Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google’s Chromecast Lets You Watch TV on the Web on Your TV. Guess Who Doesn’t Like That?

One of the cool features of Google’s new Chromecast device: It lets users move whatever they can see on their computer’s Chrome Web browser onto their TVs.

One group of people who might not think that’s cool: TV executives, who are still trying to draw a distinction between things you watch on your computer and things you watch on your TV.

For example: Chromecast’s mirroring capability poses an issue for Hulu. The video website has tried to restrict user’s ability to watch its free service on TV screens; instead, it sells the ability to watch Hulu on a TV as part of its $8 a month Hulu Plus service.

Hulu says it is working with Google to bring a Hulu Plus app to Chromecast, and when it does it will be an “optimized” viewing experience.* And not all of Hulu Plus’s content is available on free Hulu. But a lot is. So in theory, that should make Hulu Plus a harder sell for Chromecast customers.

Google may also hear from HBO, which is fine with people watching its HBO Go service on big screens — but only with the explicit approval of the pay TV channel. For instance, HBO prevented Apple TV users from streaming its programs from its iPads and iPhones until February; last month, Apple added a dedicated HBO Go app to Apple TV.

Of course, anyone with any common sense, who doesn’t work in legal or biz dev at a large entertainment company, knows that it’s silly to argue that something that’s on one screen shouldn’t be on another. And anyone who wants to buy a cable and connect their laptop to their TV could already do this.

Which is exactly what Ossama Alami, a manager in Google’s developer relations group, told my colleague Liz Gannes when she asked him about the issue today.

There is one solution for content owners who don’t want people using Chromecast to fling stuff to their sets, Alami noted: Stop distributing their stuff on the Chrome browser. Not that he’s suggesting they should do that.

It’s worth noting that this move comes as Google is floating the notion of an “over the top” pay-TV solution, and talking to content owners and networks about licensing their stuff. And it comes after Google has already irked some content owners with earlier versions of Google TV, supposedly because Google didn’t work hard enough to keep pirated content off of those devices.

You’d think that if Google were serious about its latest TV push, it would take extra care not to ruffle the TV guys’ feathers. So maybe it doesn’t think this is a ruffle-worthy issue. Or maybe it just doesn’t care.


Only tangentially related: Google’s first ad for Chromecast is pitch-perfect. Shows you what the product does and different use cases for it, in realistic settings (check the clutter in some of these TV rooms — these look the kind of places real people live, and watch TV, in).

And it portrays TV-watching as a great thing to do with people you like. These people are “constantly directing their attention away from one another,” but what they’re mostly doing is having fun, with other people.


*Google is also describing the current version of Chromecast as a “beta” version. Of course, “beta” can be a long-standing condition at Google.

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