Can Google conquer cable TV?

The search giant officially enters the broadband market with superfast connections, next-generation hardware, cable TV subscriptions, and competitive prices.

By Jul 30, 2012 12:20PM

Image: Google © Bloomberg, Getty ImagesGoogle (GOOG) has launched a sparkling new product called Google Fiber, a high-speed broadband service that delivers transfer rates of a near-instantaneous 1,000 megabits per second. Simultaneously, the company announced Google Fiber TV, its first entrant into the plodding and often frustrating world of cable television. 

The service will debut in Kansas City, Mo., where Google is investing $500 million to build a fiber-optic network, and may eventually roll out to other cities based on user demand. Lucky residents will be able to watch HD television not just on their TVs but also on their computers, tablets, and phones. They'll also be able to record up to eight programs at once using 1 terabyte of free cloud storage. Google is offering several package deals, but clients can get both broadband and TV service together for $120 a month while receiving a free Nexus 7 tablet to use as the media center's controller. 

Should longtime providers like Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ) be worried by Google's thunderous foray into the cable business?

Yes. Fiber could change the game: "The distance between Google Fiber and its competitors is comical," says Kyle Wagner at Gizmodo. Consider this: The top speed Verizon FiOS provides --300 megabits per second -- is three times slower than Google Fiber's. And the high-def TV package will have all broadcast networks as well as hundreds of so-called "Fiber channels." Add in the fact that the search giant is willing to waive the $300 installation fee for new customers, and competitors should be "scared" enough to "put out bounties for on-the-ground information about Google Fiber." 

But Google needs more support: Fiber's biggest problem is that it needs backing from the big players, says Marguerite Reardon at CNET. The Discovery Channel, CNBC, AMC, TNT, Comedy Central, ESPN, CNN, and HBO are all glaringly absent. And Google may have a hard time convincing the owners of those channels -- like Disney (ESPN, HBO) and Time Warner (TNT) -- to climb onboard. "At a minimum," Google has to offer subscribers the same channels that they can get elsewhere. "As other paid TV providers can attest, content is king."

Fiber will have to make it out of the experimental phase first: "There's a weird rub to all of this," says Arik Hesseldahl at All Things D. "While the plans are finalized," a lot of the infrastructure to support Google Fiber isn't even built yet. Individual Kansas City neighborhoods, for example, will have to "compete" to demonstrate they're really interested in the package -- it's not open to just anyone "but to areas where people get together and demonstrate that there's enough demand" by voting on the Google Fiber website. This selective rollout will be "a very interesting part" of the experiment. Hopefully, Google can make the expensive venture worthwhile.

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Jul 30, 2012 2:45PM
yeah remo i agree ... at $120 a month for non-stop noise commercial tv doesn't sound like a great alternative.... just got my roku and can't believe the amount of non commercial content from netflix for $8 a month... it's overwhelming
Jul 30, 2012 4:02PM
It's a crime to have to pay for 6  or 7 channels you don't want for the one you enjoy, on every ppv set of channels. I pay over $180.- a month for about ten channels I like plus internet and phone (phone I don't need but was told it's cheaper to get it included in the package). But that's the way comcast works and they are the only game in town that works, most of the time, a couple channels, the Smithsonian for example, which I enjoy I just gave up on because the reception is so bad. But there is nothing to do about it except drop everything and watch half a show of commercials. I timed it. On the new Hawaii 5-0 it's an hour show, on demand without commercials it's a 30 minute show. In the old days (western channel) for every 25 minutes of show you get 5 minutes of commercial time, for an hour show it's ten minutes, is there a comparison when you lose track of the program because of the commercials. It might be crooked but it's the only game in town. If there is another way, lord show me the light.

Jul 30, 2012 2:52PM
Does anybody else see a problem with the dominant search engine trying to become the dominant ISP and cable company?
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