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Google TV is coming to Europe next year

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Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt announced plans to bring Google TV to Europe in 2012 while giving a speech at the Edinburgh International TV Festival on Friday. Google TV —  and this took me forever to understand — lets you basically combine your television and internet, making all programming searchable and allowing you to access the web via your TV set. The service is already available in the U.S. — it really is unfortunate that the rest of the world keeps getting screwed out of watching things on the internet — but hasn't exactly taken off, thanks to the reluctance of big networks to offer access to their content.

You can read the whole speech here, but here's a short bit of what Schmidt said about the launch:

Google TV is a case in point. When it launched, some in the US feared we aimed to compete with broadcasters or content creators. Actually our intent is the opposite. We seek to support the content industry by providing an open platform for the next generation of TV to evolve, the same way Android is an open platform for the next generation of mobile. Just as smartphones sparked a whole new era of innovation for the Internet, we hope Google TV can help do the same for Television, creating more value for all. We expect Google TV to launch in Europe early next year, and of course the UK will be among the top priorities.

Which leads me to the second barb thrown at us. We’ve sometimes been accused of living off the back of others’ content and not paying our way, by everyone from Michael Grade to Rupert Murdoch. Perhaps the most colourful phrasing came from the Murdoch camp who called us “parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet”. But Andy Duncan summed it up most succinctly, saying: “Google takes more ad revenue out of the UK than ITV makes… It isn’t fair that it’s not reinvesting that back into content and independent film production companies in the UK”.

Some have suggested Google should invest directly in TV content. To argue that misunderstands a key point: Google is a technology company. We provide platforms for people to engage with content and, through automated software, we show ads next to content that owners have chosen to put up. But we have neither the ambition nor the know-how to actually produce content on a large scale. Trust me, if you gave people at Google free rein to produce TV you’d end up with a lot of bad sci-fi!

But of course we are helping to fund content. Last year we shared more than $6 billion with our publishing partners worldwide, including newspapers and broadcasters. In the UK, we have invested in deep relationships with Channels 4 and 5 and many other partners to provide catch-up services on YouTube. The result is growing audiences and online revenues, which enhance rather than cannibalise existing viewers.

I know what you're thinking: tl;dr. Basically what he's saying is that Google is not trying to steal from networks that actually produce content. They're simply creating a new way for audiences to access content. (While making ad revenue in the process. They are a gigantic multinational company, after all.) So maybe this thing will really take off across the pond, and Google can continue its quest to control every damn thing in our lives.