Google Debuts Video Search

Hot on the heels of Yahoo’s video search announcement, Google is launching Google Video, a new experimental service that allows you to search across the full-text transcripts of San Francisco bay area television programs from 10 channels, as well as the programming from CSPAN 1 and CSPAN 2. Google Video functions by pulling down television signals through antennas and satellite dishes on the roof of the Googleplex and indexing the closed-caption information that’s transmitted along with each broadcast.

The indexing process runs continually, with programs generally added to the index the same day they are broadcast. Google has been indexing television since December 2004, and unlike Google News, which removes information over 30 days old, the video index will continue to grow and content will not be removed going forward.

“It’s similar to Google print that’s trying to take something that’s not online and put it online,” said John Piscitello, product manager for Google Video.

The system is very basic, allowing only a keyword-based search, with no browsing, schedule information or other frills. Search results show program and episode name, along with a thumbnail still image from a moment during the show, a description, and a brief excerpt taken from the closed captioning. The date and time of the original broadcast, as well as channel and network name are also included. Program information is licensed from a third-party.

Clicking on a search result displays a page with more information about the program, including up to five still images and 30 second extracts taken from the closed-captioned text, all automatically generated by Google. Search results list upcoming episodes, and indicate when show is on again in your area. This is determined by your zip code, should you choose to enter it.

“It connects people to TV shows that they may not know about that they’d be interested in,” said Piscitello.

One interesting twist to the service is that it indexes all content broadcast by the television stations. “There are ads within the shows, and users will be able to search and find that information just like everything else that was on the show,” said Piscitello. This could be a useful competitive intelligence tool for companies that want to keep tabs on rival firms’ TV advertising campaigns.

Google Video is nowhere near as comprehensive as the service offered by ShadowTV, though unlike Shadow TV, it is free. Google Video also differs from Yahoo’s recently announced video search prototype and AOL’s Singingfish streaming media search, both of which use metadata rather than closed caption information.

Piscitello stresses that this beta release of Google Video is just the beginning. “Our goal will be to connect people to the video wherever it is. We’re starting today with a limited scope, but we hope to expand in the future,” he said.

For a roundup of other video search services, see Gary’s post today, A Look At Other Web Video Search Tools.

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