Really, everyone saw this coming: Google is currently working on its own streaming TV service. Unnamed sources close to Google's project told the Wall Street Journal that the company has approached media companies in recent months about streaming their traditional TV programming. In one case, Google even demonstrated the product, meaning the streaming TV plan is more than just a concept on paper.
Sources told the paper that Google tried to launch a streaming TV service two years ago, but negotiations with media companies didn't get very far. Now the landscape has changed, ruled by the likes of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and even cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner who stream TV programming to subscribers. Viewers are looking to watch their favorite shows on more than one device, and media companies are feeling the pressure.
As reported at the end of June, Intel is alpha testing its own streaming TV service. Code-named "Black Box Project", testing actually began in late March in the homes of more than 2,000 Intel employees in Northern California, Arizona, and Oregon, with new testers being added every day. The company is looking to release a product by the end of 2013, and as of April, Intel was reportedly close to making firm deals with Time Warner, NBC Universal and Viacom.
Intel plans to offer an online product this year using its own set-top box and the customer's current broadband access. By taking this already established route into the living room, Intel believes it can offer more choices over the channels consumers receive, combining live channels, on-demand programming and cloud-based DVR capabilities. Programming will also be offered through desktops, laptops and mobile devices.
Sources told the Wall Street Journal that some small programmers face contractual restrictions with Time Warner Cable which in turn has made deals difficult for Intel. Apple, who already offers a set-top box but reportedly plans to launch its own "iTV" HDTV, is reportedly facing even more roadblocks when dealing with media companies. They fear that the fruity company will dominate the TV market as it has with the smartphone and tablet sectors. Its current battle with the Department of Justice over eBook price fixing isn't helping negotiations either.
Meanwhile, Google has silently built its portfolio to show media companies that it means business. That includes stockpiling Google Play with movies and seasons of TV shows, financing its own original programming on YouTube, and launching a streaming TV service on its Google Fiber Gigabit network. It has also developed Google TV that's installed in set-top boxes and Smart TVs. Having its own streaming service seems like the next logical step, especially if Apple and Intel are working on their own competing solutions.
As for Amazon, Google's main Android competitor, the company is working on its own content, from TV episodes to movies. It's also working with content providers to dish up TV episodes just days after they air on TV including Under The Dome from CBS. Amazon Prime has a $79 annual fee and provides a Netflix-like streaming service, dishing out TV shows and movies.
However Amazon Prime isn't supported by every Android device – a Google Play service probably will, or at least those that can stream content via Google's Play Movies app. What will be interesting to see is if Google, Intel, Apple and others can provide services that betters what Comcast and Time Warner Cable already offer. However unlike cable companies, their secret weapon will be in how they can present content with technologies they already own. Ultimately consumers may be sold on gesture-based navigation or streaming content anywhere, any device than having every cable channel under the sun on a boring set-top box.