Why Cable May Let the Google Fox Into the Henhouse

Written on:October 15, 2010
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The most interesting Google news this past week wasn’t hardware-related; it was the partnership Google struck with DISH Network, a sign that one of the biggest pay-TV providers just let the fox into the henhouse.

But cable operators like Comcast are a different story: They’re notorious control-freaks when it comes to consumer experience and content, and they’re not hobbled down like satellite operators are when it comes to interactive services and VOD. Still, this hasn’t stopped Google; news indicates the company is pursuing integration deals with cable companies.

But will cable MSOs bite? A Google TV platform will be a tough sell, but I think after a decade-plus journey through the interactive TV desert with OCAP/Tru2Way, many MSOs are too tired and thirsty to resist what Google could offer in the form of applications and interactive services.

In my weekly column at GigaOM Pro. I outline three potential ways Google TV could integrate with cable MSO offerings:

1. Google TV, Dabbler Edition. Here we see cable MSOs slowly rolling out (their specialty, after all) Google TV sidecar bolt-ons to their set tops. This would allow them to test how consumers use the service, but wouldn’t give audiences too big a taste of the Goo(d)gle life.

2. Google TV, Sidecars for Everyone! Edition. This is essentially the DISH deal, with nationwide rollouts of sidecar boxes and light integration with the set-top UI and EPG. Chances are, services competitive with cable VOD such as Netflix would be disabled or excluded.

3. Google TV, Full Monty Edition. I think Google’s ultimate goal is to get the Google TV platform fully integrated into carrier set-tops, with a cobranded UI/EPG, availability of core Google services (like video chat) and new interactive services for consumers through an Android marketplace.

I think we’ll see deployments of the first and second items on the list above. But will cable MSOs go full monty? I have my doubts. Doing so would not only be letting the fox in the henhouse, it’d be giving the fox a knife, spoon and napkin at the dinner table.

But heck, a few years ago, who would have predicted another group of controlling, clamped down carriers welcoming the fox over for dinner in such a big way? The iPhone changed the mobile space in that respect; now Google is hoping to pull off the same trick in the world of payTV.

Read the full post here.

Image source: flickr user Svadilfari

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