Google uses home page to sell Star Wars: Rogue One to Kiwis

Search giant goes on the front-foot with content. The Force is strong with this one.

It’s only one little line of text but it could signal big trouble for media players.

This morning on Google, on its usually sacrosanct search home page, New Zealanders see a promo to by Star Wars: Rogue One on Google Play.

I bought it to see how it would go with Chromecast streaming to a regular TV in HD. Answer: Fine (and followers of the profit-shifting debate will be interested to know the emailed invoice showed I had been charged by Google Ireland).

Google Play has offered video content for sale for years, and since early last year, Google has been experimenting with the pay-per-month streaming service YouTube Red in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

But so far, it’s been softly-softly stuff; most Kiwis probably don’t even know Play and Red exist.

Today, it seems Google is ready to go more on the front foot.

The news comes on the heels of Facebook’s announcement that it will release an Apple TV app for its video service, and negotiate content deals with film and television studios, plus Amazon’s recent expansion of its Prime streaming service into New Zealand.

Despite predictions of consolidation, viewers’ on-demand options are actually growing.

Quickflix refuses to die, and even small players are getting in on the act like Good TV, which recently won (non-exclusive) rights to stream NBCUniversal content to Kiwis.

It’s not clear if anyone can succeed in the cruel, low-margin world of streaming video (dubbed a “mutual suicide pact” by Sky boss John Fellet), where even Netflix loses money on its core business.

But Google’s growing assertiveness is yet another problem for everyone from TVNZ to the likes of Sky TV’s Neon and Spark’s Lightbox. A possible death-by-1000-cuts scenario looms.