ABC, CBS, NBC Block Web Content From Google TV

The three biggest U.S. networks have blocked access to full-length episodes of television shows that are available for streaming on their websites, meaning anyone who bought a brand new Google TV this week is out of luck -- for now.

Google is in talks with ABC, CBS, and NBC, trying to unblock access to the shows on their websites, content that is available on any other computer, regardless of monitor size, Reuters reported. Fox is reportedly considering a similar move, although Fox is feeling the sting of another defeat at Google's hands, as Fox shelved its own news aggregation service.

Partial Blockage?

A writer at Fortune reported this morning that he was able to watch NBC's "30 Rock" and CBS's "Medium." It's possible those two networks have come to an agreement.

NAG: Networks Against Google

Undoubtedly, the media giants view Google TV as a huge threat, because if Google can successfully sell Americans (and eventually Asia and Europe) on the concept of an all-in-one device combining the Internet and television, this would greatly reduce advertising income for the trio of networks.

"Everybody knows the lock that Google has on Internet traffic in terms of advertising. If you take that model and you extend it to television, suddenly Google's power becomes enormous in the advertising space and the broadcasters don't like that idea," Gartner analyst Van Baker Baker told Reuters.

In a statement, Google said "it is ultimately the content owners' choice to restrict their fans from accessing their content on the platform."

Hulu Still Blocked

Google is also negotiating to bring the Hulu Plus service to Google TV.

Currently, if you try to access Hulu on a Google TV, you see this message: "Hello! We notice that you are trying to access Hulu from your Google TV. It's not available, but we are working hard to bring our Hulu Plus subscription service to Google TV! Stay tuned for updates."

Stupid Move

So what does this accomplish? It makes enemies of Google and anyone who bought a Google TV. This also feels like a rerun of newspapers clinging to an outdated model, and look how well that worked out for them.

The networks claim that Google's unknown policy on piracy was one reason for opting out. Which is exactly what will send people searching the web for pirated sites, or even YouTube instead.

The networks don't block access to people who hook up their PCs to their televisions. And that's basically what Google TV is, without the wiring headaches.

A Fundamental Shift

Ryan Lawler of NewTeeVee sums it up best:

"The truth is that users are skipping the broadcasts anyway. We've covered study after study showing that viewers -- especially young viewers -- are no longer tuning into their favorite TV shows at a set time; instead, they're increasingly using DVRs, online video and even mobile devices to watch content when they want and where they want. It's too easy to blame online video for accelerating a shift in behavior that viewers were making anyway. And it's too easy to block Google TV access simply because it allows a user to get freely available online content on the TV.

For broadcasters, picking a fight with Google TV ... isn't going to change this fundamental shift in user behavior. What they need is a strategy that allows them to gracefully embrace -- and monetize -- the new ways that viewers are accessing their content, whether it be on a DVR, on the web, or on a mobile device.

The funny thing is that Google TV should be able to help them do this. Theoretically, Google TV should be able to provide them with all of the advanced demographic and audience behavior data that they currently don't get from Nielsen ratings. It should enable them to provide better and more relevant ads to their viewers, creating a higher-value business for online video than they have already."

Television Optimization

At SES Chicago yesterday, Google's Maile Ohye advised SEOs to start optimizing websites for Google TV.

Google TV Reviews

Plenty of reviews came out on Google TV before this skirmish, including TechCrunch, Techland, Rich Demuro, Lost Remote, Richard Lawler, and Search Engine Land.

Have you bought a Sony Google TV or the Logitech set-top box? Thoughts? Or do you plan to at some point?

About the author

Danny Goodwin formerly was Associate Editor of Search Engine Watch, where he also covered the latest search marketing and industry news. He joined Incisive Media in October 2007, in charge of copy editing columns that appeared on both Search Engine Watch and ClickZ. Prior to a life in the search industry, he worked in the journalism field, working in numerous newsroom positions, before later working as a freelance copy editor.