Google is in discussions with programmers including Disney and ESPN Media Networks, Turner Broadcasting System, News Corp.'s Fox and HBO about carrying their cable networks on the IPTV service it is launching in the Kansas City area, the companies confirmed.
On Thursday, the Internet giant opened up registration for its ultra-fast 1 Gbps broadband service and Google Fiber TV -- which initially will have 161 channels, lacking big networks such as ESPN, Fox News Channel, HBO and Turner's TNT, TBS and CNN.
"Without the full suite of traditional cable channels, it is doubtful Google will be able to attract core TV viewers and get them to switch from traditional cable," Sanford Bernstein senior analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a research note Friday.
Moffett speculated that the absence of key cable TV networks may be "simply a matter of a failure to reach a mutually acceptable affiliate agreement."
Google's Fiber TV service will be priced at $120 per month, bundled with the 1-Gbps fiber-to-the-home Internet service. The TV portion includes a 2-Terabyte DVR to record up to 500 hours of HD programming and a tablet-based interactive program guide, provided on a free Nexus 7 Android-based tablet.
The TV service's channel lineup includes NBCUniversal's USA Network, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC and Syfy; Viacom's Comedy Central, Nick, MTV, BET and CMT; Discovery Communications' Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC and OWN; A+E Networks' A&E, Bio and History; Showtime Networks' and Starz Entertainment's premium channels; and Scripps Networks Interactive's Food Network and HGTV.
Also included are MLB, NFL and NHL networks, NBC Sports Network and NBC's Olympics channels, and 3net, the 3DTV network joint venture from Discovery, Sony and IMAX.
Turner, in a statement, said, "We've had several productive conversations with Google regarding the test launch of their fiber network in Kansas City. Consistent with how we approach our business, we continue to explore opportunities with all of our partners on new models and technologies that allow for expanded distribution of our leading brand of networks and content within the Turner portfolio, regardless of screen size or platform."
The Google fiber network -- which the Internet company has described as an "experiment" -- is not currently available. Consumers in Kansas City, Kan., and central Kansas City, Mo., must pay $10 to register their interest in getting the FTTH service; Google said it will initially connect homes only if there is interest among at least 10% of the residents in a neighborhood.
Google Fiber TV includes local broadcast networks. Moffett noted that the signals ABC, NBC and Fox are provided by local affiliates rather than the national broadcast networks themselves, "as per normal retransmission-consent policy."
Comcast's NBCUniversal properties are included in the Google Fiber TV lineup, which Moffett said would be expected given the FCC's NBCU merger conditions that Comcast make NBC programming available to competitors, including online competitors.