Five Reasons Consumers Won't Tune in to Google TV

Search Giant Doomed to Repeat Failures of Microsoft TV, Apple TV and Yahoo TV

By Published on .

Ellen Dudar
Ellen Dudar
Last week, with great fanfare, Google announced its plans to visit your living room via the TV screen. With the promise of interactivity and the magic of the internet on your TV, some industry analysts heralded Google's plans and predicted a technological renaissance that would change our TV-viewing experience forever. But just as it's the giant who steps on the most landmines, the search engine behemoth's plans are doomed to repeat the failures of Microsoft's Web TV, Apple TV and Yahoo TV. Combined, these companies have a market share of around zero.

In the announcement last week, Google executives acknowledged the dominance of TV. The average American watches five hours of TV a day -- that's 10 to 12 times more leisure activity than is spent on the PC. More than $70 billion advertising is spent on TV advertising annually, with 4 billion TV users worldwide. People love TV and they love the internet, but they love them for very different reasons.

As someone who has been working to bring interactive television and advanced advertising to the living room for more than a decade, I have a detailed perspective on what consumers want, and the platforms, tools and models to reach the most homes. For a new product to attain widespread consumer adoption, it must be 10 times better than the current way, readily accessible and cost competitive. Google TV will be another ITV failure because it won't spur consumer adoption with a technology approach that misses the mark. Here's why:

  • 1) Complexity: Consumers must add yet another box to what is already a complicated setup. Companion boxes, IR blasters, HD converters -- it's too much and relies on very weak links as witnessed by the glitches during the product's unveiling press conference. The integrated DISH box is the only Google TV platform with a chance. Had Google asked internet surfers to purchase a separate appliance to sit next to their computer, their search business would've failed miserably.
  • 2) Cost: To make Google TV work, consumers must purchase the Logitech box (rumored to be north of $400) or a new Android HD TV. This is in addition to what they pay for cable and satellite television since Google TV does not deliver television programming.

  • 3) Consumer behavior: Consumer research indicates viewers want much more from their TVs, but not open surfing of the web. They want features that enhance programming and deliver convenience.

  • 4) Confused advertising: Google wants a slice of the $70 billion advertising pie, but, with the exception of the DISH DVR, the Google TV solution sits outside this lucrative flow of dollars. While Google can deliver new ads in their overlays, they have nothing to do with making linear television spots more targeted and interactive. In fact, Google TV encourages even greater audience fragmentation that undermines television content and advertising models.

  • 5) Competition: By the time Google makes its service available, 25 million cable homes will have interactive features at no additional cost and effort. Consumers will be able to vote for their favorite "American Idol" singer with one click on their remote. In consumer research performed for FourthWall Media, 60 percent of respondents prefer to vote with their remote. The second-most popular choice comes in at a distant 15 percent.

Consumers want their TVs to do more, but only if it's easy, relevant to the viewing experience and provides real consumer benefits. A new innovation must be much better than what it replaces to catch on, and this type of disjointed, complex solution falls short. We already have devices to surf the web. What people want are simple apps to display their personalized stock quotes at the bottom of the screen while watching CNBC, check their fantasy football player stats while taking in the NFL game and vote for their favorite "American Idol" contestant on Fox. And they'd even like to push a remote button while watching a commercial to get more information. That kind of interactivity requires an integrated solution from traditional TV ecosystem players: cable companies, set-top box experts, television programmers and advertisers. Absent significant changes, Google's plans leave them out of this loop and destined to step on the landmines of the past.

Ellen Dudar is co-founder and chief product officer of FourthWall Media.
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