If you think it takes forever to go through the hundreds of cable channels you now have, imagine how long it will take if there are hundreds more available to you over the Net. That future may be coming. According to news reports, Google is now working to turn the Internet into a highway that delivers your regular cable television.
The reports, in the New York Times and elsewhere, indicate that Google is, like Apple, Intel , Sony, Microsoft and others, trying to obtain TV content for an Internet-delivered cable service. But there's a long, long way to go.
The technology giant has reportedly been holding meetings recently with major media companies, although the exact nature of the discussions have not been made public. What is clear is that there is a growing interest by major technology companies in the possibility of an "over-the-top" service, so-called because it is delivered over the Internet, on top of high-speed connections.
The YouTube Factor
But Google doesn't necessarily need the cable companies or even the production companies that supply the TV content to the cable companies. That's because Google has YouTube, the largest online video site, and the company has made clear its desire to create original content through YouTube. Conceivably, Google could bypass the cable giants completely, and one could argue that it is better positioned in that regard than, say, Intel.
There have also been persistent rumors that Apple is actively pursuing a strategy of offering a TV service over the Net, possibly in conjunction with a new Apple TV set. These reports could be a significant factor in boosting Google's interest on this front.
Apple is apparently working with the idea that their Internet-delivered service could include a cable TV line-up as well as Apple content. But news reports indicate that Google and Intel, among others, might be interested in primarily delivering TV shows that they choose, as Netflix or Amazon do. Google also has another huge advantage if it decides to go its own way for a TV service: a massive advertising ecosystem.
Bandwidth, Usage Caps
Video is already the most predominant form of traffic on the Internet, and there are questions about how the Net could accommodate such a huge increase in video traffic from one or more major TV services.
Larry Hettick, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, pointed out to NewsFactor.com that the large increase in video traffic not only faces the issue of enough bandwidth, but also the issue that virtually every major Internet provider, except Verizon/Fios and Google's own small ventures into providing fiber networks, has a usage threshold on how much a given subscriber can download in a month.
Hettick said that Google's strategy is "undoubtedly" tied in with their building of gigabit fiber networks in selected communities around the country, which he said they are hoping will encourage the development of other unlimited-usage fiber networks.
But the biggest limiting factor, he said, is not necessarily Internet bandwidth or usage thresholds but "that everyone in the food chain gets the money they expect." Hettick said that this potentially creates a very complicated scenario for distributing existing TV content over the Internet.