Google CEO Slams Broadcast Nets

A feisty Eric Schmidt fired back at the major broadcast networks over their reluctance to allow their content to be accessed via Google TV, implying that the execs simply don’t get the concept of Web-enabled television—and that fear was driving their decisions.

The Google CEO, speaking during a keynote interview at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, painted the broadcast network execs as protectionists wary of endangering their valuable assets—so much so that they were standing in the way of innovation.

Schmidt relayed the comments of one network executive in a slightly mocking voice, “Don’t you realize that you are taking a dumb TV and making it smarter?” Making TV smarter is a prospect Schmidt clearly doesn’t see as a negative.

“The concern is that the enormous revenue stream is going to be somehow affected by Google TV. I disagree,” he said. “People are going to watch more TV.”

Last month of course, Google rolled out Google TV, a platform designed to bring the Internet to TV screens. Consumers can either purchase set-top boxes to install the service, or purchase certain Sony TVs that come with Google TV built in.

So far, the major TV networks are not crazy about the idea of consumers streaming their top prime-time shows on their TVs rather than watching them as part of linear broadcasts.

Schmidt said the question facing the networks comes down to whether or not the networks believed their content would stand the test of a Web and TV merger. While some get hung up on the fear that premium TV content will be stolen—or even worse ignored—he argues that TV becomes a richer experience when married to the Internet.

One way TV becomes better, much like mobile phones did, is through applications, Schmidt argued. In fact, the potential for apps is a lucrative one, and maybe something that TV companies aren’t opening their eyes to.

“The way to create more revenue is to create more revenue streams,” he said.

Beyond Google TV, Schmidt touched on a number of topics during the wide ranging interview. He reiterated that Google’s next big businesses would be display ads and mobile, after pointing out their growth on the company’s most recent earnings call.

Schmidt demurred when asked repeatedly about the possibility of launching a Facebook competitor, but did intimate that Google might look to include more recommendations and comments from social networks in the company’s search results—much like rival Microsoft did recently with its fledgling search engine Bing.

“We agree that social information is very important,” he said. However, information from friends is but “one of many signals.”

Down the road, Schmidt said that Google Maps will have an even bigger role in social media—the idea of finding out where your friends are or where they’ve been—but declined to say why the company hadn’t integrated the product with Facebook Connect.

Schmidt kicked off his talk by demonstrating a yet-to-be released mobile phone that carries inside it a “near field communication” chip. That chip can potentially combine information on where a person is at a given moment, along with providing a secure payment mechanism, Schmidt explained. “This will eventually replace credit cards,” he said.

When asked about the recent eye-popping news that Google had provided its employees with a 10 percent raise across the board, Schmidt said that move, wasn’t about a talent war in the industry.

“People are dying to come to work here,” he said. “We just thought it was good for the company. And because we could.”

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