Deborah D. McAdams / 11.02.2010 12:00AM
Google TV Gets a Cool Welcome
MULTIPLE CITIES: Google’s foray into Internet-connected TV did
not exactly take the platform by storm, say analysts.
“Very early reviews mention issues with the video quality coming in from
various websites,” says Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst at Scottsdale,
Ariz.-based In-Stat. “There also has been a problem with passing through high-definition
video using the HDMI connections.”
Google launched its Google TV devices last month, with a line of enabled Sony
HDTV sets, a Blu-ray player and a standalone set-top box, the Logitech Revue. All
integrate Google’s Android operating system and its Chrome browser into TV
sets. Google claimed superiority over established web-to-TV slingers like Roku
and Boxee because its surfing capabilities were more robust. However, early adopters
revealed software flaws.
Google also hit content issues going out. ABC, CBS, NBC and
Hulu.com are blocking Google TV access
to their online video platforms. Consequently, episodic TV shows available
online are not available via Google TV. The platform throws a monkey wrench into
the complex carriage arrangements hammered out by the networks.
“This steals a lot of the thunder from the Google TV launch, but it’s not a
deal breaker,” the In-Stat folks noted. “Fox is still permitting Google TV
access,” and several basic cable nets are creating compatible portals. The
Turner nets were among the first on board, providing full-length reruns of
NBC’s “The Office” among other off-net shows. Comedy Central is available, as
well as TNT, SyFy, Bravo, Spike, USA Network and, on the broadcast side, PBS.
Its PBS Kids network is optimized for Google TV.
In-Stat suggests if the next generation of Google TV devices includes an ATSC
tuner and digital recording capabilities, “that solves the blocking problem.” By
law, however, the Sony HD sets have ATSC tuners, so that’s not the issue. The
recent retransmission dispute between Fox and Cablevision is an object lesson.
When Fox yanked the signals of three of its TV stations from Cablevision
systems, most of the cable operator’s 3 million subscribers could have tuned
them in over the air. But most did not, and instead balked at not having them
on cable. Content copyright fees are increasingly platform specific.
As for Google TV’s technical issues, which appear to involve a number of video
codecs, the company is responding by giving 10,000 devices to developers.
Several thousand have been given to established developers, and more are
available via application at Google’s give-away
While Google gets its software ducks in a row, Yahoo is going after a bigger
piece of the TV-web space in collaboration with Samsung. The pair announced a
plan to sell Yahoo-connected TVs in 26 countries, bringing the worldwide market
to 39 nations. The Yahoo TV widget is a limited-access Web interface, but Yahoo
executives are confident people don’t necessarily want full browser
capabilities in their TV sets.
Yahoo says it’s TV widget is now available on 70 models of TV sets priced as
low as $299, which is the price of the Google TV Revue box. Apple entered the
space with its own $99 web-to-TV box in September. Apple TV has the added
advantage of iTunes, iPhone, iPad and iPod connectivity.
Despite the competition in web-to-TV provision, broadcast networks need to
hammer out a revenue model with Google TV, In-Stat says.
“Blocking access to popular TV shows to some devices, but permitting any
Wi-Fi-connected laptop to have full access is certainly not going to sit well
with consumers,” In-Stat said. “And as the set-top boxes get better and better,
consumers are going to want more and more of their content delivered ‘on-demand’
to their TV sets via the Internet.”
Deborah D. McAdams