Why Cable May Let the Google Fox Into the Henhouse

The most interesting Google news this past week wasn’t hardware-related; it was the partnership Google struck with DISH Network, a sign that one of the biggest pay-TV providers just let the fox into the henhouse.

Cable operators like Comcast are a different story: They’re notorious control-freaks when it comes to consumer experience and content, and they’re not hobbled like satellite operators are when it comes to interactive services and VOD. Still, this hasn’t stopped Google; news indicates the company is pursuing integration deals with cable companies.

But will cable MSOs bite? A Google TV platform will be a tough sell, but I think after a decade-plus journey through the interactive TV desert with OCAP/Tru2Way, many MSOs are too tired and thirsty to resist what Google could offer in the form of applications and interactive services.

In my weekly column at GigaOM Pro, I outline three potential ways Google TV could integrate with cable MSO offerings:

1. Google TV, Dabbler Edition. Here we see cable MSOs slowly rolling out (their specialty, after all) Google TV sidecar bolt-ons to their set tops. This would allow them to test how consumers use the service, but wouldn’t give audiences too big a taste of the Goo(d)gle life.

2. Google TV, Sidecars for Everyone! Edition. This is essentially the DISH deal, with nationwide rollouts of sidecar boxes and light integration with the set-top UI and EPG. Chances are, services competitive with cable VOD such as Netflix would be disabled or excluded.

3. Google TV, Full Monty Edition. I think Google’s ultimate goal is to get the Google TV platform fully integrated into carrier set-tops, with a cobranded UI/EPG, availability of core Google services (like video chat) and new interactive services for consumers through an Android marketplace.

I think we’ll see deployments of the first and second items on the list above, but will cable MSOs go full monty? I have my doubts. Doing so would not only be letting the fox in the henhouse, it’d be giving the fox a knife, spoon and napkin at the dinner table.

Heck, a few years ago, who would have predicted another group of controlling, clamped-down carriers welcoming the fox over for dinner in such a big way? The iPhone changed the mobile space in that respect; now Google is hoping to pull off the same trick in the world of payTV.

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Image source: flickr user Svadilfari