The TV biz is the latest to get nervous about Google. Marissa Mayer is currently in the UK, assuaging skittish TV execs who are worried about Google’s muscling in on their turf. Mayer’s message is that Google is a technology company, not a media company.
If you look at the nature of Google’s position, you would realize why it doesn’t make sense for Google to try to churn out content. Google’s point of strength, and the one they should be focusing exclusively on, is to retain it’s position as the preferred connection between users and content. It’s a connector, and as long as it continues to function as such, it’s holding all the cards. Google is the pipeline that the lion’s share of web traffic will pass through, even momentarily. And that’s the beauty of Google’s plan. It doesn’t have to worry about producing content, it can focus on facilitating the connection, and then monetizing that connection.
If you’re a connector, there’s no overhead. There’s none of the costs or headaches involved with producing the content. You just have to point the right way to it, and collect your toll for each head that passes through. It’s clean, it’s simple and it’s tremendously profitable. That’s why Google can afford to cut some pretty sweet revenue sharing splits with current content producers. If they can corner the “connection” market, they can effectively cut out the competition.
If I were the TV execs, it wouldn’t be Google I would be worrying about. It would be the millions of bored teenagers that have a camcorder and nothing better to do in an afternoon than make a stupid video. These are the clips that dominate the all time most viewed videos on YouTube. It may be easy for the established production houses to dismiss this content as amateurish and inconsequential, but these clips are precursors of the democratization of video production, as consumer generated content becomes better and more readily available. Again, it goes back to my view of the deconstruction of tradition distribution control points. Video used to have only a handful of distribution points, so tight partnerships with content creators were possible. The internet is moving the distribution point online and away from the traditional control points, and Google is very wisely trying to grab a big piece of that pie. They can remain agnostic to the source of the content, as long as they can control the access.
The thing that worries me a little is that the execs in charge of the traditional control points don’t seem to realize the magnitude of the change that’s coming. They’re focusing their attention on an easily identifiable but false threat coming from Google, without realizing that the rules of the game are being completely rewritten and the real threat is coming from their own audience.