Google, you doth protesteth too much!

I’ve just returned from TV Connect where Babel was representing its broadcast and media clients once again. Like all of these events it’s a strange mixture of doing new business, meeting customers, briefing journalists and analysts, catching up with old friends and colleagues and just ‘being seen’. It isn’t the biggest event on the calendar – IBC and NAB share that position – and so I wasn’t expecting much that hadn’t previously been featured.

I did find some time to listen to a couple of presentations and the one that interested me most was from Sascha Prueter, Head of Android TV Program Management at Google. At least I think it was him, it could equally have been Thomas Riedl,Head of Android TV Global Partnerships – they look so similar to me I’m beginning to wonder if Google’s been investing in cloning technologies. Anyway, for the purposes of this post, let’s assume it was Sascha.

So, Sascha was talking about Android TV, Google’s full platform designed specifically for smart TV. That in itself isn’t new but what interested me was the lengths Sascha was going to reassure prospective operator partners that Google isn’t trying to take over the TV world in the same way it has done so (along with Apple) in the mobile industry.

Sascha first started by actually saying Google doesn’t want to take over the primary relationship or the primary presentation of live and on-demand video content. “That’s your business, you know a lot more about it than us etc.” – I’m paraphrasing but you get the picture. He then went on to describe the initial UI presentation which, true to his word, focusses on operator controlled content. All good to that point and he then talked about the opportunity for users to switch seamlessly into an apps environment and described how operators could share in the revenue model for app purchases. It still sounded good until he showed a selection of about six core apps. Dear reader, would you like to know what two of those apps were? Yes, you guessed it, Google Movies and YouTube.

Now correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t Google Movies and YouTube platforms for the delivery of on-demand and even live video content? And aren’t they owned and controlled by Google? There seemed to be very little acknowledgement of that point but there were yet more references made, throughout the presentation, to operators being in control and owning the core asset.

The cynical amongst you might think that this zealous promotion of the operators’ key position in the ‘world according to Google’ covers up an altogether different plan. I couldn’t possibly comment but in my discussions with a range of exhibitors around the event, it’s apparent that there is a great deal of suspicion about Google’s motives.

Should the industry be afraid? Possibly. Should the industry resist Google’s advances? Probably.

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