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Google TV Exec Outlines Future as Smart Home Hub Integrating Netflix, Zoom, Fitbit

Google TV will someday be the center of an integrated smart home ecosystem, according to director of product management Rob Caruso. He shared his vision in a Protocol newsletter of a smart TV aggregating and connecting apps from partners like Zoom and Netflix, as well as Google’s extensive family of brands like Fitbit. The idea to make smart TVs more like a large smart display without the limits implied by its name is rapidly becoming a standard strategy, but Google may need to play catch up in some regards.

Google TV Funnel

Caruso said Google TV is becoming ubiquitous, with most of the biggest smart TV makers using the platform. Google claims 10 million televisions with Google TV’s user interface are sold every year now. T-Mobile debuted the first Google TV device last month, but Caruso highlighted plans to connect apps and content on a deeper level so users can access their information right from the home screen by voice, like with a Google Nest Hub smart display. Google is working on more smart home controls and connecting to services Zoom’s video calls and Fitbit’s exercise routines, possibly to arrive later this year.

Integrating with content streaming services is also high on the priority list. Viewers could access content on the streaming platforms from the home screen with a deeper connection. That means reaching agreements with those companies to integrate into the platform; not always easy to do. Netflix, arguably the most well-known name in streaming, had such an integration with Google TV when it launched on Chromecast in 2020 but pulled out a few months after for unknown reasons. There’s no way to search for content or add it to the watchlist on the homepage anymore like there is on Amazon Fire, Roku, and other smart TV platforms. Caruso, who left Netflix to join Google back in August, sounded optimistic about the prospects of doing so but didn’t go into details.

“I hope we’ll see some welcome improvements and innovations in the coming months with not just Netflix, but with many partners,” Caruso told Protocol. “You can’t force anyone’s hand, but the hope is that as we provide features for our users [and] partners, that they all see value, and then it’s a flywheel.”

TV Homes

Google TV’s plans sound a lot like what Amazon is doing with the Fire TV platform, including a new voice command for Alexa to “Play Something on Netflix” and get a video playing immediately. That collaboration with Netflix pairs well with the voice focus of the new Amazon-produced Fire TVs. The Omni comes with a far-field microphone for hands-free Alexa access. The new TVs came out in tandem with new Alexa-enabled X-ray features that share information on the bottom of the screen and a new conversational feature for Alexa where viewers can ask the voice assistant what they should watch and discuss what kind of movies and shows they like. Amazon is ahead with Zoom, too, introducing the app on Amazon Fire TV Omni last month.

Netflix is even pursuing its own smart TV voice assistant, partnering with SoundHound on including voice AI in the new Da Vinci Reference Design Kit (RDK). Smart TV set-top manufacturers won’t have to create their own voice assistant; instead, they can integrate Netflix’s software already augmented with SoundHound’s voice AI to enable hands-free search and control of streaming content and connected smart home devices.


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