Is Google Your Next Cable TV Provider?
Google is reportedly in early talks to offer cable television services to residents in Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS. The new offering would be part of Google's one gigabit-per-second experimental fiber-to-home network currently being built in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area and slated to go live by early 2012.
To get its purported new TV service off the ground, Google has spoken with a number of TV channel owners including The Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc., and Discovery Communications Inc., according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
Google may also offer digital telephone service, which would bring the company's fiber network in line with so-called "triple play" packages offered by most cable and telephone companies. There are no details on pricing or whether Google's plans could be the start of a larger cable TV business in other areas. The Journal does say the offering could expand to Palo Alto, Calif., where Google offers high-speed Internet to some residents.
The Living Room Battle Heats Up
As more video content moves online, television services appear to be the next big battle ground for technology companies, with Apple and Google leading the charge. Apple is reportedly working on a television set with voice-recognition baked in, and recently CBS all but confirmed that Apple has been trying to build a monthly TV subscription service.
Google is making a second pass at GoogleTV, the company's attempt to bring Web access and broadcast television into one interface. Google TV 2.0 will include a redesigned interface, improved search engine, optimized access to YouTube, and third-party Android applications.
Amazon and Netflix offer television episode streaming, and Facebook is working with both Hulu and Netflix to integrate their video offerings with the social network. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo offer Hulu and other television content through their respective gaming consoles, the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the Wii.
Cable and telephone companies are also moving television online with services such as Comcast's Xfinity and AT&T's U-Verse. Meanwhile, content creators for several years have been offering content online for free or by subscription including the four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), HBO, ESPN, and Major League Baseball.
Google or Apple?
At the moment, it's not clear if Google's attempt to get into the cable television business will work. But the bigger question is whether the search giant will do anything original to set its offerings apart from major cable providers such as Comcast, Time Warner, and Cox.
Will Google offer its cable service for free and hope to make its money solely through advertising and other business deals, similar to its approach with search and the Android mobile operating system? The cable business is ripe for a revolution thanks to overpriced television packages and antiquated customer service that requires you to wait at home for four hours so a technician can come over and plug a set-top box into your wall.
Google's reported plans for its Kansas City fiber network sound interesting. But is Google the right company to upend the cable business or is that a job more suited to Apple?