a service but it may not last.