According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is taking another stab at trying to get a linear, streaming cable TV service off the ground. It’s an uphill battle, of course. Content providers are hesitant to endanger deals with existing traditional cable companies, and if Google is able to procure internet cable streaming rights (which would be treated wholly differently from things like Netflix and Hulu), chances are good that it would have to buy into the same big bundles that are part of the reason your traditional cable bill is so high.
It stands to reason that the big traditional cable companies are probably in a better position to procure these kinds of rights from content providers, but of course with the somewhat recent launch of Google Fiber, Google already has a sort of foot in the door that companies like Intel and — who are also trying to launch similar services — don’t.
(Incidentally, the WSJ story does clear up some of the confusion we had about Sony’s new PlayStation TV patent: “Sony plans to beam its service over broadband connections to Sony-made devices, which include PlayStation gaming consoles, TV sets and Blu-ray players.”)
However this turns out, we’re definitely living through interesting times when it comes to media distribution. One thing this story doesn’t touch on — probably because it’s too early to do anything but speculate — is how the issue of ISP bandwidth caps will affect a move toward linear cable TV distributed via the internet. Imagine, if you will, trying to stream Google Cable (or whatever it’s called) over Comcast, who caps data usage at between 300 and 600GB per month, or worse, providers like AT&T and Cox, whose caps are as low as 150GB and 30GB per month, respectively. Linear streaming cable services like the one Google is trying to launch aren’t like Netflix, where you search for a specific show, stream it, and move onto other things. A few hours of channel flipping a night, and you could hit your bandwidth cap really quickly. And those ISPs aren’t likely to loosen their draconian bandwidth restrictions for the benefit of the new competition.
But it certainly would be nice to see them have a little more competition.