Wall Street Journal
By SAM SCHECHNER And AMIR EFRATI
October 22, 2010
ABC, CBS and NBC are blocking TV programming on their websites from being viewable on Google Inc.'s new Web-TV service, exposing the rift that remains between the technology giant and some of the media companies it wants to supply content for its new products.
Full-length episodes of shows like NBC's "The Office," CBS's "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," and ABC's "Modern Family" can't be viewed on Google TV, a service that allows people to access the Internet and search for Web videos on their television screens, as well as to search live TV listings. Logitech International S.A. and Sony Corp. began selling devices running the software this month.
Spokespeople for the three networks confirmed that they are blocking the episodes on their websites from playing on Google TV, although both ABC and NBC allow promotional clips to work using the service. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co., CBS is part of CBS Corp., and NBC is a unit of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal.
"Google TV enables access to all the Web content you already get today on your phone and PC, but it is ultimately the content owners' choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on the platform," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
The move marks an escalation in ongoing disputes between Google and some media companies, which are skeptical that Google can provide a business model that would compensate them for potentially cannibalizing existing broadcast businesses.
Over the summer, Google pressed major media companies to optimize their websites and videos to work more seamlessly with Google TV. Some outlets, including Time Warner Inc.'s HBO and Turner Broadcasting networks, did so. Even NBC Universal's CNBC embraced the service, optimizing some content to work specifically on Google TV.
But many other companies declined to specifically optimize their websites, and some held out the possibility that they could block their content from the service, as the three networks are now doing. Some TV executives said they were worried their shows would be lost in the larger Internet. Some, including Disney and NBC, were also concerned about Google's stance on websites that offer pirated content, according to people familiar with their thinking.
Disney executives, for example, asked that Google filter out results from pirate sites when users search for Disney content, like "Desperate Housewives." But they were unsatisfied with Google's response, according to people familiar with the conversations.
News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting and Viacom Inc.'s MTV aren't blocking Google TV from playing episodes on their websites, according to a spot check Thursday. Spokespeople for Fox and MTV confirmed they are not currently blocking Google TV, but the Fox spokeswoman said "a firm decision has not yet been reached." News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.
For its part, Google has tried to assure broadcasters and content owners such as Disney that Google TV's search feature is optimized to promote their TV broadcasts and own websites' video content rather than pirated content, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In addition, Google has also told broadcasters and content owners they can submit requests to Google to delete unauthorized results from the Google TV search feature, just like they do for results in Google's traditional Web search engine, this person said.
Some shows-from siblings of the networks that are blocking their content-were working on Google TV on Thursday. Shows from the CW network, which is jointly owned by CBS and Time Warner, appear to play on Google TV, as do some from Lifetime, a cable channel jointly owned by Walt Disney Co., Hearst Inc., and NBC Universal.
Google won't directly make money from the sale of the Google TV software, but the software's use will benefit Google's ad-supported Web search engine and is expected to increase viewership of the ad-supported YouTube site, which is owned by Google. The company also has been in talks with Madison Avenue's media-buying firms to discuss how to sell ads on the Google TV interface without interfering with TV commercials, people familiar with the matter have said.
But the three networks are also not alone in blocking their content. Video site Hulu, whose owners include Disney, NBC Universal and News Corp., also blocks its video from being played through the Google TV interface. Spokeswomen for both Hulu and Google said the companies are in talks to bring the Hulu Plus subscription service to Google TV.
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