Google Gears Up for Set-Top Set-To

Google is apparently already kicking the tires on something in the alternative video access equipment line and that is not sitting well with MVPDs.

According to a copy of the invite obtained by B&C, Google and the Consumer Video Choice Coalition (CVCC) scheduled a demo Friday at Google offices in D.C. of a competitive video access solution tied to the possible end of the "era of being forced to rent a box from your cable company."

The demo comes only a day after FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated a proposal he said would open up the "closed" set-top box market.

The invite suggested new technological solutions would allow for the "ability to channel surf between traditional cable programing, broadcast channels and over-the-top streaming networks, like Netflix and Amazon, all with one device."

The demo also comes the same week that that National Association of Broadcasters welcomed Google as an associate member and charter member of a reinvented NAB Labs, now dubbed Pilot, as an incubator for media delivery systems of the future, with a focus on digital multicast distribution.

The Future of TV Coalition, the just-formed group representing MVPDs troubled by Wheeler's proposal, called the invite a "secret Google field trip" to demonstrate what the coalition essentially branded vaporware.

"Amazingly, Google plans to demonstrate its new AllVid-style TV set top box, presumably in order to build support for the new rules being considered by the FCC on video competition announced to much fanfare just this week," the coalition said.

"This secretive demonstration is also especially troubling to the many companies, organizations, and engineers who worked for over a year side by side with Google on the FCC 'DSTAC' committee that reported to the FCC Chairman last year," the coalition said. "During that entire process, Google never hinted that it had built a new navigation box or offered to bring committee members in to its offices for a demonstration. We suppose they were saving the goodies for invitation-only, Top Secret meetings far from the prying eyes (and open records requirements) of the DSTAC Committee."

"Technology demonstrations are part of the normal course of business in any FCC proceeding," said Kim Hart, press secretary to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on the suggesting Google had been conducting sleuth testing. "The Consumer Choice Video Coalition held demonstrations for a number of FCC staff and Commissioners’ offices. We welcome presentations from all innovators and app developers who want to bring choice to the 99% of cable and satellite TV consumers who lease set-top boxes because they don’t have meaningful alternatives."

The CVCC filed the requisite ex parte notification of a December demo of the device at the FCC (

Wheeler’s proposal arrived a year after the FCC appointed a committee to recommend downloadable video security options that could succeed the CableCARD and be applied to cable operators as well as telco TV and satellite TV service providers.

That group, the Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee was comprised of execs and engineers from several facets of the video service, consumer electronics, and security industries, including AT&T, Sony Electronics, EchoStar Technologies and Dish Network, Evolution Digital, TiVo, Amazon, Cablevision Systems, Public Knowledge, Columbia University, Nagra, Comcast, Hauppauge, Vizio,  Motion Picture Association of America, Arris, Samsung and Charter Communications. Google was represented by Milo Medin, an industry vet now serving as Google’s VP, access services.

In a report presented in August 2015, the DSTAC recommended multiple paths toward a successor to the CableCARD, including an apps-based approach favored by the cable industry and all AllVid-style option favored by companies such as Google that also discussed the implementation of a “virtual headend” as well as a gateway device capable of uniting video from various sources.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.