American networks might not want to play ball in the U.S., but that isn’t stopping Google from pursuing its television dreams—it just means that other countries may experience the ideal Google TV dream even as the U.S. version languishes in the background, unloved.
Speaking at the prestigious MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival last week, Google chairman Eric Schmidt—the first non-television industry insider to give the lecture—revealed that Google TV will be launching in Europe early next year, with the U.K. market as “among the top priorities” for the venture.
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During a speech in which Schmidt talked about the convergence of Internet and television as an inevitability, he discussed Google TV’s failure to date in the U.S. as a misunderstanding of its intent:
When it launched, some in the US feared we aimed to compete with broadcasters or content creators. Actually our intent is the opposite. We seek to support the content industry by providing an open platform for the next generation of TV to evolve, the same way Android is an open platform for the next generation of mobile. Just as smartphones sparked a whole new era of innovation for the Internet, we hope Google TV can help do the same for Television, creating more value for all.
Additionally, he defended the company from the belief that Google TV exists in part to shape TV content:
Some have suggested Google should invest directly in TV content. To argue that misunderstands a key point: Google is a technology company. We provide platforms for people to engage with content and, through automated software, we show ads next to content that owners have chosen to put up. But we have neither the ambition nor the know-how to actually produce content on a large scale. Trust me, if you gave people at Google free rein to produce TV you’d end up with a lot of bad sci-fi!
But of course we are helping to fund content. Last year we shared more than $6 billion with our publishing partners worldwide, including newspapers and broadcasters. In the UK, we have invested in deep relationships with Channels 4 and 5 and many other partners to provide catch-up services on YouTube. The result is growing audiences and online revenues, which enhance rather than cannibalise existing viewers.
Although Google partnerships with the British Channels 4 and 5, as well as the U.K. National Film and TV School, were all mentioned during the lecture, no content partners were named for Google TV’s European launch, nor was a specific launch date given. Instead, the lecture at times resembled a sales pitch for TV companies to get on board, even ending with Schmidt imploring listeners to “think big, think global, and think beyond the TV box… Don’t hold back from the journey.” Whether European broadcasters and producers will be more open to that particular journey than their American counterparts, of course, remains to be seen.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.