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Streaming Media West Keynote: Google TV: The Web Channel For Television

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LOS ANGELES—The last 3 weeks have been a roller coaster ride for Google TV. Rishi Chandra, Product Lead for Google TV, shared the ups and downs during the opening keynote address at Streaming Media West in Los Angeles, California. The phrase he repeated throughout the presentation was "The web is now a channel on your TV." Chandra responded to some of the criticisms, laid out the plan for Google TV, gave a solid demo of the Logitech Revue device, and shared his thoughts on the future for online video on the television. While several questions still remain about content partners and device adoption, the keynote was a great kickoff for Streaming Media West, now in Los Angeles.

Chandra's first few points laid the groundwork for why Google TV was pursuing the television as a video delivery device. According to Chandra, household TV viewing in America is up to 5 hours a day. "The least popular channels are getting more and more consumption," he said, "and now channels with less than 1% of market share account for 50% of overall views." Overall TV consumption is up, and the internet has allowed channels to scale from 300 to millions, creating more and more content in a variety of niches and genres. With a critical mass of broadband and HD televisions and inexpensive content creation and consumption devices, Google TV has positioned itself to finally bring the web to the screen in your living room.

Google TV Keynote

Next Chandra tackled 3 "myths" about Google TV squarely aimed at silencing some of the criticisms. "We are not looking to replace cable TV", stated Chandra, "our goal is to add millions of channels that are not available on your TV today." Secondly he said there are multiple business models in which content owners are generating revenue through Google TV, countering the "web means free" thoughts flying around. Finally he countered the argument that network content is not available on Google TV by stating that you could access those channels with your current cable, dish or over-the-air TV "through" the device or via partners like Netflix and Amazon On Demand. This was the one area where he did sidestep the real issue. With several major networks blocking their content to Google TV, the lack of these partners fully integrating with Google will continue to be a sore spot.

The demo showed a Dish Network DVR (although most set top boxes will work) hooked into the Logitech Revue using Google TV and then displayed on an HD television. The whole user experience is controlled by using Google TV interface. YouTube, Google Chrome browser, Netflix, and Amazon on Demand all work seamlessly, and the "web as a channel" experience is controlled via the wireless keyboard/remote. The distinction between online and traditional channel surfing is blurred quite well, allowing for easy transitions between the latest sporting event on DVR to 1080p videos on YouTube. Several current partners with custom Google TV interfaces include The New York Times HTML 5 channel and The Onion News Network which rolled out its channel in just 3 weeks of production. The real meat of the Google TV though is that the search engine that has propelled Google to success is now available on your TV. This allows you to search for shows, actors, or any topic and see all the options for watching it from your current cable operator to free clips online.

Chandra summarized his presentation by saying what everyone in the room was thinking, "So how is all this going to play out... I don't know." But he did share his thoughts on where the industry is going. Great content can come from anywhere and the tools need to be in place to be able to watch that on your TV at home. Chandra also stressed that programming for the individual and not the masses is what will ultimately win. It remains to be seen how content discovery will be refreshed and what advertising formats are going to work in the future. But Chandra is positive that Google TV will be riding that wave and closed by saying, "The web is coming, cable is not going away, and this is just the beginning."

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