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HBO Go pacts with Google TV

Service allows viewers to watch 600 hours of programming

The marriage of the Internet and television has finally arrived, and HBO appears to be the maid of honor.

On Oct. 4, the pay cabler announced it had joined with Google TV to offer HBO Go — the online video destination for HBO subscribers — on Google’s new platform that promises a seamless entertainment experience.

Google TV is the search engine giant’s attempt to combine the television and the Internet. In addition to watching shows and scheduling recordings from their cable and satellite operator, users can find streaming content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, surf the web from their living room couch and run many of the games and apps from the Android app market.

“People are watching TV differently these days versus even five years ago, and HBO is taking advantage of that to get new subscribers and stay relevant,” says SNL Kagan senior media analyst Deana Myers. “Google TV puts it all in one place for you.”

HBO Go was launched in February on Verizon’s bundled Internet, telephone and cable package and is now available through the channel’s HBO Go website and Comcast’s Fancast. Subscribers can access more than 600 hours of HBO programs on any device that hooks up to the Internet.

“The great thing about HBO Go is that it gives you choice and convenience to not only watch when you want, but wherever you want: On your PC or Mac, your iPhone or iPad, you can watch from anywhere,” says HBO co-president Eric Kessler. “Clearly, the way people are watching programming is changing. This is how young people watch. They don’t care where the content is; they just care about accessing it when they want and wherever they are.”

Remove those bells and whistles, and the heart of Google TV and its partnership with HBO and others is based on having viewers spend less time looking for programs and more time watching them. With more than 600 hours of HBO programming alone, that means cutting through a lot of visual probing using a Google search that is familiar to almost everyone accessing the Internet.

“Unless you DVR everything, it’s hard to watch what you want when you want until now,” says Google TV’s product manager Rishi Chandra. “The second advantage for consumers is to rethink the way they interact with TV programs.”

Google TV offers the platform, but it is up to the individual channels to decide how to use it. For example, with Google TV and HBO Go, subscribers can set up a watch list, access background material on the shows, the creators and the casts and share their viewing experience with others online.

“HBO Go will continue to evolve,” Kessler says. “Unlike on demand, we control the features, and we’ll be giving our subscribers a unique way of interacting with the shows and with each other. Social networking is incorporated into this, so you can share clips and talk to each other. It’s unique and exciting.”

HBO Go gets the star treatment in the Spotlight section of Google TV, which also pops up the best websites. Subscribers can choose several ways of accessing HBO Go on their televisions, including Blu-ray players, a Sony Internet television and a Logitech companion box.

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