Google is working on a strategy to offer paid cable TV services to consumers, the Wall Street Journal reports, as part of a previously announced project to build a super-high-speed fiber optic service in metropolitan Kansas City. The strategy would involve combinging Internet, video and phone services similar to cable and telecom companies, and Google has had exploratory talks with Disney, Time Warner and Discovery Communications about delivering TV channels over the video service. In September, Google hired former cable TV executive Jeremy Stern, who is leading those discussions. Google’s actions could accelerate the competition for a share of the more than $150 billion per year that traditional TV in the U.S. receives from advertisers and consumers paying monthly fees. Already the biggest seller of Web ads, Google wants some of those TV dollars.
Telephone and satellite companies long ago began competing against cable systems with bundled communications and TV channel options. Amazon is bulking up its content along with Dish, and Netflix remains formidable despite disastrous missteps. Apple also is a solid competitor through iTunes and, potentially, Apple TV in addition to the already phenomenally popular iPad that shows no signs of slowing. Comcast and other cable companies are moving to solidify their hold by creating their own apps and securing Internet rights to content. But with this latest plan, Google could undercut its competitors where it could really hurt — their subscription fees.
Kansas City was among 1,100 communities that lobbied to be the first test market for Google Fiber — which as the name implies would use fiber optic cables that have vastly more data capacity than coaxial cable or telephone lines, the Kansas City Star notes in response to the Journal report. That project holds the promise of 1 gigabit per second uploads and downloads. Google is sharing few details of its plans for Kansas City on either side of the Missouri River, which separates the larger city on the Missouri side from its Kansas neighbor. Google has only said its Internet service would be priced similarly to much slower traditional delivery, and that it would likely be available in some parts of Kansas City, Kan., in “early 2012.”