Google TV and the battle of the metadata

Metadata No surprise really that the networks are showing some wariness of Google’s intentions with Google TV, as reported this morning by the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal. They should be wary. Google has a history of disrupting markets, gutting them of near-term profit and leaving nothing of immediate commercial value in its wake. Just as a newspaper publisher. That’s not an argument for ignoring Google TV, or the implications of bringing search to the TV user interface. But wariness of its potentially disruptive impact on the TV advertising business is certainly in order.

What caught my eye in the reports was a bit of news buried at the bottom of Dawn Chmielewski and Jessica Guynn’s story in the LA Times: Google TV doesn’t work very well, at least at this point:

Right now, Google TV isn’t very effective in correctly identifying TV shows. In demonstrations with network executives, Google TV confused one network’s shows for a rival’s. On another occasion, it listed the several ways a popular prime-time show could be watched online and on TV — except on the network’s own website.

The Journal story elaborates on the point in passing:

Google executives are pushing hard to convince content owners to share data about their video websites to make it easier for Google to search and display their shows in blended TV-Web listings, these people said. When a user searches for a show like ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” for instance, Google’s software will list episodes scheduled to air on TV and airing at that moment, along with episodes and other related content online.

From Google’s perspective, more data will help it improve that search function.

Clearly, Google TV has a metadata problem. Google has been working with EPG-provider Rovi to develop the integrated UI for Google TV. Over the years, Rovi has compiled and/or acquired some of the richest caches of metadata about music and video content available across various platforms. But either Google is having trouble integrating those data into its TV search algorithm, or the data Rovi has been able to collect is insufficient to reliably identify where and when a particular piece of content is available as opposed to merely what it is.

That gives the networks a potentially critical bit of leverage with Google. Without better metadata, Google TV may not be able to provider users with a compelling experience, particularly early on, when persuading consumers to adopt a new content-discovery paradigm is both most difficult and most critical. Access to better metadata, then, could be the foundation for a mutually beneficial deal: my metadata for a meaningful cut of your search revenue, or perhaps for your forbearance from disrupting or displacing my own ad placements.

Further reading:

Google TV Undergoes Trial by Partisans

Web-to-TV Video Content Revenue to Hit $17B in 2014

How The Cloud Changes TV and Why Hollywood Should Not Be Scared

Flash on Google TV: It’s No Longer Just a ‘TV’ Experience

Google TV: Overview and Strategic Analysis ($$)