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YouTube Already Offers Pandora-Like TV... Sort Of

3/30/2012 5:31 PM

Pandora-like TV? Hey, Google TV’s already got it!

Right, well — that’s if by “TV” you mean somewhat random, sub-10-minute snippets of stuff strung together from YouTube’s massive storehouse of millions of video odds and ends.

Yesterday, Time Warner Cable strategy chief Peter Stern discussed a future concept for cable TV, in which your favorite shows would in effect “find you” — popping up like the playlists of music-streaming service Pandora. He spoke at the Multichannel News “Breaking Through: Innovating Cable TV” event (see TWC’s Stern: TV Will Evolve To ‘Pandora-Like’ Model).

This morning YouTube PR guy Matt McLernon sent me a friendly note referencing Stern’s comments and wanting to share “good news” — that “the future is already here with YouTube.”

YouTube LeanbackWhen you search for a new video on YouTube with a Google TV device, he pointed out, it immediately creates a whole playlist of videos for you. “Almost like creating a whole channel just of the stuff you want, from pastry cooking or windsurfing,” McLernon said.

All right: So I typed in “pastry cooking” in YouTube Leanback, the section of the site designed for Google TV. What came up was not really TV.

First up was a 98-second clip from the WorldSkills London 2011 competition showing some pretty-looking confections, followed by a 2-minute bit titled “The Perfect Puff Pastry Recipe for Riesling Hour with Rochelle Bilow.” Promisingly, up next was “How to bake perfect pastry” from the BBC Food channel — but from the Google TV interface, when I tried to click on the clip, I was informed that the video “is unavailable on this platform.”

And look at the fifth clip: “Steak Ale Pie”? Hmmm. Not what I had in mind.

If I’d been majorly bored, this might have kept my attention. But it’s not the kind of programming you are used to watching on Food Network or the like.

The experience wasn’t much different from when I first checked out YouTube Leanback almost two years ago (see YouTube Leanback: Sorry, That Ain’t TV).

But back to the whole question of Pandora-like TV: I’m not convinced regular TV viewers will eagerly embrace a television service that thinks it knows what they want.

I’m happy to listen to, say, a random assortment of music purportedly related to R.E.M. But do I want to base my TV watching tonight based on the fact that I’ve watched Mad Men, Portlandia and The Good Wife in the past week? If we’re talking about a recommendation engine that suggests shows I don’t know about, then heck yeah.

But it just doesn’t make sense to me, at this point, that it would become the default way anyone watches television. YouTube — maybe. If I’m wicked bored.

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