Google Fiber with Google TV ?

One of the big interrogations I have about Google's FTTH experimentation is whether someone (not necessarily Google) would be able to deliver live TV over IP to their potential customers. The issue is not so much technical (with 1Gb/s there shouldn't be any QoS issues, even if I doubt Google's capacity to actually deliver a consistent Gb/s) as it is regulatory. Content distribution rights in the US are constrained fifteen different ways and delivering TV the "traditional" way for a project on that scale is probably not economically viable. Even Hulu is not an option because they are barred from delivering content to the TV.

So a couple of questions have been on my mind for some weeks now:

  • Would a significant proportion of customers accept alternative TV (VoD, net streamed content, etc.) as a substitute to live TV ?
  • Could Google reach a workable penetration rate delivering only internet access ?

Google's announcement yesterday about their Google TV product (which, it seems is going to be nothing like this gem) may prove to be a sign that they rely on the first option. Please note that I'm not suggesting the Google TV product was designed for their FTTH experimentation specifically, not at all. I'm just saying that knowing the Google TV product was coming, the FTTH people within Google might have thought that the likely inability to deliver TV in the traditional way could perhaps be counterbalanced.

I'm not so sure.

It seems that a large part of the value of the Google TV product will be to allow you to find content you want to watch amongst the hundreds of live channels and thousands of non-live pieces of content available. If you don't get live channels (and remember, Hulu is off-limits for legal reasons) that diminishes the value of Google's proposition greatly.

What you're left with is a box that will more or less do what TiVo does.

Still, it will be interesting to see if this new service from Google actually sparks a massive alternate content industry that will be more amenable to such distribution and if enough customers find that palatable. A recent report written by my colleagues Vince Vittore and Dmitriy Molchanov entitled Consumers Consider Axing the Coax examines the trends towards video cord-cutting. No doubt Google TV, if successful, will only accelerate these trends.