Google TV – network-killer, or just another way to watch TV?

I’ve been trying to decide which network-killing box to use when I want to watch non-movie TV (for movies, I have Netflix) and I’ve mostly been thinking about buying either a Google TV box, a Mac Mini, or a Roku Box.  As I’ve had this discussion with various people who have made many of these choices, I realized that I don’t want to be forced to make the equivalent of the “VHS vs. BETA” debate of the early 80s – I just want to be able to watch whatever TV I want (including Sports and current TV shows) — and to watch using the Internet.

Perhaps the brouhaha over blocking Google is really about money, just as my desire to watch TV is, well, just another way to watch TV.  So here are some predictions/observations:

Networks aren’t going away (maybe), and they’re trying to get a piece of the pie.

Networks are by far the biggest producers of content (online or on the “airwaves”), and they’re petrified that Google or anyone else will be able to sell ads on the content they’re providing and not build an annuity revenue stream for them.  So they want in.  Possible ways to do this include revenue sharing (doubtful with Google) or a licensing fee (more likely, and consistent with traditional tv media deals)

Networks are trying to pre-empt Sports Leagues from entering the fray themselves.

We all goggle at the amounts the networks pay to the NFL, MLB, and others for the rights to transmit their sports.  But what if the Leagues could offer something like NFL GamePass to fans directly?  Find 50 million people (or 200-500m people worldwide) willing to pay $5/month to the NFL and that’s some serious money.  Notice that NBC’s Sunday Night Football now has an online broadcast and many interactive features.  Hopefully, some real innovation’s going to happen here.

Google is forcing the networks to play their hand.

Whether or not online TV proves to be a network killer or just another channel, Google is poised to do what it did with the web – identify a place where people spend time and then monetize that place through ads.  They do that exceedingly well.  Using Google TV as a Trojan Horse for the real play here, Google plans to drive interactive ads back into broadcast TV by overlaying the web on traditional media.  And it might work, or not.  Stay tuned.


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