Fox TV joins US networks to block Google TV

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Image caption,
Google is seeking to continue its cross-platform expansion into TV

US TV network Fox has joined its rivals in blocking Google TV from airing its programmes to viewers.

Fox held out after CBC, ABC and NBC refused to let full shows air on Google's new platform - where users can view the web and video on home TVs.

The networks are concerned they will suffer because online advertising is less lucrative than TV commercials.

The Fox move will come as a blow to Google, which needs the backing of the major media companies to thrive.

Google TV was launched at the end of October and is available embedded in a Sony TV and also through a set top box made by Logitech.

Speaking at a TV conference in San Francisco, NewTeeVee Live, Google remained upbeat about the future.

"There are many content owners who are not blocking Google TV,'' said Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google TV.

"The web is a new technology and it's not unheard of whenever there is a new technology that a lot of the incumbents in the space are trying to understand what that technology is going to mean for them.

"We have seen it before whether it's VHS, DVD or DVR."

Mr Chandra also tried to downplay fears that Google TV is out to cannibalise the industry or "replace" cable TV in the US.

"We would like to make sure all that content on the web today is accessible through the Chrome browser which is effectively Google TV. It's up to the content owners to decide how they want to distribute their content to their users," he said.

Too complex?

While the battle to dominate the biggest screen in the home continues to heat up, the issue of what the ordinary consumer wants was also tackled at the conference.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research carried out by Adaptive Path said ordinary users just want to watch TV, they want it to be simple and they want it to work.

Image caption,
The remote control for the Sony Google TV needs to cover lots of bases

"People want to go home, lean back, hit the on button and be entertained. It's as simple as that," said Peter Merholz, president of Adaptive Path.

"All these tools, devices, settings, menus, configurations just get in the way of people's desire to just watch TV. Not everybody wants the latest whizzy, super-complicated set of features and functions."

Mr Merholz suggested the secret formula to success for those in the industry would be to provide TVs that almost hark back to a bygone era.

"When we were all kids, you turned on the TV and it just worked. About the only hassle was moving the rabbit ears to get reception."

He criticised the new Sony Google TV for its complicated remote control.

"I made fun of the Sony remote with all these buttons but my experience in talking to people is that they would pick that up and toss it away."

Mr Merholz said that he believed a clear win for Google would be for it to make it simple for users to search for content, and that this would be a key future in coming years.

Platform wars

TV has always been a social event with friends and family gathering around to watch a show together.

Image caption,
Apple recently revamped its Apple TV - something the firm describes as "a hobby project"

The conference was told that the social aspect of TV has grown and morphed because users are increasingly sharing via Facebook and Twitter while watching TV.

"Twitter is not just supplementing content, it's changing it," said Robin Sloan, of Twitter's media partnership team.

"It's taking all this stuff and piping it back in."

These tools have been credited in large part for delivering some of the highest ratings ever for live TV events such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

Mr Sloan said a good percentage of the 90 million tweets sent each day were TV-related, with peaks evident during TV primetime.

MTV was the best at using social media to engage an audience, Mr Sloan said.

During the VMA awards the show saw over two million tweets and reached 11 million viewers, its highest since 2002.

"We've been talking about 'interactive TV' for 20 years, waiting for the magic box or platform to finally emerge.

"But maybe Twitter is actually the platform for interactive TV?

"It's simple, increasingly ubiquitous, works on any platform and everybody's already using it to talk about TV," added Mr Sloan.

'Exciting times'

Interactive TV was something writers Carlton Cuse of Lost and Tim Kring of Heroes have been credited with pioneering.

They both won an Emmy for their work and said that the web, mobile devices and social media made this one of the most exciting times to be a storyteller.

"I think in this new media landscape where there is this new element of interactivity, you will see a revolution in storytelling in the same way video games represented a different type of storytelling," Mr Cuse told BBC News.

Mr Cuse and Mr Kring said these tools allowed them to take their shows in new directions not possible before, because audiences wanted to be involved.

"The real essence of the revolution we're going through now is that the conversation is two ways now. So you have to think, how do you engage that audience that wants to talk back to you?"

Both shows created episodes for mobile phones and even used alternate storylines on other platforms.

Blogs and fan pages were also used and both harnessed the idea of "alternate reality games" where viewers could get involved in and help build.

"Some ideas worked great and some were terrible," said Mr Cuse.

"But it was really exciting to be the first people to be doing these new types of extensions of TV on these new media platforms."

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.