Google’s CEO Defends Ad Deal

LAS VEGAS Google president and CEO Eric Schmidt defended his company against antitrust allegations leveled by rivals about its proposed acquisition of DoubleClick in his address Monday at the National Association of Broadcasters convention.

Schmidt addressed a variety of issues affecting Google, including the imminent introduction of a long-awaited filtering system on YouTube and the company’s potential impact on the radio and television advertising businesses.

Days after Google disclosed Friday that it was planning to pony up $3.1 billion for online advertising firm DoubleClick, execs at Microsoft and AT&T urged regulators to scrutinize the combination of the companies.

But in an interview at NAB with former NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler, Schmidt refuted the notion that Google-DoubleClick amounted to unfair competition.

“The specific complaints Microsoft has made are clearly false,” Schmidt said.

Alluding to Microsoft, he added: “Maybe they are well-practiced in their previous experience making these arguments, but it just doesn’t make sense. A more likely scenario is they were unhappy because they were competitors of ours.”

Brad Smith, svp, general counsel at Microsoft, said in a statement issued Sunday that the Google deal raises competition and privacy concerns.

“It gives the Google-DoubleClick combination unprecedented control in the delivery of online advertising and access to a huge amount of consumer information by tracking what customers do online,” he said. “We think this merger deserves close scrutiny from regulatory authorities to ensure a competitive online advertising market.”

Schmidt also commented on new filtering technology coming soon to YouTube, which he referred to as “claim your content tools.” He noted that the system is in trials with several unspecified partners.

“We are very close to turning this on,” he said.

YouTube has come under fire for failing to remove copyright-infringing material from companies like Viacom, which filed a $1 billion suit against Google in March.

Addressing the suit, Schmidt said: “In Viacom, you’re either doing a business deal with them or being sued by them. We started with the former and ended with the latter.”

Schmidt also shared his thoughts on the upcoming joint venture between News Corp. and NBC Universal, which he did not categorize as a competitor. “It’s a different kind of animal,” he said of the still-unnamed venture, noting its reliance on longform content.

Schmidt made the case that radio and TV businesses could experience revenue growth if the new systems Google is experimenting with allow more marketers to participate. Citing “relatively flat” revenue for those industries, he said, “The only way to change that is by bringing in more advertising.”

Andrew Wallenstein in Los Angeles contributed to this report.