Google has content owners and TV network execs pulling out their worry beads again, scheduling massages to ease their tension from clenched teeth that have gnawed through bite splints and, in general, circling the wagons as the purveyors of Goolge TV cool their collective heels in the outer offices, looking for a deal that will bring content to the masses, but without a guaranteed means of paying for it.
Hulu, meanwhile, which returns pennies on the dollar to content owners for the right to pony up said content for free (or for 10 bucks if you’re willing to bite on the Hulu Plus subscription hook), is looking to float a $2 billion IPO for a company that may not even exist once Comcast gobbles up NBC Universal and decides that killing Hulu (it will own a third of the video hub once it owns NBC) isn't a PR issue it can't deal with. Never mind that Hulu says it can turn a $200 million profit on advertising this year, it's peanuts when compared to the $70 billion U.S. TV-advertising market.
To say the online video business is maturing might be a bit of an overstatement… to say that it's exciting certainly isn't. The online video entertainment aspect of the segment is only a small part of what's going on in the marketplace, but it's so visible that it can't be easily ignored, and, frankly, who'd want to, it makes great news.
Hollywood is scared to death of Google because, unlike Hulu, it has little or no control over it. One industry exec told me right after Google TV plans were made public, that Google would have a tough time making inroads in the company town, because it had no ties—and no trust established—in Hollywood. That makes it more of a loose cannon than studio execs and content owners are used to dealing with.
Can Google TV succeed without the help of TV and studio executives? Well, it probably can... to a point. But the fact that it's going to executives and asking for help in exchange for—what, promises of a deal down the road?--may be a pretty good indicator of just how clueless it is in relation to how Hollywood works.-Jim
P.S. Ooyala CEO Jay Fulcher hit his 1-year anniversary at the online video platform this month. He talked with me about what has changed in the industry during his short tenure (a lot) and what he sees coming down the road in the next 12 months (ditto). Check it out here.