Published: 11.40 Europe/London, June 14, 2011
Comcast is expected to announce today at the Chicago Cable Show that it plans to bring Skype calls to TV sets later this year.
Customers will be able to rent a kit from Comcast that includes a webcam and an adapter that plugs into the TV. A new cable box remote will include a keyboard on the back, for typing chat messages.
Pricing for the kit still has to be determined, according to Catherine Avgiris, general manager of communications and data services, talking to the US press.
Financial terms of the partnership between Comcast and Skype were not disclosed. Comcast wouldn’t say whether Skype would get some of what Comcast charges for the kit.
Subscribers will get notifications of incoming calls on their TVs and will be able to answer calls with full-screen video or in a window while watching TV. Video calls can be conducted between two TVs or between a PC and a TV. Only one calling party needs to be a Comcast subscriber; the other party just needs to have the basic equipment needed for a Skype call, such as a webcam.
However, Comcast’s Skype adapter won’t work with Skype services that let users call phone numbers, or receive calls to a phone number. Instead, Comcast plans to bundle a limited version of Skype’s offerings with its own phone service.
Skype already embeds its service on certain connected TVs from Panasonic and LG. Neil Stevens, VP and general manager for consumer at Skype, said that 50 million TVs with built-in Skype capability were shipped last year.