One could liken Google to a house that keeps expanding, with new room additions every few months. Google’s house is already the largest on the block and it seems to keep getting bigger. Two related moves represent further expansion. The first is the announcement last week of the Google Media Server, which conveys content from PC to TV. The second is a move to distribute original “TV” content online via AdSense.
Postscript: See this article, FAQ: What We Know So Far About Google TV, for more information about the announcement of Google TV.
In the category of PC to TV, Google is not really doing anything novel. There are a range of efforts already in the market (SlingMedia, TiVo, Apple TV, Hulu, among others) to manage transfer of content from TV to PC and vice versa. The two “platforms” are quickly becoming interoperable, and the screen in the living room will eventually just be a big PC in addition to an on-demand premium content distribution channel.
Google already has moved into TV on the advertising side with TV ads, and other firms are working on bringing Internet-style precision targeting to TV advertising. We can expect a continuing push into TV ad innovation and distribution from Google and Microsoft as they seek to become all-purpose, multi-media advertising platforms.
Perhaps more provocative is Google’s move into original content distribution online through an initial deal with Seth MacFarlane, creator of TV’s “Family Guy” cartoon. As the NY Times explains:
Google will syndicate the program using its AdSense advertising system to thousands of Web sites that are predetermined to be gathering spots for Mr. MacFarlane’s target audience, typically young men. Instead of placing a static ad on a Web page, Google will place a “Cavalcade” video clip.
Advertising will be incorporated into the clips in varying ways. In some cases, there will be “preroll” ads, which ask viewers to sit through a TV-style commercial before getting to the video. Some advertisers may opt for a banner to be placed at the bottom of the video clip or a simple “brought to you by” note at the beginning.
There are two views of this move. It’s either a creative extension of Video for AdSense and related experiments, or it’s Google moving into original content creation and distribution — Google as studio or TV network. The latter interpretation will raise concern among content partners and media companies with whom Google currently does or wants to do business. This is a version of the same concern raised by major ad agencies that fear Google wants to take their clients (e.g., WPP).
Another interesting move in the same vein is YouTube’s experiment with long form content and full-length movies. This is Google as cable TV channel or exhibitor. (Sony is trying TV-internet distribution of first run films before their DVD release.)
As TV-internet content and device “convergence” increases, Google is in a very strong position to be powerful distribution mechanism for film and video content (online and potentially on TV as the internet comes to TV). YouTube is far and away the dominant online video property, and the internet is fast becoming a critical distribution mechanism to reach younger demographic groups that are increasingly viewing TV content online. (The average TV viewer is now 50 apparently.)
Before Google, Yahoo created original content but has historically been ambivalent about its initiatives in that regard. My guess is that Google doesn’t see the Seth MacFarlane deal as a move into content creation but rather distribution and video monetization, consistent with the logic of where the company has been. But others, seeing where it could go ultimately, are afraid of how far Google might like to move into studio or cable TV territory.