When it comes to TV consumption, I respect Mark Cuban's opinion quite a bit, so I paid close attention to two of his recent blog posts regarding Google TV and Apple TV.
On Oct. 22, Cuban wrote "How Google TV Could Hand Netflix the entire streaming universe," a rant against the notion of TV networks working with Google TV.
"All you internet pundits want the broadcast networks to give the content away for free. THAT IS STUPID. Get Netflix to pay you on a per-subscriber basis on a par with what your other TV providers pay you. Netflix becomes a competitive TV provider. BRILLIANT. You get paid. You reach Google TV users and non Google TV users."
Google TV isn't trying to compete with TV, but provide a browser overlay atop existing TV services. Google TV does have Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand apps to provide consumers more value for their content consumption.
Lots of the Netflix and Amazon users already watch their content on PCs, laptops or from Xbox or Sony PlayStation. Has this enabled Netflix to take over the streaming market and gouge TV networks? I think not.
Google TV is no different. Google TV, with either a Logitech Revue Box, Sony Internet TV or Sony Blu-ray player provides three new devices on which to consume this content.
I spent the weekend using Google TV. There's no way Netfix running on Google TV will replace existing TV, which is a key part of the Google TV user experience.
First, the Netflix app is a dumb media player. You can play, pause, fast forward and rewind, and remove movies you've put in your instant queue from you Netflix.com PC subscription.
You can't order DVDs or manage your queue from it, You can't get current content on Netflix.com anyway. I can rent DVDs of the second season of "Sons of Anarchy" from FX on Netflix, but I can't acquire the currently airing season three from the service.
Cuban is freaking out a bit too much. TV broadcasters and networks should be just fine with this arrangement and don't expect those networks' Websites to remain blocked for long.
In his second, more coherent blog post on the matter, he argues that social gaming is the future of Google TV and Apple TV as they currently exist.
"If Google, Apple and their competitors can find simple games that are compelling to tens of millions of people and create a unique experience on your HDTV, they have a chance to start pulling people away from watching shows on TV. You could actually see the number of hours spent watching TV decline materially."
OK, but that assumes Google TV and Apple TV aim to subsume the traditional TV-watching experience. Apple TV is a Netflix streaming media player on hardware boxes for $99.
Google TV will rely on ads to make money, initially in its Google search engine and YouTube Leanback, which airs display ads, and later in TV ads on traditional TV programming (though they haven't confirmed this).
I don't think Google aims to cut out the TV advertisers, but join the multibillion-dollar march for TV ads. No problem there. Cuban may be right about the addition of, say, Farmville or Mafia Wars-type games on Google TV.
But I'll bet it will work more like this. Assuming there is one Google TV installation in a household, let's say housewife Betty uses Google TV to watch soaps during the day, then 12-year-old Timmy watches after school shows with it at 4 p.m.
Finally, bread-winner John returns home to watch Monday Night Football, or something with the family, all on Google TV.
That's a great consumption model all around, and honestly, 12-year-old Timmy is most likely to play those games anyway, not the parents who arguably lead fuller lives.
Social games won't be the be all, end all existence for the Apple TV and Google TV services, but they will be a big part of it.