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Schmidt promises European Google TV launch early next year

Delivering this year’s MacTaggart lecture at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday, Google chairman Eric Schmidt confirmed that Google TV would launch in Europe “early next year”, with the UK “among the top priorities”.

In his speech, Schmidt admitted that Google strategy to “place big bets on technology trends” was sometimes disruptive of others’ business models and it sometimes “inadvertently made things worse”, but said that he hoped the company was “now sufficiently engaged in industry conversations to be sensitive and responsive to concerns”. Challenging accusations that Google was a “parasite” that took revenues without investing in content, he said that the company last year shared over US$6 billion (€4 billion) with its publishing partners worldwide and had deep relationships with Channels 4 and 5 in the UK to provide catch-up services on youTube. He also said that Google would invest in a partnership with the UK’s National Film and TV School to help young filmmakers navigate the world of YouTube.

Schmidt also defended Google’s record on copyright, pointing out that it had invested over US$30 million in the Content ID system to help rightsholders identify content reproduced on YouTube.

As well as his widely reported comments about the lack of encouragement shown in the UK for people to study science and engineering, Schmidt said that too much regulation posed a threat to the future of broadcasting. He highlighted the need for the UK to make the most of public sector innovation. “The iPlayer is a case in point,” he said. “It’s a great product. It would be even better if it extended to more channels, but despite several valiant attempts, clever lobbying resulted in regulators blocking – seemingly on the basis that it would be too successful!” The delays in the development of YouView meant that, even if it now launches next year, the UK would “still have thrown away several years when [it] could have been in the lead – a lifetime technologically.”

Identifying “mobile, local and social” as the key trends to watch, Schmidt said that social TV would be one of the major trends of the coming years. “A social layer is something viewers – or at least a substantial number – clearly want. It’s also great for broadcasters. Trending hashtags raise awareness of shows, helping boost ratings,” he said.

Schmidt said that the shift to on-demand viewing and viewing generated by recommendations meant that advertising models would have to change accordingly. He said that Google had teamed up with Kantar in the UK to create a single source research panel to measure web and TV habits.