Comcast and Skype announced a strategic partnership that will bring HD video calls, audio calls, and messaging to Comcast customers' television sets. The announcement was timed to coincide with the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Association's "Cable Show" held in Chicago.
Under the arrangement, Comcast subscribers will be able to connect to each other and to the global base of Skype users. Video calls from the television using Skype will be able to connect to other TVs, PCs, compatible smartphones or tablets.
Skype had an average of 145 million connected users per month Q4 2010 and its users made 207 billion minutes of voice and video calls in 2010, approximately 42% of which was video. Comcast's network passes 52 million homes and businesses and the company had nearly 23 million video subscribers as of Q1 2011.
Among the service features planned, users will be able to:
• Make and receive Skype video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a television while watching TV at the same time, and accept incoming calls aided by Caller ID.
• Make and receive video and audio calls, or send instant messages via Skype on a compatible mobile phone or tablet.
• Import friends to their address book from their Facebook, Outlook, Gmail and smartphone contact lists, find them on Skype and see when contacts are online and available to talk.
The service will be delivered to the HDTV through an adapter box, and it comes with an HD video camera and microphones that sit atop the TV set, along with a specially designed remote control that combines a keyboard for texting, TV controls and audio/visual communication controls. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.
Commenting in a statement, Neil Smit, president of Comcast Cable said, "TV has evolved into a social experience, and Comcast and Skype will be delivering a product that personalizes the TV experience even more, and brings friends and family together through the biggest screen in their homes."
Skype CEO Tony Bates added, "We are pleased to announce this partnership with Comcast. By combining Comcast's broad living room reach with Skype's innovative communications platform and worldwide community of users, we can bring video calling into the heart of the home allowing people to share life's experiences both big and small."
Customer trials for the offering will begin in the coming months, with commercial service planned for 2011. Pricing details were not released.