Google Inc. plans to unveil today a test version of a way for computer users to search the content of television programs, the next step in the company's efforts to make information available to computer users from a growing number of sources.
For Google, which has indexed more than 8 billion documents on the Internet, the TV venture is in keeping with its strategy to expand the universe of data that can be searched to include information not already online. For example, Google recently launched a pilot project to make tens of millions of books available for online search.
Dubbed Google Video, the new TV service is limited, since it provides only still shots and texts of certain programs broadcast since December on the Public Broadcasting Service, C-SPAN, Fox News and certain other stations. The company's long-term strategy is to enable computer users not only to search for still shots and text from television programs but also to provide them with a way to replay TV programs on their computers, although it is unclear how long that might take to become available.
Google's chief search rival, Yahoo Inc., also is releasing a new video service today that is designed to make it easier to find movie trailers, music videos and other programs online. The Yahoo release, available on www.yahoo.com, follows a multi-month test of an earlier version of the service.
Both PBS and the National Basketball Association said they are partnering with Google in the venture to expand the availability of their television programming by making it searchable on the Internet.
PBS President Pat Mitchell said the new service would "increase the reach and impact of PBS content."
NBA Commissioner David Stern said Google's strategy was likely to appeal to sports fans. "NBA fans are tech-savvy early adopters," Stern said in a statement. "With our partnership with Google on the pioneering Google Video service, we enhance our ability to meet the needs of NBA fans, delivering to them content and information in a new and innovative way."
Google officials said the new service is a breakthrough in their ongoing goal of organizing data and making it searchable.
"Our mission is to help Google users find the information they need, whether it's on the Web, in a library or on TV," said Larry Page, co-founder of the company. "Google Video unlocks the information that streams across our TVs every day. Now users can search the content of TV programs, find the shows that have the information they're looking for, and learn when they can watch them."
Initially, the broadcasts available for search at www.google.com/videowill be quite limited, said Google product manager John Piscitello. In an interview, Piscitello said users who search for a phrase spoken on a TV program that Google has recorded and indexed since December will see a still image from the show. If the computer user clicks on that image, five still images will be available, as well as text snippets canvassed from closed captioning of the shows.
In addition, a personalization feature will enable computer users to type in their Zip code and find out when and on what station the next episode of the program they are searching will be broadcast.
"Connecting users to playback is an obvious next step," Piscitello said, adding that he did not know when that feature might become available. Since Google does not own the rights to the television shows, it is unclear what sort of revenue-sharing arrangements it might have to reach to rebroadcast the programs over the Internet and what sort of legal issues it might encounter.