NBC owner Comcast and Skype plan phone calls on large screen TVs

Skype and US cable TV giant Comcast are getting together to bring international family reunions to the large screen TV in your home.

Well, for some families, that's what's on the way. Comcast, America's largest cable TV network (also owners of NBC) and Skype the internet phone firm, bought a month ago by Microsoft, are to launch a trial of just such a service this year.

The two companies said they had entered into a "strategic partnership" that will enable Comcast customers to communicate with family and friends.

After the trial run, Comcast expects the service will be "widely available" to its customers sometime next year. No details were available on pricing. Skype-to- Skype user call are currently free but this one requires lot of gear. so there will be a charge.`

The cable industry’s annual conference is in Chicago this week and this move is going to be a hot topic.

"For Comcast, the deal is a way to stay current with viewers’ behaviour as they use their TV sets for much more than passive TV watching," said one commentator.

"For Skype the deal is a foothold in the millions of homes that are served by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider." Look out for more ideas from Skype and Microsoft!

Many cable companies already show caller ID information on the TV screen but this deal is the first move into actual video calls. If the viewers want to chat while they watch TV, they can do that too.

Neil Smit, president of Comcast Cable, said,“This will change not only how our customers interact with their TV, but also will create new and meaningful ways to bring our customers closer to the people they care about.

“TV has evolved into a social experience, and Comcast and Skype will be delivering a product that personalises the TV experience even more, and brings friends and family together through the biggest screen in their homes.”

Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, said, "We can bring video calling into the heart of the home allowing people to share life’s experiences on the b big screen."

The service will require an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera, and a special remote control that lets customers text on Skype as well as control their television. The other calling party does not need any .

No word yet of a British version, although UK families using Skype will be able to participate, filling the screens of their American cousins.

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