'The Web is coming, with or without Google'

Jim O'NeilSTREAMING MEDIA WEST--"We are not looking to replace cable TV," Rishi Chandra, Product Lead for Google TV said. "Our goal is to add millions of channels that are not available on your TV today." It's a line he's likely delivered before, and one--in one shape or another--that he would repeat throughout his keynote at Streaming Media West.

It's something Shalini Pai, Group Manager, Partner Solutions, YouTube, Google TV, and Ashish Arora, VP, GM, Digital Home Group, Logitech, would also repeat in their own forum, "Here Comes Google: TV Meets the Web."

All of them were very careful to make it clear that they don't see Google TV as a Cable Killer, but rather as an enhancement to a TV experience, one that will allow viewers to search and discover content, enabling a richer and deeper dive into what content providers and service providers offer.

Of course, not everyone is buying the Google company line.

ABC, NBC and CBS continue to block their content from Google TV devices and there isn't a cable operator or telco in the U.S. that's worked out any deals with Google TV.

As for Hollywood, they're even more leery of what Google TV and its search function means to an industry already struggling to fend off pirates.

Christopher T. Carey, Paramount Pictures VP of worldwide technical operations, last week talked about how 500 million newly empowered consumers could use Google TV's search function to call up pirated videos. (And that's no pipe dream, either, Carey actually showed how easily a user could do it with Google's current online search engine.)

But Chandra said many in the entertainment sector are missing the bigger picture. The networks and cable TV, especially just can't seem to get a handle on how television is evolving to a different level.

"We're now entering the third phase," he said. "It's going from 300 channels to millions of channels. What people are doing is watching more different kinds of television. There's been a long tail of content that's been created.

"What's really exciting is now because of the Web we can expose a new generation of content creators to the television."

It's not clear, yet, how Google TV is being greeted by consumers, but there have been a couple of video issues (see related story below) that have raised some red flags with analysts.

The content block by the Big 3 is something that eventually will be worked out as licensing contracts are negotiated; and, Google is likely to get Hulu Plus access once Hulu decides what it's actually going to charge for the product. Of course, some network content, via Netflix and Amazon.com is still available to Google TV, but it's not the mother lode that Google was hoping to bring to their platform.

Nevertheless, Chandra said, change is coming. "The web is coming, cable is not going away, and this is just the beginning."-Jim