Google offers video-search service for TV information

Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

Michael Liedtke

SAN FRANCISCO — Google Inc. is using its popular Internet search technology to find information and images broadcast on television, continuing a recent effort to extend its reach beyond the web.

The California-based company planned to introduce the new video search service today in an index that will be operated separately from the market-leading search engine offered on its home page. The feature pinpoints content previously aired on a variety of television networks by scanning through the closed-caption text that many programmers offer.

Google’s index, which began storing information last month, includes programming from ABC, PBS, Fox News and C-SPAN.

“We think TV is a big part of people’s lives,” said Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s vice-president of product management. “Ultimately, we would like to have all TV programming indexed.”

The television product represents Google’s latest attempt to get a better handle on the reams of vital information that isn’t stored on web pages. The company recently set out to scan millions of books from several major libraries into its search engine and is offering a program that finds material stored on computer hard drives.

Search engine analyst Charlene Li of Forrester Research said Google’s latest innovation is likely to disappoint many people because it doesn’t provide a direct link to watch the previously broadcast programming.

Google instead is displaying up to five still video images from the indexed television programs, as well as snippets from the show’s narrative. The search results also will provide a breakdown on when the program aired and when an episode is scheduled to be repeated. Local programming information will be available for those who provide a ZIP code.

Rival search engine Yahoo Inc. also has been tinkering with a product that finds video available for Webcasts. Hoping to counter Google’s entrance into the space, Yahoo planned to step up the promotion of its video search tools Tuesday by linking to the service from the home page of its heavily trafficked website.

Li said Yahoo’s service is flawed, too, because “most of the (video) that you can see on the web isn’t the stuff that you really want to see.”

If the Google and Yahoo services attract a following, more television programmers may be compelled to provide better online access to their content, Li said. “Video search is going to be a very long-term play.”

Google doesn’t plan to use the television search engine as another vehicle for displaying the text-based ad links that generate most of its profits.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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