Google Playing with TV Search Service via Set-top Boxes

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-03-09

Google and satellite TV provider Dish Network are experimenting with a service that would enable users to search through programs and Web video on their televisions, according to the (paywall warning) Wall Street Journal.

The Journal March 8 said Google is testing its search software on TV set-top boxes, which as one of the modern replacements for the cable box enables content transmitted from the Internet. Ideally, the service would let users search their Dish satellite TV service for TV programs and video from Google's own YouTube service.

It is an old game with a new player. Companies for the last several years have been working on the convergence of the Web with television, an idea that is better positioned to grow wings at a time when TV operations and the equipment that power them are becoming more digital.

The idea is to bring the functionality and efficiency of Web applications, such as search and other tools, to the more modern TV sector, which is fueled by satellite options, high-definition programming and personal video recording.

Google declined to comment on the speculation, but the Journal said users testing the service can search by typing queries on a computer keyboard instead of the remote control with which couch potatoes have become accustomed.

Google is testing this search service with a "very small number of the company's employees and their families." The experiment, which began in 2009, could be ended at any time if it's not working out.

Rumors of Google dealing in set-top boxes have been floated for the last several years and grew strength from comments made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a February 2007 conference call. When asked about the potential for TV advertising, Schmidt said:

"So, for example, set-top boxes can help you target end users and the set-top boxes are now IP-addressable. So there's a lot of evidence that as we link our systems into the systems of people who are operators, we can get another leg up on targeting and ultimately provide both a more useful advertising experience for the end user and also a better advertising experience for the advertiser themselves in terms of conversion."

For those who balk at the thought of Google dabbling in TV search, consider this: Google is the most powerful Internet advertising player on the planet. TV is the most powerful ad medium on the planet.

If Google could connect its search service to TV, it could better position its Google TV Ads service for revenue growth. TV provides another ad vehicle for the company, which reaps some $22 billion per year through online ads.

The company could, for example, show ads on TV screens while users are searching for their favorite programs or YouTube videos. These ads could be targeted to individual users' viewing preferences.

A Google TV search service shouldn't strike people as surprising.

The company has already showed its desire to extend its mobile Web tendrils through the Google Android platform and the resulting Google-sold Nexus One smartphone. Google has also suggested Android would extend to set-top boxes one day. 

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