Google’s TV Strategy Is Doomed

I feel like we’re watching Google TV roll by and off into a nearby ditch. The company doesn’t have much dedication to the platform and, like Apple TV, GTV is failing to gain traction.

As Ryan notes, outside of a few I/O sessions, Google said very little about the Google TV project this year and I’m almost certain it means they’ve scrapped the project but don’t want to tell their partners. They are running seminars on the platform at I/O, but until they’ve officially announced the closure they have to maintain appearances.

To be clear, I’ve been a fairly accepting user of GTV for a while – it was once my go-to smart TV solution, after the Boxee Box – but it’s clear that Google can gain no foothold in the treacherous world of set-top boxes. Here are a few reasons why.

First, television broadcasters don’t want to work with anyone who aims to make money off their content. Sure they’ll sell a program here or there, but unless the set-top in your home is streaming out the unadulterated streams coming out of their satellites, they don’t want any part of it. By co-opting search and discovery, Google looks to the broadcasters like a parasitic organism rather than a money maker. TiVo (barely) survives because it acts as a smart VCR. Apple TV and GTV are slow to spread because they are, at best, glorified media players and they will never be anything more without real broadcaster buy-in.

Second, no one is sure what a smart TV is supposed to be, but GTV isn’t it. No one can quite put their finger on what they want a TV to do. Is it supposed to stream home content? Allow you to watch YouTube on the big screen? Offer ways to tweet from your couch? All those things happen more quickly and more efficiently on laptops and tablets. Why co-opt the biggest screen in the house?

GTV is sort of an overlay on the TV world just as Google Glass is supposed to be an overlay on the real world. Unfortunately, this sort of overlay rarely works in practice as it distracts from the program at hand. TV watchers aren’t an active lot. All of this talk about a second screen offering streaming stats is cool for about one minute when you’re trying to figure out who starred in Flight Plan. Once you realize the stewardess is Erika Christensen who was also in Swimfan, you’re pretty much done with the second screen. Nobody wants to check into programs or search for related videos or tweet from their TV. Nobody.

I could be wrong. Maybe Google has a real zinger coming up for us in the GTV space. But the set-top box will soon be eclipsed by more powerful DVRs or game consoles that offer real value versus perceived value. I’d far prefer, say, my Xbox to provide unfettered access to TV content than have the GTV sit there between me and a Dish subscription. DVRs already perfected the best things about television. Anything else is just a distraction.