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Google tells TV execs where they've gone wrong

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iTV Con With his opening keynote at iTV Con, a trade conference dedicated to, yes, internet television, Google’s head of boob tube technology Vincent Dureau told industry players and reporters that traditional television is pretty close to dead. Of course, he’s confident that the latest internet technologies can drive a new breed of TV to unprecedented heights. No one was surprised.

"On the surface, television as we know it looks dead. But the future of television is actually pretty bright," he said, dabbling in paradox.

Television, he explained, is experiencing an identity crisis. There's been an explosion of content, with cable and satellite TV introducing more and more channels. And with the advent of DVRs, viewers have more freedom to pick and choose what content they watch - not to mention the power to skip ads.

On one level, this creates new problems for content producers and advertisers, as they struggle to reach an audience that has so many options. But, as Dureau pointed out, the same sort of challenges have already been faced on the Web. With a little internet know-how, the TV industry can ensure a brighter future. According to Google.

"A lot of the recipes and lessons that work on the web can actually apply to TV," Dureau said. Judging from what's happened on the net, he believes, things like audience fragmentation and ad skipping can actually boost the television industry.

[Just like Google Video and YouTube "borrowing" from TV networks helps the industry-Ed?]

If the audience is more fragmented, he explained, it's easier for advertisers to reach the people they're after. "Audience fragmentation is a good thing for advertising, not a bad thing. You can make your audience more specialized," Dureau said. "With more specialized channels, you can actually insert more relevant content that's more likely to reach the intended audience."

"You can actually make more money, because you can increase the relevancy of your ads," he continued. "You can cut down on the number of ads - and still reach more people. At the end of the day, you're changing the attitude of the consumer. They've reached a point where they expect the ad to be relevant and they're more likely to watch it." That may or may not be true, but the logic is absolutely brilliant.

In similar fashion, he argued that ad skipping was a godsend. If advertisers can determine which ads are being skipped and which aren't, he said, they can do a better job of getting their ads in front of the people who will actually watch them.

The key, he continued, is building web-based technologies into TV set-top boxes that can track such information. He even went so far as to say that Google's search traffic can be used to measure the success of TV advertising campaigns. That's right, if viewers see a TV ad for a particular product and then Google that product, you know the ad was a success.

But there's more. Dureau believes that the web is also an important means of finding new TV talent, pointing to television channels like CurrentTV and the UK-based MTV Flux that broadcast user-generated internet content. And he backs the net as a TV promotion tool. Google has been posting CBS TV to the web, and this has noticeably boosted the ratings of certain shows.

"What that tells us is that users are discovering shows on the web and then watching them on TV," Dureau said. "The web is not there to hurt television. It's actually there to promote it." To sum up, the web's biggest name thinks the web can help television. Go figure.®

Bootnote

Dureau's keynote was followed by a second speech from Sling Media CTO Bhupen Shah, who spent 45 minutes telling the room that Sling was going to make it easier for confused consumers to deal with the bizillions of TV options staring them in the face. The only highlight was the photo of Jeff Bridges as Jeffery "The Dude" Lebowski that kept popping up in Shah's PowerPoint slides. We think The Dude was meant to represent the confused consumer - but he's also a good stand-in for dozens of uninterested iTV Con attendees listening to drivel about Sling.

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