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ThE MaStEr

US network partners conspicuously absent in line-up

At the beginning of this week Google announced its content partners for Google TV, the service, which aims to marry up the Internet with the living room, while Logitech unveiled the first STB device which will provide access to that Google TV world.

Google said it had been overwhelmed by interest from partners, many of whom were now enhancing their premium web content for viewing in the living room. While the major US broadcasters were conspicuously absent from the line-up, these partners did include some big players like Turner Broadcasting, with CNN, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim among its offerings, and HBO, which will allow subscribers on-demand access to HBO content through HBO GO.

The NBA has joined up, which will allow real-time access to basketball scores and the like, while NBC Universal is offering CNBC Real-Time, which provides news feeds and stock information. "The Google TV platform allows our premiere news brands, such as CNBC, the opportunity to engage their core audience in new ways by providing them with a personalized experience directly on the TV screen," said Michael Schreiber, Vice President, Digital Distribution, at NBC Universal.

Google TV is also partnering with Amazon Video On Demand and Netflix for streaming movies, as well as Pandora and Napster for streaming music. Among others, there is also YouTube Leanback, which provides a constant stream of YouTube videos that people will apparently be interested in watching for some reason.

Again, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox have all declined to participate in the Google TV project for the time being, leading James L. McQuivey, Principal Analyst at research firm Forrester, to describe the partnerships as 'underwhelming' to the New York Times. However, he said, "They don't actually need content partners to start their little revolution. They don't need the major broadcasters to play along because they can do a lot of cool things with you as a viewer without having to share any of the money."

Sam Rosen, Senior Analyst at research firm ABI, said, "Google's announcement of agreements with Turner Network Television and HBO shows that some content providers are interested in extending their PC-based strategies onto the TV. The failure of Google to announce agreements with Hulu Plus, ABC, NBC (except for a limited news application) or Fox, shows that content providers are still reluctant to allow television content to bypass traditional networks – this will likely continue until Internet advertising platforms can show similar revenues as traditional TV."

Ambarish Kenghe, Developer Product Manager, Google TV, said, "We're really excited about the enthusiasm surrounding the platform and can't wait for it to reach your living room. Devices powered by Google TV will launch this month, so look out for more information in the next few weeks from Sony on its Internet TV and Blu-Ray player, and Logitech on its companion box."

The Logitech information came out on Wednesday this week, and the STB it is offering, dubbed the Revue, looks pretty impressive. There are options for video cameras and other forms of expansion, as well as both iPhone and Android apps to control it, but the box and a keyboard will set back consumers $300. This seems pretty expensive, particularly considering a recent report from Forrester Research looking at connected TVs in general, which found that despite enthusiasm from device manufacturers, a third of people who buy Internet enabled TVs don't actually use the features – 14% don't even connect them to the Internet.

Theoretically the experience offered by Google TV will make using that Internet functionality more desirable, and more straightforward, and again theoretically, will justify the price tag. But $300 for a STB? This could end up being a pretty hard sell.


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