By Kunur Patel
Google opened up an entirely new store of inventory for advertisers today with Google TV, an interactive platform that collapses the wall between TV and internet in the living room. The service, created with hardware partners Sony, Logitech and Intel, will launch this fall on TVs, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players.
"Every ad on TV has the potential to become interactive," Google TV Technical Director Vincent Dureau said at the I/O developer conference, where the platform was announced. "Your TV content just became more interesting."
TV is the final screen for the search giant after it made its name in online search 10 years ago and moved into mobile with Android in 2007. While interactive TV has long been in the works from other providers, technology and a host of other issues have kept it from reaching a scale that would attract more money from major advertisers. Google’s existing relationships with advertisers for search and display ads, though, could theoretically turn the tide for interactive TV.
"One thing Google has over other interactive TV methods is that pre-existing connection on a large scale with advertisers and agencies," said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer.
One clear winner is online video, which Google claims will be both easier to view and find on TVs. The Google property YouTube is currently working on a viewer for Google TV called "Lean Back" to bring web video and playlists to the large screen. NBA Digital also announced at the conference today a sports-video viewer for Google TV. All video already on the internet will be visible through Google TV’s web browser Chrome.
Thanks in part to this web integration with TV, eMarketer estimates that digital video ad spending will jump 48% this year to $1.5 billion. Though, with lower-quality online video playing on high-definition screens, that audience for web video probably has a ceiling. "At this initial stage, I can see a moderate increase in audience," said Mr. Hallerman, because of video quality. "It’s certainly a step, but not a giant step."
Rishi Chandra, project leader for Google TV, was quick to note TV’s massive ad spending when launching the product — a $70 billion market in the U.S. alone. Compare that to eMarketer’s projected $25 billion for U.S. online advertising in 2010. "There’s still no better medium to reach a wider and broader audience than TV," said Mr. Chandra.
Google TV also overlaps with Google’s efforts in mobile. The platform runs on Android, Google’s operating system for mobile phones. That means apps for Android phones that don’t require phone features like GPS will be available on Google TV from day one. Later, developers will also be able to design apps specifically for Google TV. This overlap with mobile development and apps opens the door for entirely new ad formats on TV beyond spots.
If Google’s endeavors in mobile can provide a roadmap, new ad formats for TV are soon to follow. Since launching Android, Google has released new ad units tailored for phones, such as click-to-call and expandable ads with maps and directions. The rich-media ads seen in mobile apps will also be possible on Google TV.
"While our focus today is in mobile apps, there is no technical reason why it wouldn’t be able to scale out to other high-engagement platforms in the future," said a spokesman for Medialets, a mobile rich-media platform.
While Google TV will only support in-browser online advertising at launch—meaning Google won’t sell TV-specific ads at the start — the company already supports a TV sales tool. Right now, Google sells video ads through Google TV Ads, an online marketplace for national cable inventory. The largest provider of inventory is Dish Network, which is also a Google TV launch partner. TV Ads has delivered 100 billion impressions since it launched in 2007, and Google is currently hiring for the unit. The network has brought a new set of smaller advertisers to the medium—30% of TV Ads advertisers are new to TV.#