Mathew Lasar posted an interesting article to Wired over the weekend. It offers a look inside the other ongoing battle in the realm of cable TV providers. As Lasar points out, net neutrality and the NBC / Comcast cable TV merger have stolen the headlines recently, but the debate over online video, specifically through products like Google TV, continues to cause problems.
The main issue appears to be some form of virtual turf war. On one end, cable TV providers feel like Google TV is attempting to block them out of the online video revolution. On the other, Google TV and its partners feel like their products and services will free up the last entertainment frontier. Both sides make valid points. Both sides also make some pretty weak points.
One phrase that keeps popping up from the cable TV providers is “consumer confusion”. They believe that allowing services like Google TV to compete head to head with cable TV providers, potentially opening the doors to watching “illegal content”, will confuse TV consumers. Maybe it’s more likely that consumers won’t be “confused”, but that they simply won’t care where they get their content, as long as they still see their favorite shows.
Of course, online video services like Google TV claim to bridge the gap between traditional TV services and the wealth of content available on the Internet. What they don’t seem to make readily available is that the Internet does offer all kinds of portals to potentially “illegal” content. Sites like Hulu broadcast TV episodes with the consent of their creators. Some sites offer the same content without any form consent at all. With that in mind, the cable TV providers’ claims don’t seem so far fetched. Perhaps they are being squeezed out of the online video market.
The bottom line is that you can’t stop technological advances. Products like Google TV will continue to surface. As we saw with the record industry, online music totally rearranged how we get our music today. The same is happening to cable TV. Like the music world, cable TV providers will struggle to work out how to remain relevant, but at least they aren’t the first to go through it. Products like Xfinity TV and the menagerie of online video and DVR products from providers like DIRECTV are certainly a step in the right direction. It’s just going to be a little messy while everyone figures out how to play nice.