Tess Alps asks Google's Schmidt to do two things for TV industry

By Staff, mediaweek.co.uk, Monday, 22 August 2011 09:16AM

In an open letter to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of television's Thinkbox calls for better collaboration with, and more financial investment from, the world's internet giant.

Tess Alps: chief executive of Thinkbox

Tess Alps: chief executive of Thinkbox

Dear Mr Schmidt,

There's lots of anticipation for your MacTaggart lecture at the forthcoming MGEITF. Until recently, you might have feared being greeted as an enemy or "parasite", but this year the audience will be open-minded, hoping to hear how you intend to partner with the TV industry globally – and perhaps become one of us. It is, after all, a wonderful industry.

Thinkbox has never thought the internet an enemy. Search and social media help capture and prove TV advertising's positive effects more easily. Your UK colleagues are always complimentary about TV as a partner to all parts of Google's business. The return path that internet-distributed TV advertising offers is tantalising. TV companies recognise that no one owns the internet and that there's plenty of room to expand into it.

So far so good. Edinburgh's buildings exude a moral rectitude that chimes with Google's "Do no evil" maxim. I don't believe Google ever intentionally does evil. But "Do no evil" should extend to the unintended consequences of its activities. With that in mind, I'd like to ask you to do two things for the TV industry.

From writers and performers to controllers, technicians and, heaven forfend, even marketers, great TV is created by teams, not by brilliant, solitary geeks. Google has often failed to collaborate properly with the TV industry before announcing some new venture which impacts on it, from the early botched moves of Google TV, to the global TV and online research which you are developing alone.

Collaboration takes longer at the start, but you will get further with better outcomes if you work alongside TV stakeholders. First, please understand that collaboration is how TV happens; it's not a control-and-command industry.

Second, please acknowledge – with more than words – how dependent your business is on all content industries. When someone searches for "holidays in Spain" after watching Rick Stein, Google earns revenue from paid search. Google hasn't created desire, just capitalised on it. Search is an amazing tool.

But the benefits are not equally balanced and represent a very different scale of investment. The net effect of search's ad revenue growth has been to nearly destroy print classified advertising. When there are no longer any search-provoking print articles, maybe you'll wish you had financially supported the content industries that drive yours.

TV advertising has not – so far – been negatively affected by search, but your developments into TV platforms and mobile (the second screen that is so driven by TV) have clear ambitions to feed off TV advertising without making any corresponding investment in content (sorry, $100m globally is teeny). Show the TV industry how working with Google will help them generate more money, not less.

How you do this – sharing revenues and data, paying a monopoly tax to fund creative industries – I don't mind. But if Google collaborates with respect and makes a fair financial contribution, TV will welcome you in Edinburgh as a friend.

Tess Alps is chief executive of commercial TV marketing body, Thinkbox. 

Read Arif Durrani's blog about Google's TV aspirations.

This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk

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