Google Bets Bigger on Digital TV

Even if the rest of the world is having trouble believing in on-demand television in the wake of Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) poorly received second-quarter earnings report, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) appears to be making a bigger bet on the medium.

According to a recent story in Wired, Google's efforts to tie YouTube accounts to Google+ profiles comes with an interesting side-effect: When you write a comment or upload something new, the system encourages you to use your real name. Actually, it's worse than that. Choose to remain anonymous and YouTube demands an explanation.

Source: YouTube.

Source: YouTube.

The goal, it would seem, is to mimic Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB  ) authenticity. The social network makes it extremely difficult for users to hide their true identities.

Like MySpace before it, YouTube has become famous as a haven for people who hide behind anonymity when posting mocking or otherwise hateful comments to videos. Google needs to cut down on the vitriol if it's to transform YouTube from a hobbyist's playground into a legitimate online TV network with real channels and big-budget advertisers.

There's plenty of progress to report. YouTube now has about 100 professionally run channels with original programming. These properties complement existing heavies, such as music video broadcaster Vevo, which is minority owned by Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and generates some 600 million monthly views for the site.

YouTube's custom channels are putting up small by comparison though respectable numbers in the meantime. For example, personal favorite The Onion saw 1.24 million views last week alone, Deadline.com reports. That's about on par with good network shows such as NBC's Community, which was drawing 1.7 million viewers per episode as of April. Other top "stations" include news channel SourceFed (second on Deadline.com's list) and geek-culture favorite Geek & Sundry (16th).

My point? There are already enough heavy hitters in YouTube's lineup to make it a legitimate network alternative. Cutting down on the commenting awfulness that sometimes comes with the Internet should only up the ante on networks struggling to keep their audiences from looking elsewhere.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google and Netflix at the time of publication. He also had a long-term call option position in Netflix. Check out Tim's Web home, portfolio holdings, and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Netflix, and Facebook and has sold shares of Sony short. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Facebook, Netflix, and Google. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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