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Google tries to reassure TV industry it's no ogre

Many broadcasting executives, producers and advertising industry leaders fear Google's entry into their territory.
Many broadcasting executives, producers and advertising industry leaders fear Google's entry into their territory.
  • Google's focus will be on three trends: Mobile, local and social, Schmidt says
  • Google TV will be launched in Europe early in 2012, he tells an audience of TV executives
  • Google has neither the ambition nor the know-how to move into content creation, Schmidt says
  • The company will be more active in supporting business models of content owners, he adds

Edinburgh, Scotland (CNN) -- Google has moved to reassure a global television industry quaking at the prospect that the Internet search giant is about to move onto TV sets and into living rooms around the globe.

In a keynote speech to Europe's leading broadcasting industry conference, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt acknowledged the company's immense scale built on search advertising -- a scale which almost everyone in the media industry fears as a threat to their existing businesses -- but said the nature of technology and the internet also made Google vulnerable.

"Online, competition is only ever a click away ... it's common for once-leading services to become out-innovated and overtaken," Schmidt said in the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Many of the broadcasting executives, producers and advertising industry leaders in the audience fear Google's entry into their territory with its Google TV internet-connected device, threatening the kind of dislocation it has triggered in online and print media with search advertising and the mobile phone business with its now leading Android operating system.

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Schmidt, whose company has been seen as arrogant and no respecter of copyright, struck a conciliatory tone, saying Google had moved to be more speedy in taking down content which breached copyright and would be more active in supporting the business models of content owners that wanted to charge for their content online.

It had no intention to move into content creation, believing its core skills remained in technology and in focusing on three trends: Mobile, local and social.

Google TV would be launched in Europe early in 2012, he said.

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"We provide platforms for people to engage with content and, through automated software we show ads next to content that owners have chosen to put up. But we have neither the ambition nor the know-how to actually produce content on a large scale," he said.

Google's success in search, he said, had allowed it to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure which benefited broadcasters and the media industry, while its advertising platform "shared" more than $6 billion with broadcasters, publishers and newspapers.

Schmidt departed from his prepared speech to note Steve Jobs' retirement as chief executive of Apple. Jobs, he said, was the only business leader he had seen move easily between media and engineering.

Schmidt said Jobs had "an artist's eye as well as a definition of what great engineering is."

In delivering the Edinburgh lecture, Schmidt followed two memorable speakers in the annual address, named after Scottish-born television pioneer James MacTaggart.

Two years ago James Murdoch, then chairman and chief executive of News Corporation in Europe, and speaking before the company was plunged into scandals over telephone hacking and illegal payments to police, used the same speech to condemn the publicly funded BBC as a "chilling" influence on media competition.

We have neither the ambition nor the know-how to actually produce content on a large scale.
--Eric Schmidt

A year later BBC Director General Mark Thompson used the same platform to defend an institution he portrayed as more trusted by the British public than either politicians or the empire of Rupert Murdoch.

Schmidt portrayed Google as more vulnerable and bashful than critics recognize.

"I didn't get social networking as fast as I should have done," he said, referring to what many see as the belated launch of the company's Google+ social network, still in prototype, having been caught napping by the explosive growth of Facebook. at the same time, Schmidt claimed some personal success in changing Google's course on mobile.

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He didn't dwell on the issue of privacy; he has been criticized in the past for glib comments about consumers worrying less about privacy than questioning what they wanted to keep private.

Personalization required personal data which drove the accuracy of online services like search. But he added: "It will be vital to strike the right balance, so people feel comfortable and in control, not disconcerted by the eerie accuracy of suggestions."

Mobile, local and social were the key three trends to watch and all would transform television. He predicted a golden age of internet-connected television creating new forms of entertainment, advertising and connections between audiences and content.

"The internet is fundamental to the future of television for one simple reason: Because it's what people want," he said. "It makes TV more personal, more participative, more pertinent. People are clamoring for it."

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In comments directed at a British audience where the BBC has led the way in many areas of TV content and technology, and in Scotland where television was invented, Schmidt said Britain needed to do more to promote careers in technology or squander its intellectual potential.

He also made a plea for low regulation, suggesting politicians not interfere in an internet era where "innovation and speed" are paramount.


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