Chandra says it's working with networks on content

The Google TV Internet service, blocked by the Big Three broadcast networks, is not a threat to the television business, a top Google exec said Tuesday.

“We are not looking to replace cable,” said Rishi Chandra, lead product manager for Google TV. “Our goal is not to replace it but to add to it.”

After his keynote address at Streaming Media West at the Century Plaza Hotel, Chandra said Google is working with the networks to bring their Hulu service to the Google TV platform, but he declined to say when a deal could be struck.

Last month, NBC, ABC and CBS began blocking Google TV’s direct access to online offerings of programs on their websites and on Hulu, owned by NBC, Fox and ABC.

Chandra was quick to point out that network fare is still available on Google TV through partnerships with Netflix and Amazon.com, which have streaming rights to some shows.

He took strong issue with the notion that Google is seeking to circumvent the studios and operators by providing proprietary content for free. Google TV, he noted, has three models for monetizing Hollywood content, each epitomized by companies already signed: subscription (Netflix), video-on-demand (Amazon.com) and authentication (HBO). (In authentication, the content provider offers free access online to subscribers who have pay for the service via cable, satellite or telco subscriptions).

“What’s important is that content owners are in control,” he said. “They decide what content is distributed and monetized.”

So far, Hollywood is less than enthused. In comments last week, Paramount Pictures exec VP of worldwide technical operations Christopher T. Carey painted a nightmare scenario in which 500 million newly empowered consumers used Google TV’s search function to call up pirated videos. Then he promptly demonstrated how a user could do exactly that with Google’s current online search engine.

Consumers can also bypass the networks’ current Hulu blockade by simply hooking their laptops up to their TVs or by searching out the pirated copies of network shows that abound on the Internet.

Google, by contrast, doesn’t need to monetize the content itself. Its business model depends upon extending its Internet search engine to as many platforms as possible, maximizing revenue by maximizing hits. For that reason, it’s made the coding for Google TV open source, meaning any developer who wants to develop applications can do so for free.

Google TV is designed to be seamless with Google’s YouTube online video service, its Android operating system and its Chrome browser. In a demonstration, Chandra showed how he could, with just a few clicks, call up a 1080P-quality trailer for “Avatar” on his TV.

Google TV launched last month on a series of consumer devices, including Google TV-enabled Sony HDTVs and Logitech’s Revue set-top box.

Chandra stepped the audience through a TV ecosystem that has evolved from three networks in the 1940s to hundreds of TV channels in the 1980s to millions of channels in the near future. Search functionality, he said, is an improvement on clunky onscreen interfaces.

Curated content provided by Hollywood programmers will be an essential part of those millions of TV channels. But only part.

“The Web is coming, with or without Google,” he concluded. “It’s inevitable.”

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