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Chromecast Fever: Google Dongle Attracts Flurry of Interest From HBO, Hulu, Others

Aaron Pressman
The Exchange
Suveer Kothari, center, displays how the new Chromecast device operates a television with the use of a smartphone. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After consumers flocked to buy out the first batch of Google’s (GOOG) new Chromecast Internet television dongle, HBO, Hulu and other major video and music services say they are looking to follow.

When Google unveiled its three-inch Internet-television connector last week, the conventional wisdom was that the Chromecast was cool tech but lacking content to match competitors such as Apple TV (AAPL) and Roku.

But already there seems to be a flurry of interest from other developers to support the $35 Chromecast, now sold out with a three- to four-week backlog.

“We are actively exploring supporting Chromecast as another way for our subscribers to enjoy HBO GO,” spokeswoman Laura Young says. The premium network owned by Time Warner (TWC) isn’t disclosing any specific timing, however.

That matches up with evidence that some computer hackers found hidden amongst the Chromecast’s operating code: Configuration files appeared to show testing between the Chromecast and HBO Go, Revision 3 and Songza.

The network-owned streaming video service Hulu is also already actively working with Google to add Chromecast capabilities to its apps, a person familiar with the effort says.

And online music video channel VEVO says its wants to get in on the potential dance parties, too. "VEVO is planning to update our apps for Android and iOS as well as our website to support Chromecast," spokeswoman Jennifer Press says.

A Vimeo executive was even more explicit. “We look forward to offering Chromecast support in our products,” vice president of mobile Nick Alt told GigaOm, which also reported interest from Redbox. The subsidiary of Outerwall (OUTR), formerly Coinstar, is best known for its ubiquitous DVD rental vending machines, but Redbox is also partnering with Verizon (VZ) to beta test an instant viewing service competing with the likes of Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu.

Out of the box, Chromecast lets anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer play shows from Netflix, YouTube and a few other apps directly on a home television set. Users can also stream most other online content via Google’s Chrome browser on their computer to a TV, but quality suffers and some reviewers complain video and audio tracks get out of sync.

That’s probably why, at the same time Google unveiled the device, it also provided a software development kit to let programmers add Chromecast compatibility to their apps, both on Android and iOS. With such capability added, videos stream directly from the Internet to the Chromecast, just like YouTube and Netflix. That avoids bottlenecks at the browser and PC level.

The plastic dongle plugs into a TV’s HDMI port and connects to the Internet via wifi. Power comes either via a TV’s USB port or an electrical outlet.

The low price and simplicity have already attracted hordes of early adopters. More content could bring in more of the TV-watching masses as well.