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Google TV: why Hollywood isn't running scared

Hollywood has long been skittish about new technologies. The VCR sent the industry into a panic. But Google TV? No worries. Hollywood has changed.

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From a distance – Google Earth, perhaps? – the brouhaha over the Internet search giant’s overture to the major television networks to join Google TV sounds familiar. A highly-disruptive new technology without a clear fix on how everyone in the game will make money arrives to deliver yet another dose of choice and freedom to the modern consumer: the proposal is to make every TV show from “Gilligan’s Island” to “Lost,” searchable and viewable on Internet-enabled screens whether in a living room or the palm of a hand.

Much of the attention in reports of the negotiations between Google and the network executives this week has focused on the studios’ reluctance to jump the broom with a new partner before a proper pre-nuptial deal has been signed.

But while echoes of earlier collisions between new gadgetry and old business models hover in the air, the reality, say industry insiders, media experts and brand specialists, is that Hollywood has learned a thing or two from the past.

“This generation of studio execs all read the same cautionary tales we do,” says New York brand expert Adam Hanft. “These are not the same moguls of the past who had deep emotional commitments to the old ways,” he says adding, “they are in tune with what’s going on and are consumers themselves.”

The most infamous faux pas of the past few decades is the studios’ collective effort to quash the VCR in its infancy, a battle that went all the way up to the Supreme Court in 1980. The videotape and DVD market went on to become a major economic boon to the entertainment industry of the past 30 years. Some things have changed since then; a few have not, says David Wertheimer, CEO of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California.

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