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Skype is moving into IPTV, reports the Financial Times.

Code named the Venice Project, the creators of VoIP service Skype, hope to do the same for television.

The interactive and community features of the internet, coupled with the possibility of aggregating large numbers of viewers even for material of specialist interest, has led companies as varied as television production companies and former telecoms monopolies to launch their own online video services. IPTV has been slower to take off than many people predicted, but the success of MySpace, on which some US studios are beginning to make full-length programmes available, and YouTube, the video sharing site bought by Google, has attracted incumbents and start-ups alike to experiment with diverse new models.

In the UK, where the Venice Project has one of its four offices, it will be competing with the BBC’s planned catch-up television service, BT Group’s new video-on-demand offering, and streamed channels from broadcasters including Channel 4 and ITV.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Friis was confident about standing out in an increasingly crowded field. “The overall picture is that this is happening. Video is moving online, and people have to find strategies for that.”

The Venice Project’s blog describes its mission as “fixing TV, removing artificial limits such as the number of channels that your cable or the airwaves can carry and then bringing it into the internet age”.

The service, currently being trialled by 6,000 people in the UK. It is capable of displaying high-quality, full-screen video on a computer screen. Users download software to their PC or Mac to search for channels from a menu on the left hand side of the screen.

A control bar at the bottom allows them to search for programmes and pause, rewind or fast-forward what they are watching. On the right is a menu of interactive tools, allowing users to share video playlists with friends or comment on programmes.

Skype users can also use its conference calling facility to chat with other friends watching the same programme, Mr Friis says.

Unlike YouTube or other video sharing sites, all of the content will be professionally produced, uploaded by content owners and encrypted before being sent out. Skype founders are at pains to say they are working within the framework of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

When YouTube emerged as one of the Internet’s most popular Web sites last year, many TV executives dismissed it as a flash in the pan — and a largely illegal one at that, reports the International Herald Tribune. But after Google agreed to pay $1.65 billion for YouTube in October, they adopted a radically different stance: Suddenly they wanted to take it on.

Now, a handful of giant media companies, like NBC Universal, News Corp., Viacom and possibly CBS, are close to announcing a new Web site that will feature some of their best-known television programming and other clips.

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