Inauspicious start for Google TV
While Google TV teases us with what a merger of the Internet and TV might become in the future, the major broadcast TV networks appear to be balking and some early adopters are pointing out flaws in the first release of the software.
Sony is shipping its line of HDTVs and Internet TV Blu-ray Players powered by Google TV, and Logitech is shipping its REVUE set-top box.
Very early reviews mention issues with the video quality coming in from various websites. There also has been a problem with passing through high definition video using the HDMI connections.
Another, perhaps bigger, hurdle is being presented by the major TV broadcast networks. ABC, CBS, and NBC have, for the time being, blocked access to their online video portals from the Google TV browser.
Hulu.com and CBS’s TV.com are also currently blocked. This means that full length TV shows that can be viewed on any computer via the Internet can NOT be viewed using Google TV.
This steals a lot of the thunder from the Google TV launch, but it’s not a deal breaker. FOX is still permitting Google TV access.
In fact, popular basic cable TV networks are not only offering free programming to Google TV users, but many are building portals that follow the Google TV Style Guide, which will eventually make them look better and operate more conveniently for Google TV users.
Time-Warner-owned TBS offers full-length reruns of Seinfeld, The Office, American Dad, and others. TNT provides original series like The Closer and Leverage. Comedy Central, which is owned by Turner & Viacom, features The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and South Park, all favorites with the twenty-something demographic.
Even though NBC is blocking its broadcast TV shows, NBC-owned Syfy and Bravo networks are available to Google TV.
SpikeTV, owned by MTV Networks (Viacom), has programs like Entourage available to Google TV.
If a next-generation Google TV set-top box includes a digital terrestrial TV tuner, consumers could simply tune-in the free-to-air, high definition full-length broadcast programs and record them onto the built-in personal video recorder, and that solves the blocking problem.
Early adopters are likely to be the most tech-savvy users, and they will test early release products to the max. Message forums are getting hit with comments about the lack of current support for the popular Windows Media Codecs, and problems with other popular web-based Codecs.
The fact that lower-cost set-top boxes from Roku, Boxee, and NMT do support a wide range of Codecs have some bloggers asking what they get for their $300.
In-Stat's set-top box coverage has been reporting on European products, like the Metrological Mediaconnect TV, which does, in fact, come with a pair of built-in DVB-T, DVB-C, or DVB-S digital tuners, and supports personal video recording as well as a host of online video and audio CODECs.
Google TV may look like a competitor to the broadcast TV networks right now, but in the coming months In-Stat believes they will need to come to grips with Google TV and figure out how to make it play to their monetary advantage.
Blocking access to popular TV shows to some devices but permitting any Wi-Fi-connected laptop to have full access is certainly not going to sit well with consumers.
And as the set-top boxes get better and better, consumers are going to want more and more of their content delivered “on demand” to their TV sets via the Internet.
One must remember that it’s still the early days for Google TV, and their bold vision may take a while to fully develop.
Gerry Kaufhold is a principal analyst at In-Stat