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CES: Comcast to stream live TV to Apple's iPad

January 5, 2011 |  9:54 am

In an effort to follow its subscribers onto portable devices, Comcast Corp, the nation's largest cable-television and broadband provider, says it plans to stream live TV to Apple Inc.'s iPad and other tablet computers powered by Google Inc.'s Android software.

The service, available later this year, would convert the iPad into another viewing screen in the home. This would allow subscribers to watch news, television shows and movies on the device -- presumably while the big screen is displaying some other programming or in a room where -- God forbid -- they don't have a television. Of course, you already have to be paying for Comcast's cable service for access.

For now, Comcast's offering will be available only in the home. But the Philadelphia-based cable giant also announced plans to offer 3,000 hours of on-demand content -- including movies and HBO and Showtime shows -- on the iPad that could be viewed at any location, through Comcast's Xfinity TV application.

“Live streaming and the play now feature on our Xfinity TV app are two important pieces of our strategy to deliver any content to any device, any time,” Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said in a statement. “Comcast has a series of upcoming online enhancements and app releases that are part of a much larger effort to reinvent how customers interact with their entertainment on TV, online and on mobile devices.”

The Xfinity TV app can already be used as a sophisticated remote control, allowing viewers to search TV listings, change channels and program the DVR to record a show. Future updates will incorporate social-networking components, so viewers can further annoy their friends by constantly telling them what they're watching.

Pay-TV providers are scrambling to hold on to subscribers, who are increasingly using portable devices like the iPad to watch video. Established cable operators are feeling the competitive heat from online subscription services such as Hulu Plus and Netflix, which already deliver programming on the go. 

In a related development, Cisco Systems Inc. is expected to unveil a new TV set-top box at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that would combine Web video with more traditional programming, the Wall Street Journal reports.

These set-top boxes won't be sold directly to consumers, as are products from Apple, Roku Inc. and Boxee Inc. Instead, the hybrid devices would be available through cable operators looking for a way to compete with Web-TV services such as Google Inc.'s Google TV. 

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

“Live streaming and the play now feature on our Xfinity TV app are two important pieces of our strategy to deliver any content to any device, any time,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman & CEO of Comcast Corporation. “Comcast has a series of upcoming online enhancements and app releases that are part of a much larger effort to reinvent how customers interact with their entertainment on TV, online and on mobile devices.”
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