Google TV’s Search for a Living Room Hit

Now that Google TV, the search giant’s shot at bringing the Web to the television, has been out for a few weeks in the form of the Logitech Revue settop box and Sony’s TVs and Blu-ray machine, all eyes are on how it’s doing. Truth be told, it’s still too early to know. But Rishi Chandra, Google TV’s product lead, offered some insights on Google’s thinking in a talk today at GigaOm’s NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco with NewTeeVee co-editor Janko Roettgers. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What’s your relation with broadcasters, which are blocking Google TV now? What happened? Chandra: There are many content owners and creators who are not blocking Google TV–Turner, CNBC, HBO, etc. Obviously the Web is a new technology. A lot of the incumbents in the space are trying to understand what this will mean for them. Our goal here is not to replace cable. We’re trying to take all that great content on the cable today, which is great but limited, and bring all the content on the Web to the TV too.

Q: What’s the middle ground here with broadcasters? Chandra: At the end of the day, what the content owners are looking for is how do they create more value from the content they own? Several business models: subscription with Netflix, transactions with Amazon Video On Demand, authentication with HBO.

Q: Are devices like Google TV the missing link for models like authentication? Chandra: It’s going to take time. More and more content is going to come online behind authentication models.

Q: There’s fear of cutting the cord–how will that play out and how does Google TV fit? Chandra: Cord-cutting is not happening anytime soon. The cable industry actually does a pretty good job of delivering compelling content to consumers. The issue is it’s limited. We want to take all that great content that’s on cable today and extend it. We want to enable all those other great channels (on the Web) as easy to access as cable channels.

The product is designed to bring in the TV feed. Our search product is about searching the TV too. The technology of the Web isn’t there yet to replace all the great content on the Web, like sports.

Q: Google TV is based on Android, which was developed with mobile devices in mind. How is that shaping Google TV? Chandra: Android broke a lot of ground in terms of how you create a robust platform. It’s a testament to Android that it’s flexible enough operating system that it works on multiple devices.

Mobile introduced this notion of bringing the Web to a new experience… and give developers a way to create new experiences. I think the same thing can happen with TV.

Q: You haven’t really made the case for search on the TV. What’s your thinking here? Chandra: Search isn’t the only mechanism to find content. With millions of channels, you need a new paradigm to find content. I think browse will continue to be a way to find content.

With YouTube Leanback, you can type in “elmo” and he gets a lists of Elmo videos. Or “LeBron dunk,” and you get a whole channel of videos.

Q: How will content owners address the TV search function (which produces a more limited set of results appropriate for TV)? Chandra: With the CNBC app, it can be personalized to your own stocks. You can get a feed of video related just to the stocks you own.

Q: Smart phones are hugely disruptive, but makers still have to play nice with carriers. Is it similar in the TV business for Google TV? Chandra: It’s very similar. The reality is this is not meant to be Google going in alone. We’re partnering with a host of companies–Dish, Logitech, HBO, Intel, etc. Open-sourcing this means we don’t have to be the only ones innovating.

Q (from the audience): What are the pros and cons of building a Spotlight interface for Google TV vs. apps on Android and Chrome (i.e., the Web)? Chandra: We bring together both platforms. The advantage of Android is there are performance enhancements that you can’t do on the Web. We’ll have more when we actually launch the SDK.

Q: Advantages or disadvantages of not being able to control the hardware, specifically the input devices? Chandra: I don’t think there’s a single input device that’s going to work for everyone. If you want to use the Web a lot, Logitech’s keyboard works well. Sony’s controller more for other applications. Then there’s the mobile phone, which could also provide voice control. This is very early days and you’re going to see a lot of cool stuff coming.

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