Jul, 17 2013

It’s no secret that Google hasn’t had the best of times getting its Google TV platform off the ground. The Android-based set-top box platform has been used in many different products from the likes of Sony, LG, Vizio, Logitech and more, but some have exited the arena (Logitech) while others don’t seem to be having much success with it.

What’s wrong with Google TV?

The platform itself has been quite stagnant since launch. Google has introduced new features over time, but it is still struggling to deliver the sort of content that would get users excited. Personally, I would have loved to be able to replace my cable TV service with the Google TV we thought we were getting ahead of its launch (the one where we thought Google had tons of content providers lined up).

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Instead, the platform launched as a glorified launchpad for TV apps. Google was mostly shunned by big studios, and things started drying up ever since. Google has been quiet on the issue for a long time, and a side from a quick update here and a device launch there, one might not ever know the platform exists if they weren’t actively following the smart TV scene.

Can Google TV be saved?

I was interested to hear that Google might finally be gearing up to bring us the service that we’ve all been waiting for. Sources close to the matter revealed to Wall Street Journal that the Mountain View, CA company has been in talks with media companies about licensing content for use with an internet TV service, one that would mirror the channel-surfing model traditional television provides, except it’d all be coming through the online pipeline.

It isn’t hard to imagine Google has an easier time getting the ear of major content providers now that they’ve gotten their feet wet in several areas of the TV space. Google TV was a (rocky) start, and Google Fiber has made them a legit provider of cable television services (albeit for a very limited amount of people right now).

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With an internet-based TV subscription service, Google could finally give the platform the legs it needs to make it an easier sell to consumers. Apps and integration with existing set-top boxes isn’t enough for many to hop on board — some are looking for a full-fledged replacement.

What a new “Google TV” could be like

If true, I wholly expect Google to inject the service into its Google TV platform. It might not even require a big overhaul — they could simply provide an app in the Google Play Store and retroactively deliver access to dozens (or even hundreds) of channels. I could see them offering it in a few different ways:

  • A la carte, where you pay a low rate and get only the channels you need and want. I could easily see them allowing us to pay $3 per month for each standard channel (like Cartoon Network or USA Network) and $6 for a premium channel (Like HBO or Showtime), mixing and matching so people can get cheaper access to television without paying for all the fluff they don’t watch.
  • Another way would be to offer it all for a low flat rate. Perhaps Google could borrow the traditional cable TV model of giving you a basic set of channels for, say, $20 per month, and allowing you to add more as you want or need them.

With “Google pricing” (let’s face it: we expect everything of theirs to be free or ultra affordable by now) I could see the company offering a compelling service to those who don’t care to pay upwards of $70 to $80 per month for cable TV service.

Who it’d be perfect for

It would certainly be ideal for folks who are stuck in areas where one company has a major monopoly over any other, with no competition to help drive costs down. I’d ditch cable in a heartbeat, and stick to a nice cocktail of Google TV, Netflix, Hulu and more to help fill in gaps that a full-fledged cable TV service would leave behind.

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It wouldn’t be perfect, but the amount of money I could save each month would totally be worth giving up the ease and worry-free access to entertainment cable TV currently provides.

It’s funny, when I was going through a bill audit a while ago I thought to myself — what don’t I use that I’m actively paying for? Cable TV was at the top of my list. In fact, I’d probably never use my cable TV service if it weren’t for Monday and Thursday Night Football.

I keep cable TV service around for other folks in the house who aren’t as disconnected from cable as I currently am, but in a situation where my decisions would only affect myself, I’d have ditched cable long ago — with, or without Google TV. I say bring it on, Google, and try not to drop the ball this time around. I hope Google can get it done, and I’ll be tossing my wallet at their face the moment it (hopefully) arrives.

Would a Google TV service like this entice you to drop your premium cable package or would you rather stick with the robust offerings from current cable providers? Is price your biggest factor in such a decision or is it the ease of use and availability of content and channels? Let us know what would make you want to buy into Google TV by dropping a comment below.

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