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Google's Pay TV Push Is Slow. Google's Broadband Push Is a Question Mark.

After three years, Google Fiber has more than 10 percent of the Kansas City pay TV market. We don't know about broadband, though.

Shutterstock/Sarah Frier Photography
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Three years after getting into the pay TV business, Google now has more than 10 percent of the market in the first metro area it targeted.

That data comes from MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, based on data Google has filed with the U.S. Copyright Office and Moffett’s own analysis. What that data means depends on your perspective.

Moffett reports that Google has more than 7,000 video subscribers via its Google Fiber service in Kansas City, Kansas — about 13 percent of the market there — and more than 20,000 subscribers in Kansas City, Missouri — about 10 percent of that market.

Moffett thinks those numbers are “incredibly small” and “a testament to how hard, and how slow, it is to build scale” as a new pay TV distributor. Google started taking orders for Google Fiber’s TV service in 2012. If you’re an executive at a big pay TV distributor like Comcast*, this line of thinking may give you some relief.

The flip side, via yours truly: Google doesn’t really want to be in the pay TV delivery service — it’s selling video as an adjunct to the thing it really cares about, which is super-fast broadband. Google doesn’t report those numbers to the government — and it wouldn’t provide them to me — so we don’t know how it’s doing.

My hunch is broadband subscriber totals will be substantially higher than the video ones.

That’s because when it comes to pay TV services, most people have multiple options — one or more cable TV providers, a couple satellite TV options, and sometimes pay TV via a telco operator. And Google’s TV service is basically like everyone else’s TV service.

But for most people in this country, there are at best two options for high-speed Internet, and very often only one — which is why the broadband market share a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable would have is such a hot-button issue for regulators.

The notion that Google could provide real competition — with blazing-fast speeds — for that monopoly/duopoly seems awfully appealing. We have yet to see if that’s really going to happen.

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is a minority investor in Revere Digital, Re/code’s parent company.

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