Google May Tinker With Pay-TV Service: Report


Google is considering delivering a subscription TV service over its experimental fiber-to-the-home network in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., sometime next year, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The online search giant has approached media companies including Walt Disney Co, Time Warner Inc. and Discovery Communications about carrying TV channels on the test network, according to the Journal, which cited unnamed sources briefed on Google's plans. However, the talks were described as "exploratory" at this juncture.

Google selected Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., as the cities where it will fund the buildout of a fiber-to-the-home network delivering speeds of 1 Gigabit per second -- far beyond what is available to most residential broadband customers in the U.S. (or anywhere). The pick came after a year-long competition soliciting applications from municipalities, an offer that generated nearly 1,100 submissions.

Google TV

The Kansas City test network is expected to go live in early 2012. Google has described the "Think Big With a Gig" initiative as an "experiment" to try to identify and develop applications that can take advantage of ultra-high-speed Internet. A 1 Gbps network would have ample headroom for an IPTV service.

Google in September hired former cable-TV executive Jeremy Stern, who has led the discussions with cable programmers, the Journal reported.

Stern most recently was a consultant working with digital media companies, and was vice president of business development for content-recognition provider Audible Magic. Prior to that was partner with telecom-oriented law firm Cole, Raywid & Braverman LLP.

In the 1990s, Stern was head of legal affairs for MediaOne (formerly Continental Cablevision), which is now part of Comcast. He also worked for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in the '80s and '90s working on antipiracy projects and state legislative and regulatory matters.

He's not the first "cable guy" Google has recruited. In December 2010, the company hired Milo Medin, former chief technology officer and co-founder of the cable industry's ill-fated @Home Network venture, to head up the 1 Gbps fiber network project.

In other TV initiatives, Google this month is releasing version 2.0 of its Google TV software, designed to meld Internet content and advanced features with traditional TV. It also last week announced plans to launch 96 channels on YouTube with original content, in an effort to attract more video advertising.

Meanwhile, Google is in the process of a $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility -- one of the largest technology suppliers to the cable industry. The deal, however, was driven primarily by Google's desire to obtain the Motorola Mobility patent portfolio to protect its Android mobile operating system from litigation.