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Inside Google's plans for free TV

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Welcome to Lowpass, a newsletter about the future of entertainment and the next big hardware platforms, including smart TVs, ambient computing and AR / VR. This week: Google expands free, ad-supported streaming on Google TV, and Warner Bros. Discovery is asking viewers to pay more for better image quality.

A quick housekeeping note: This marks the first proper edition of Lowpass since I relaunched the newsletter earlier this week; welcome again to former subscribers of Protocol Entertainment! Here’s my launch announcement post, in case you missed it.

Google’s free TV strategy comes into focus

Google is doubling down on free streaming: Google TV devices are getting access to more than 800 free ad-supported linear streaming channels, the company announced Tuesday.

Free, ad-supported streaming channels, also known as FAST channels in industry parlance, have been a huge success story. Viewers like them because they offer a basic cable-like experience, complete with a familiar EPG interface, for free. And TV makers and the companies building smart TV platforms like them because they’ve become real drivers of revenue, with market researchers predicting more than $4 billion in FAST advertising revenue in the US alone this year.

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months talking to industry insiders about the evolution of free TV streaming, and had a chance to chat with Google TV head Shalini Govil-Pai about the company’s latest news last week. Here’s what I learned about the way Google is approaching the space, and what’s likely to come for Google TV:

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