Does the TV viewer really matter?

John C. Tanner
Telecom Asia

With Google pushing into just about every other communications business, it was only a matter of time before it took on the television industry. The search engine behemoth last month unveiled the predictably named Google TV. The service counts Sony, Intel, Logitech and DishTV as partners and promises to leverage Google's Android platform and Chrome browser to bring web content to HDTV sets sometime next year.

The basic idea is nothing new - Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and others have been pursuing web-TV in various forms for some time. Where Google hopes to make a difference - apart from its open-source approach and its claims to make TV and web widgets a seamless, simultaneous experience as opposed to separate functions - is the advertising model. Google TV promises to deliver targeted ads to TV viewers, giving advertisers unprecedented flexibility and accuracy in how they target demographics, get documented feedback on how many people interacted with ads and clicked through, and pay only for the ads viewed.

Oh, and users won't be able to fast-forward through ads.

Many advertisers are, of course, thrilled. Viewers may be a lot less excited about it. But then the TV industry has never really been that interested in what viewers think about its business models.

For example, last month the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia furiously denounced a March decision by Singapore's Media Development Authority to mandate that cable operators StarHub and SingTel must share key pay-TV programming, effectively banning the practice of negotiating exclusive contracts with content providers such as, say, HBO or English Premier League football.

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