TV Networks Stick Collective Finger in Dike

Over the past twenty-four hours you have probably heard the news that some of the major networks, such as ABC, NBC, and CBS have blocked access from Google TV.  I don’t know if I should be surprised or not.

I’ve grown accustomed to them doing this sort of thing – Hulu (NBC and Fox) blocked Boxee, and didn’t even want your PC hooked to your TV.  But in recent months it seemed to be changing – Hulu is going on set-top boxes, TV Networks are making apps for things like the iPad.

Now in the past day they have tried to suddenly turn back the clock, by blocking the Google TV set-top box.  It seems to go against the tide they had been riding recently to a more open, freely available content future.  They saw this coming years ago as they watched the music industry struggle.  While they have not yet given up their DRM, as music had to, they were finding ways to (mostly) satisfy viewers by rolling out Hulu and placing content on their own web sites, and, as I said previously, even releasing apps and putting Hulu on real TV’s.

They saw bit torrent as their own personal Napster, and they were right to.  It was, and if they don’t figure this thing out soon then it still could be.  There’s no shortage of apps and directories available to even the most casual users to get all of their TV shows while cutting the providers out completely.  And this kind of move is the type that pushes people in that direction.  The music industry has shown that low prices and wide availability can work as a business model.  The TV industry seems bent on showing that low availability can’t work.

Maybe it’s the wide-open, PC-style approach that Google TV takes that is scaring them.  After all, they were never really afraid of a few geeks hooking PC’s to TV’s.  But, when the process gets vastly simplified by a device, then the game really begins to change.  And those high-profile, big-profit hostage negotiations like the one going on in New York between Fox and Cablevision lose their value.

The one thing they don’t seem do get, or maybe they get, but haven’t sensed the urgency of, is that they are running out of room quickly.  As the old saying goes, they are putting their finger in the hole in the dike, but they can’t hold back the flood much longer.  They need to figure out the revenue model for this new technology yesterday.  Blocking access to Google TV is already a flawed plan.  Anybody can go in and change the ID of the Chrome browser and get their access back.  It takes 30 seconds.  And early adopters are the kind of people who know how to do that.  These days knowledge is digital and once it’s out it’s not coming back.  The content producers and networks are running out of time and, even in that race, they are running in the wrong direction right now.