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Innovation

More channels join Comcast's Online On Demand service; Verizon adds interactive widgets to FiOS TV

Where I live, and in many other regions of the country, Comcast and Verizon are duking it out over paid TV customers, with Comcast's cable service often the incumbent and FiOS the scrappy new kid (if you can call a huge corporation like Verizon "scrappy"). Internet service is often bundled with their TV plans, so sooner or later, they had to acknowledge how the Web is changing the way we interact with television and video programming.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor on

Where I live, and in many other regions of the country, Comcast and Verizon are duking it out over paid TV customers, with Comcast's cable service often the incumbent and FiOS the scrappy new kid (if you can call a huge corporation like Verizon "scrappy"). Internet service is often bundled with their TV plans, so sooner or later, they had to acknowledge how the Web is changing the way we interact with television and video programming.

Comcast has decided to come to the Internet to meet its subscribers, who are probably watching too much Hulu.com for the cable giant's liking. So Comcast is trying out its On Demand Online service, letting a selection of 5,000 customers view programming from 23 different channels via a secure login system. CBS, which has thus far resisted Hulu's Siren song, will be making its shows available to On Demand Online instead, and a slew of cable staples like A&E, Food Network, HBO, and HGTV are also onboard. The service is available at no cost to subscribers. In the future, Comcast plans to let content be downloaded, though you can imagine the DRM will be strong with those files.

In comparison, Verizon's most recent interactive move is to bring the Internet to the TV. Today it's rolling out its new Widget Bazaar, which is basically an app store for on-screen social services. Free widgets available now include Facebook, Twitter (pictured above) and ESPN Fantasy Football—all of which can be accessed while you're watching your favorite shows. The Widget Bazaar is an open platform so Verizon expects more apps down the line, including ones that are "transactional" in nature (perhaps such as movie downloads).

Slightly less exciting is the new Internet Video feature, which lets you access online videos from providers like blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh through your FiOS Home Media DVR service. You can also view personal videos from your PC on your set via the My Videos feature. These features are available for no extra charge, though any videos you'll really want to see in the future (like Netflix's streaming service) would be widgets that you'll need to pay for (or be a paying subscriber for).

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