Thursday, October 28, 2010

Google TV - some early thoughts

I've been reading reports about new interactive TV buzz - Google TV and its shenanigans with content providers. Goog has a fine demo out on Best Buy and on their web site. Looks neat but is it going to live up to its buzz.

My quick two cents on this, the world of TV is a typical multi-sided business model with each sides often having different demands. i.e. we've content providers/owners (people who produce TV shows), end-users, advertisers, content distributors or channels (ABC, NBC), and network operators (the distribution channel - AT&T, Comcast, etc.). And the lines get very blurry - Comcast own NBC Universal, Netflix is delivering content over Comcast and AT&T lines potentially competing with content distributors (ABC, FOX of the world).  Talk about getting completely lost in this value chain!

But few things I've learnt over the years - two universal truths:

  1. Content is king! Believe me, this is the universal truth on TV. You need access to premium, high quality content on big box. You can get away with it on PC, mobile but not on TV. The end-user (consumer) is tuned for premium content. 
  2. TV is lean-back experience. The consumer is tuned to be in a lean back mode on TV. Her mindset is very different compared to mobile or PC. What I'm saying is - do not design with lean forward mindset - e.g. three different PIP display with multiple chat windows, etc. Consumer are not going to be chatting on a TV.  
If you keep these two principle in mind when designing TV experience, you'll win.
Please note, the consumer behavior differs very widely with different customer segments - if you test interactive (lean forward) experience with early adopters or enthusiasts, you'll get very positive response. But the key is to test them with mass-market. I sincerely hope that Google TV has done that. We found very different responses back when I was at Microsoft. 

Secondly keep your content providers happy, so that you can get access to premium content. I think Netflix has done an outstanding job in that. They are moving the needle in getting better quality streaming content. Can Google TV do that? Their model is to allow users to search for content (e.g. ABC shows) and play them. I can easily see why content owners will balk at it. They need a piece of the pie - show me the money. They are never going to allow Google to play their content without getting paid for it. 

So, what should Google TV do? 
  1. First of all, decouple TV from Web thinking. I doubt that consumers will search a lot on TV - have you tried typing with a remote. Even if they provide a remote app on Andriod, I really doubt that consumers will be in a mood to search. I know this is contrary to Google thinking but TV is a different beast.
  2.  Focus on providing widgets on the main Google TV workspace which are anchors for monetization - local events, sports related, automotive, etc.
  3.  Provide richer integration with Android phones - sharing photos, videos, etc. 
  4. And last but not least - do rev share deals with content providers to feature content on the main Google TV workspace. 

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