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CBS, Comcast in web TV trial subs

Cable operator seeks cure for Hulu

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Comcast has snagged reluctant online broadcaster CBS to join in testing a service that will let cable subscribers have access to cable television online at no extra charge.

At issue is whether the future of American online television will be advertisement-funded or require a subscription. Web sites like Hulu.com prove the audience for web TV is there, but some US broadcasters aren't so sure ads are lucrative enough to support online video.

Cable operators, meanwhile, are struggling to preserve their business model in the age of streaming internet content. As a potential solution to their plight, US cable giant Comcast is preparing to test a service that will let its subscribers have the option of watching cable TV shows online.

CBS and 17 cable networks said today said they've agreed to participate in Comcast's web TV trial, bringing the total to 23 broadcasters since the test was announced in June.

Others joining the trial include BBC America, Food Network, A&E, AMC, History, E! Entertainment, and DIY Network.

CBS is the only major US broadcaster that hasn't jumped aboard the Hulu bandwagon. The company instead prefers to serve its shows on the rival service of its own creation, TV.com.

"CBS is very supportive of initiatives that help extend our content to new platforms in such a way that we gain new audiences and additional value for our advertisers," said Quincy Smith, CEO of CBS Interactive in a statement.

In "coming weeks," Comcast plans to offer about 5,000 subscribers access to cable TV shows and movies currently unavailable online (legally). It reckons the test is the first national trial of its kind.

The cable company said a major focus on the trial is to test Comcast's authentication technology that's intended to keep out everyone but paying subscribers.

Comcast expects the service to roll out in phases, with new features and content added as they go along. ®

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