Google is turning its search engine into a live TV guide

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Google says it will soon add live TV listings to its search engine, allowing web users to find out when their favorite shows or movies will be airing. But in a nod to the many non-traditional ways that consumers watch TV today, the company says that it will also display the apps and websites where you can view the show’s latest episode. This new feature is in addition to a Search upgrade launched last year, which pointed users to where shows and movies could be watched on various mobile apps from distributors, networks, or on stores like Google Play and iTunes.

However, these “video actions,” as Google calls them have been fairly hit or miss or inconsistent, to date.

For instance, a search for a popular show like “Big Bang Theory,” doesn’t obviously point you to viewing options right in the search results. Instead, you have to tap over to the episode list, then click an arrow next to an item to see where you can view the show. And even then, Google points users to buying options on YouTube and Google Play with a note at the bottom that the show is “also available on Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon Video.” (And Vudu is the only one linked!).

That show is available on CBS’s app and streaming service, but that option is not listed at all.

Meanwhile, when searching for a show from ABC, like “Scandal,” Google points to Hulu, YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play when you view a given episode. Again, Amazon Video is listed, but not linked. And iTunes, which certainly sells “Scandal,” is oddly not listed or linked.

Other popular services, ranging from big names like Netflix down to niche streaming options, are not indexed at all.

This makes using Google for finding places to stream or buy a show unreliable, and it’s unclear to what extent that will change as the new “live TV” updates roll out.

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According to Google’s blog post, the big improvement is that, in addition to pointing to streaming services and apps, it will now also display air times and channels where you can watch. An “Edit provider” link will allow you to customize this option to inform Google of your cable provider, if applicable.

The company says that it’s adding this feature at a time when searches for TV shows and films on mobile have grown more than 55 percent over the past year. It didn’t say when the new feature was arriving, however, only saying that it’s coming “soon.”

Unfortunately for end users on mobile, the feature for finding streams and rentals is biased toward Google’s own properties. That will still leaving users turning to third-party apps like Yidio, TV Guide, Peel, or even Yahoo’s Video Guide for a better solution.

The announcement, made at this week’s NAB show, also included news for advertisers. With a new “DoubleClick’s Dynamic Ad Insertion” option, Google says it’s able to deliver a more personalized experience to viewers across live and on-demand TV streams, and both sold and programmatic.

Also new is what Google calls smarter ad breaks –  it will now honor “competitive separation” for DoubleClick for Publisher clients. (That means two car ads won’t appear in the same commercial break, and it won’t break rules like putting alcohol and kids’ cereal ads in the same break, either.)

The company also announced new TV ad partners for DoubleClick for Publishers, MCN, Roku and Cablevision, who join AMC Networks and Globo.

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