Skype founders test online TV service

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The founders of Skype, an online telephone business sold last year to eBay Inc. for $2.6 billion, are testing a broadband television service for computer screens, the founders' spokesman said on Monday.

The service, called "The Venice Project" is expected to be launched next year, according to the spokesman for London-based Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, who used part of the money they made on the sale of Skype to develop the broadband TV service.

"We are trying to bring together the best of TV with the best of the Internet," wrote Friis, Skype's director of strategy and innovation, on his blog at (www.janusfriis.net).

The spokesman said the beta test was launched last week, with some 6,000 people testing the service.

On his blog, Friis said the partners had been "quietly testing with a small circle of people" for a few months, and that now they were going to expand the circle.

The service will offer high-quality programs through an ad-supported platform. The project aims to bring quality TV programs free to consumers who have a broadband Internet connection, the spokesman said.

Friis and Zennstrom, who is Skype's chief executive, also co-founded the wildly popular file-sharing service Kazaa, which they sold to Australian company Sharman Networks in 2001.

In July, the entrepreneurs reached into their own pockets to help settle a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sharman by the music and movie industries. Zennstrom and Friis contributed an undisclosed amount to a total payout of well above $100 million.


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