Earlier this year, broadcast television took a big step into its Internet future by expanding and for the first time heavily promoting Hulu, which allows Fox, ABC and NBC programming to be viewed on the net. Now cable has done something similar. Comcast has launched Xfinity TV, which will allow the company's customers to watch thousand of hours of cable shows and movies online.
Anybody with Comcast digital cable and Internet service can now visit Comcast.net or Fancast.com, sign in with their Comcast email user name and password, and watch for free. Comcast is calling it a beta program, which means there are going to be plenty of glitches at first. And the financial viability remains to be seen -- right now, Comcast isn't paying cable channels anything for for the extra use of their material, just letting them screen commercials. The cable nets may not go for that in the long run. But whatever Xfinity looks like in the end, it represents a television future without antennas or cable boxes -- and possibly without local stations -- as TV goes broadband.