October 13, 2005 2:13 PM PDT

Is AOL in play?

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viewers to watch what they want when they want, while integrating Web-based content into their TV viewing.

Comcast and other cable companies are already reacting to the changes. Comcast has begun assembling a large library of on-demand programs and movies, and offers more on-demand content than any other provider to date. This includes 250 free movies, 500 music videos and 300 shows for children. The company plans to increase this library to 10,000, from 3,500 today.

"The biggest fear of cable operators like Comcast is simply becoming the provider of big dumb pipes," said Jim Penhune, an analyst with Strategy Analytics. "Comcast in particular has been struggling to build its portal business to give customers another reason to choose their service over a competitor's."

The addition of more content to the Comcast lineup means that the company will need better search tools to allow customers to find the programs they want to see. This is where Google could help. Google has already developed search technology that could be used to improve these interfaces. And as Comcast's programming becomes more interactive, it will need to integrate its Web content with the television service. A stake in AOL could help the company develop more Web-based synergies with the TV part of the business.

"Building a better search tool or integrating Web content into television are all things Comcast will have to do," Penhune said. "But it will be technically challenging for the company to do it all internally. That's why partnerships could have some advantages."

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In searching Cnet for "aol" I am served up content that is from 2005 and earlier. There is more recent tech news than this.
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