Google Pushes Into TV

NEW YORK Google has continued its quest to move its automated ad platform into all forms of media through a deal with EchoStar allowing advertisers to buy, sell and measure ads on the latter’s Dish Network satellite TV service.

The Internet giant said it is working with EchoStar to show spots from advertisers like Intel and 1-800 Flowers.com to Dish’s 12 million subscribers. The network becomes the first sizable seller of TV ads to let Google access its inventory. Google and EchoStar will split the revenue from the auction-based sales.

The move into TV is part of Google’s ambitious plan to bring its highly automated and targeted advertising system to new forms of media ranging from Web banner ads to radio spots and newspaper placements.

As audiences fragment, there is a need to use technology platforms to re-aggregate them, said Keval Desai, director of product management at Google.

“The fact that the [TV] audience is getting fragmented is a no-brainer,” he said. “It’s much more prevalent in TV than it was a few years back.”

The companies did not say how much ad inventory or what programming the agreement covers. In tests selling radio and newspaper ads, Google did not gain access to large amounts of premium inventory.

“That’s the real key,” said Greg Sterling, head of Sterling Market Intelligence. “What [programming] are they offering and how much coverage can they offer?”

Advertisers upload TV spots into Google’s AdWords system to target specific audiences or times across Dish’s satellite programming networks, which include USA Network, A&E and CNN. Advertisers bid on a cost-per-thousand impressions basis. Campaigns can be tailored based on factors such as demographics, geography and time of day.

The EchoStar deal complements a test Google has under way with a small California cable operator, Astound Broadband. Desai said Google is holding discussions with many TV inventory owners, including broadcast networks, to use its ad platform.

“Anyone who believes their inventory needs to be more effectively monetized and better reported on would be interested in this,” he said.

Yet Google’s heft in the online ad world—and its skirmishes with media companies—could complicate those efforts. Viacom slapped a $1 billion lawsuit on Google last month over copyright infringement on the popular video-sharing site YouTube, which Google owns.

On top of tensions with large networks, Google has yet to prove it can translate its dominance in Web search into new areas. It is still a small player—compared to rivals Yahoo, AOL and MSN—in display and video ad campaigns run by large brand advertisers. Its early efforts in radio have been hampered by the defection of the founders of dMarc, the radio ad-buying platform it bought in January 2006, and its newspaper tests are still small.

“There are a lot of people who are scared of Google,” Sterling noted.

While Google has catered to small and medium-size businesses with its Internet ad platform, it is courting large marketers that dominate TV advertising with the promise that it can make TV spots more accountable.

EchoStar will feed Google data on how many set-top boxes were tuned in throughout a commercial. In this way, Desai said, it would begin to develop a “quality score” for commercials that advertisers could use to adjust creative. That data will eventually be used to influence which spots are shown, he said.

“We want to incorporate some notion of ad quality so better ads tend to win the auctions,” he said.

Desai said Google hoped to make TV advertising an option to smaller advertisers, including help with constructing them. Like its radio system, Google will launch a marketplace for small advertisers to get TV spots made.

Google will act as a matchmaker between production firms and the marketers, he said.

“We’re a direct marketer,” said Steve Jarmon, vp of brand communications at 1-800 Flowers.com. “We look for a better understanding of who we’re reaching, what the triggers are and what we can learn from it. What we look at Google bringing is a close understanding of measurement and accountability.”