If you enjoyed “House of Cards” and the implications of Netflix’s data-driven strategy, just wait until you get a sense of what Google could do in TV if it chose.
It’s a huge year for TV’s future. Yet for all the excitement about Web-first soap operas, data-driven programming and the disruption of broadcast, the Internet TV “inflection point” that 2013 has become is just the beginning. A Trojan horse is slowly rolling into town, and it’s bursting at the seams with data. Wheeling it along is none other than Google.
Indeed, if the data-fueled success of Netflix’s House of Cards is as crucial to TV’s future as many believe, what Google is most likely planning will make the transformation we’ve witnessed so far look like early innings in a very long ball game.
First, though, a caveat: Google has said almost nothing about its plans for taking on the TV market, and I don’t have any new inside information to offer on that front. What follows is instead a giant thought experiment — a plausible (to me, at least), fact-based extrapolation of just how thoroughly Google could disrupt the TV industry should it put its mind to it. And should users consent to its plans.
TV’s Future Hinges On Content, Data and UX
Whatever TV looks like in the future, it will be built atop three crucial components: content, intelligence and user experience. A fourth element, known as actually making money, hinges heavily on the “intelligence” part — which is to say, data.
The industry is collectively still figuring out the user experience part. Apple is rumored to have “cracked” the interface problem, but until Steve Jobs’s prophetic words find a home in reality, we’re stuck with the puzzle’s most promising pieces: the likes of AirPlay, Roku and a small army of creative video app designers.
That leaves the content and intelligence parts, which are what Netflix is purported to have mastered with House of Cards and what Amazon hopes to mimic with with its own Internet-first TV pilots. Hulu has taken its own stabs, but has yet to score a House of Cards-sized hit.
For the last few years, Google’s YouTube has also invested quite heavily in original, TV-quality programming for Internet audiences. It, too, is still trying to find its Kevin Spacey. But it’s likely only a matter of time before everybody’s buzzing about the new show on YouTube, much like we’ve long chattered about double rainbows and finger-biting babies.
Google will find its killer content. It will do so in part by leveraging the very thing that gives the company an advantage in just about any space it enters: all that data.
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