Google TV – Prepare to be humbled

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the folks over at Google TV have started courting the Big 4 (ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS) in a bid to a make legitimate run at the potential gold rush that is TV over the web. This should be interesting. Normally, the very thought of Google going into a new area of business usually means money in the bank, but I’m a bit more sceptical of Google TV.

Here’s why I think it’s going to be an uphill battle for Google TV.

TV companies don’t trust Google. YouTube is rife with bootleg content from all the major networks and while Google do the best they can to monitor this, it’s never enough for the Big 4. The distrust of Google is so deep that there is already talk about blocking content from Google TV, even before Google confirms their revenue models for Google TV.

The VOD and Web TV market is already over-crowded. Content owners, cable companies, ISPs and hardware providers. Some of the biggest players from all areas of the world of TV and online have been in this space for several years before Google TV was even announced. It may all seem new, but that’s only because no one has found a definitive resolution with regards to who gets what part of the pie. Companies as big or even bigger than Google have been working on this for years. With all these players in the market vying for a chunk of the consumer’s dollar, it’s going to be hard for Google TV to dominate.

Google has a bad track record when it deviates from search. Let’s be very clear about Google’s success. It knows search and it knows it well. That’s why it’s been so successful. However, each time it attempts to get into a space that deviates from search, it’s not been so good for Google. Its attempts at social (Wave, Buzz, Latitude) have been dismal. Part of the reason why those attempts failed was that Google just didn’t understand the underlying principles of social media and why people use it. Will it be able to understand why and how people watch TV better than TV companies?

Anyone working in the VOD or Web TV space will tell you that it is a very complex situation with a lot of different stakeholders. In this sense, Google is actually just a small fish in a very big pond. Will they have the humility to stick it out and do what they need to do to get the product off the ground?

Lulu Phongmany, Head of Business Development & Marketing, iVillage.co.uk