The Los Angeles Times has an interesting profile of the head of Google Video Store, Jennifer Feiken (though we could have done without the tidbit about her height increasing when she wears high-heeled boots — seriously, it’s 2006, people). While I found myself mildly interested in Feiken’s journey from the cutting room floor (an aborted role in Hairspray) to Silicon Valley, I was more interested in how Google will work its way into the brave new world of the new media.
Google has made a lot of bold moves in the media world, most notably with its Google Book Search/Print/Publish initiative (what is it, anyway?). And it’s not an overstatement to say they own the search engine world right now. Aggregating and cataloguing data is what they do best — it remains to be seen if they’re up to the task of selling content to the user. Our initial analysis indicates that Google has a long way to go — hiring an entertainment industry insider is a good first step, but this may be the time that Google needs to leverage other skills even more. First up: make it usable.
LAT describes Google’s initiative as an “online bazaar” and indicates that established media companies are facing the project with skepticism.
The service got a rocky start last week. It was launched three days late because of technical problems, and some users complained about glitches and a shortage of popular TV programming. For example, there were only one episode of CBS’ popular show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and fewer than a dozen music videos from Sony BMG Music Entertainment — two of Google’s major media partners.
Google also faces challenges from existing partnerships established by its competition, not to mention the fact that iTunes has set the bar very high:
Other Internet companies are trying to graft glitzy Hollywood sensibilities onto their button-down high-tech cultures. America Online, for example, merged with Time Warner Inc. in 2001 and is working closely with its parent company on creating new Web-only video content. Yahoo Inc. is led by former Warner Bros. head Terry Semel, and former ABC Entertainment Television Group Chairman Lloyd Braun is steering Yahoo Media Group as it explores the future of digital media creation and distribution.
These partnerships can be overcome — the big money, at the end of the day, will be in the vast libraries owned by the studios, and Google should be well-positioned to leverage their strengths there. In fact, they’ve already locked up what is arguably the crown jewel of legacy content:
The Google Video Store started with a few dozen partners, featuring some well-known TV programming, including National Basketball Assn. games, “I Love Lucy” and “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoons. The vision is to turn Google Video Store into an open marketplace for buying and selling videos. Producers of independent films, instructional videos or any other material will be able to upload their content and make it available for purchase, at whatever price they see fit.
As noted above, Google’s biggest challenge will come in the form of user experience:
Critics say the service needs plenty of work: Videos are hard to find, poorly promoted and often not transferable to portable devices.
Making deals and acquiring content is a good approach, but Google’s success will depend upon more than having more stuff than anybody else.
- A Role That She Seemed Destined to Land: Her film background helped make Jennifer Feikin the choice to head Google’s video service. (Note: registration required. . .at the very least)