EDINBURGH, Scotland (Reuters) - Google is “absolutely committed” to its fledgling television business and expects many more partners to join it soon, Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said on Saturday.
Google TV, which allows viewers to mix Web and television content on TV screens via a browser, has received lukewarm reviews and been blocked by the major U.S. networks since its launch in the United States in October.
Schmidt told the Edinburgh television festival its lack of success so far was partly because it was a feature designed into televisions, devices which consumers tend to replace only about once every five years.
“We’re absolutely committed to staying, to improving Google TV,” he said, adding that new companies would be joining existing partners Sony and Logitech for the next version. Logitech makes computer mice, speakers, webcams and keyboards.
“I believe that they’re both going to be on board and I believe there are many more coming. Wait shortly for an announcement,” he said.
Google has long harbored ambitions to extend its $28 billion online advertising business to the television arena, where the lion’s share of global ad budgets is spent.
It owns YouTube, the world’s most popular online video site, but has not announced any profits from that business since buying it in 2006.
Schmidt said in a keynote speech on Friday that he expected Google TV to launch in Europe early next year.
On Saturday, he said Google had not yet resolved its differences with U.S. networks ABC, NBC and CBS, and hoped the company would not encounter similar problems for its British launch.
“We certainly have talked to them about reversing their position and we certainly hope that won’t happen here,” he said, adding that Google was in talks with UK broadcasters.
Like other industries disrupted by the Internet, the television industry is broadly suspicious of Google, fearing the company will steal its advertising revenues without contributing toward the high costs of programing.
Google argues that the Internet can expand the total advertising market by providing better-targeted and more effective ads that will encourage companies to spend more.
Google could glean valuable insights into U.S. viewing habits from the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which it announced last week.
Motorola owns the world’s largest set top box business and has close relationships with U.S. cable companies — who have expressed concern about the acquisition.
Schmidt said he could not talk in detail about Google’s plans for that business until the merger was completed, but said there were “interesting ideas” about how it could help Google’s existing television business.
“We’re intending to run Motorola, which would include the set top box business, as a completely separate business. That does not mean that there won’t be communication between the two, and obviously sharing and knowledge sharing,” he said.
Schmidt also said British Prime Minister David Cameron would be making a mistake if he tried to shut down online communications during periods of social unrest.
Cameron had asked authorities to look at the possibility of such measures in the wake of riots that tore through England earlier this month and were partly organized on Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger, Twitter and Facebook.
Such moves have been widely condemned as repressive when used by other countries, especially during the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.
“I think it’s a mistake. I hope that’s a clear answer,” Schmidt said. “Whatever the problem was, which I don’t really understand... the Internet was a reflection of that problem but turning the Internet on and off is not going to fix it.”
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Keiron Henderson