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Can Google Beam from Mobile TV to the Living Room?

As companies are scrambling to capture attention from a constantly distracted audience, Google is taking steps to create serendipity between your mobile TV device and your large-screen television. Although the company’s Google TV set-top box has yet to set the world on fire, the company does have a few tricks up its sleeve to try to capture some additional market share with its mobile TV plans. 

Google is leveraging its successful YouTube site and is now offering a way for users to send YouTube video from their phone directly to their TV. Even though Android users received this new feature at the end of last year, Google has just released it to iOS users, and it could be positioned as a game changer. Now when you use the iOS app (available free from Apple’s iTunes store) you can toggle between your phone and your TV, easily sending whatever you are watching directly to a compatible set. The process is designed to make sharing video from mobile an easy one-step process. 

Initially Google created what it was calling the DIAL (discovery and launch) system and formed a partnership with Netflix to share videos between devices. At first, it talked about having an app on the portable device and an app on the TV. This new method seems a bit more streamlined. Now Google’s send to TV is compatible with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3 (and no doubt its newly announced Playstation 4), as well as having the technology built into televisions slated to appear this year. It has been a challenge for Google to carve out its own slice of the TV pie, but the success of its apps on multiple platforms, coupled with ease of use on large-screen TVs, could be just the push it is looking for. 

When using the app, users merely click a button to send the currently playing video to the TV. Once the video is playing, the phone then serves as a remote control, allowing playing, pausing, rewinding and fast forwarding. Another tap, and the video returns to the app. There is a one-time manual sync to connect to the Xbox or PS3/PS4, but once that is set, the feature works very similarly to Apple’s AirPlay. As entertainment game consoles are already entrenched in the living room, this could allow users to bypass dedicated apps on those platforms and play video much more easily. Sony recently redesigned its dedicated YouTube app for the PS3, constructing a larger lean-back interface, but it still has a ways to go with fine tuning it as far as usability. The Xbox 360 YouTube app is a bit more refined and settled into the standard design on the unit used in other apps such as HBOGo, Netflix, Vevo and Crackle. 

The question arises as to why Google would devote time and energy to this technology. One answer could be ads. On set-top boxes users are less accustomed to ads, except viewers of Hulu Plus, who pay a monthly fee and yet, annoyingly, still have to sit through ads. When Apple built the YouTube app into iOS, it did not have any ads such as pre-rolls, and with relationships strained between Apple and Google, it recently deleted the YouTube app from iOS 6. This may have been a win for Google, because it quickly pushed out an all-new, redesigned version. It includes lots of new features but the most notable is ads. You’ll now see pre-roll ads on occasion when you use the YouTube app on iOS. Meaning now you will be sending ads to your big-screen TV, different from the ad-free streaming you may be used to seeing on your game consoles. 

Google has announced partnerships with smart TV manufacturers and intends to really push the send-to-TV functionality in the coming months. It’s unclear if it will make a dent in viewers looking to enjoy mobile TV on their big screens, but Google is hoping its content, as well as its ads, make the leap to the living room on a more consistent basis.