Big US Networks Block Web Shows From Google TV

Major US broadcasters, such as ABC, CBS and NBC, are blocking some of their most popular TV programmes from being accessible through Google’s new television service.

Decision does not affect the viewing of those shows through the broadcast TV part of Google TV. Picture: Google

In the latest sign that Google may struggle to transform television viewing with Google TV, its new service for Internet-connected TVs, three major broadcast networks (such as ABC, CBS and NBC) and Hulu are blocking people from using the service to watch full-length TV shows on their Web sites, reports Wall Street Journal.

It means that hit television shows, such as NBC’s “The Office,” CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and ABC’s “Modern Family” can’t be viewed on Google TV, a new service from the search giant that makes it easier for people to access on-demand content, scheduled television and the best of the internet through special set-top boxes or enabled TVs.

Initially, people could watch the full shows on TVs and set-top boxes that use the Google TV software, which Sony and Logitech began selling this month. But as of Thursday, most of the full shows on the sites of NBC, ABC, CBS and Hulu were blocked. People could still visit the sites to read text and, in some cases, watch short vignettes, but not full shows.

The reasons for the action have not officially been stated, but it is thought that some broadcasters are concerned Google TV will cannibalise existing revenue streams, and could tip the balance of power away from broadcasters and the networks in favour of Google.

“Everybody knows the lock that Google has on internet traffic in terms of advertising,” Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner, told Reuters. “If you take that model and extend it to television, suddenly Google’s power becomes enormous in the advertising space and the broadcasters don’t like that idea.”

All three networks confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that they were blocking content from the platform. None gave a reason for the action. ABC and NBC are still allowing programme trailers to appear on Google TV.

Google said the decision about what programming to license to the platform lay solely with content owners.

“Google TV enables access to all the web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owners’ choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on the platform,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

The move marks an escalation in ongoing disputes between Google and some media companies, which are skeptical that Google can provide a business model that would compensate them for potentially cannibalizing existing broadcast businesses.

Over the summer, Google pressed major media companies to optimize their websites and videos to work more seamlessly with Google TV. Some outlets, including Time Warner Inc.’s HBO and Turner Broadcasting networks, did so. Even NBC Universal’s CNBC embraced the service, optimizing some content to work specifically on Google TV.

But many other companies declined to specifically optimize their websites, and some held out the possibility that they could block their content from the service, as the three networks are now doing. Some TV executives said they were worried their shows would be lost in the larger Internet. Some, including Disney and NBC, were also concerned about Google’s stance on websites that offer pirated content, according to people familiar with their thinking.

News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting and Viacom Inc.’s MTV aren’t blocking Google TV from playing episodes on their websites, according to a spot check Thursday. Spokespeople for Fox and MTV confirmed they are not currently blocking Google TV, but the Fox spokeswoman said “a firm decision has not yet been reached.”

For its part, Google has tried to assure broadcasters and content owners such as Disney that Google TV’s search feature is optimized to promote their TV broadcasts and own websites’ video content rather than pirated content, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In addition, Google has also told broadcasters and content owners they can submit requests to Google to delete unauthorized results from the Google TV search feature, just like they do for results in Google’s traditional Web search engine, this person said.

The three networks are also not alone in blocking their content. Video site Hulu, whose owners include Disney, NBC Universal and News Corp., also blocks its video from being played through the Google TV interface. Spokeswomen for both Hulu and Google said the companies are in talks to bring the Hulu Plus subscription service to Google TV. [via Daily Telegraph (UK), CNN and Wall Street Journal]

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