Chromecast might spur TV, broadband competition

Jim Barthold, FierceIPTVIt's difficult to gauge the effect Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Chromecast will have on the IPTV space. The product--essentially a $35 dongle for HDTVs that lets users connect to some Internet content via their broadband connections--sold out in less than 24 hours, so it's something people want.

But will those dongle doers put the 'Cast on the TV and take the IPTV HDMI out? Probably not.

Don't get me wrong: Chromecast looks like a neat product. It comes from Google which, no matter how you look at it, is pretty much synonymous with Internet search (sorry Bing) and certainly well known to the legions of Android smartphone and tablet users.

Truth be told, if I had $35 and reliable in-home Wi-Fi I'd probably take a flier on the thing--if I could find a place to buy it. Whether I'd disconnect my pay TV service, though, is a more elemental matter that should be making pay TV execs across the cable and telco TV space just a bit jittery.

Hopefully, Google Chromecast will disrupt the dog days of summer and make competitive wireline providers like Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) jittery enough to expand my TV options from satellite or Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA).

It was interesting that Google introduced Chromecast at about the same time the FCC issued a report that said--incorrectly, I believe--that there's plenty of TV competition in the U.S. and that, while things could get a little better, life's pretty good.

I dispute that as I dispute Verizon's claim of 4G LTE's near-ubiquity because, a mere 70 miles from Philadelphia market and only 35 miles from the rich New Jersey seashore resorts, I have no access to either a second wireline TV service or 4G. Statistics favor those who get the service and, statistically speaking, I'm in the group that doesn't get it.

The biggest reason Chromecast might succeed in shaking up the pay TV space is its price, which, a review in Slashgear emphasized, is pretty darned good. The reason it could only be a flash in the pan is because almost every connected consumer electronics device--including the HDTVs into which Chromecast will be plugged--offer some package of Internet connectivity these days. And, in case you haven't noticed, that connectivity hasn't riled up a stampede of cord cutters rushing to Home Depot for cable shears.

Chromecast's biggest promise is that it might actually reveal that much of this country has no true wireline pay TV competition. For many--including this author--there's the choice between DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) or the incumbent cable provider.

Satellite services, which started because cable operators were neglecting consumer demand for higher quality video, are necessarily disadvantaged in an era of connected homes. They can't offer broadband--heck, they can't even offer a picture when a summer thunderstorm rolls through and disrupts DVR recording--and, even when connected to the cable/telco broadband, offer limited options compared to the blazingly fast VOD offered by wireline MVPDs.

It's pretty apparent the FCC needs to upgrade its reasoning about competition. Yeah, satellite offers viable video competition to the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Cox, but that's such a '90s concept. In this century, there must be more to be truly effective and only a competitive wireline offering fulfills that need.

That, for many seeking marketplace competition, could be the primary reason to hope for Chromecast success. Maybe a $35 dongle will cause a multibillion-dollar telco to forego its previous plans and expand its FiOS service base so that, as the FCC now believes incorrectly, there truly is competitive TV service.--Jim