Comcast is looking to try to beat the online video sites at their own game. According to The Wall Street Journal, the cable provider is testing how to deliver live television over Internet protocol to better enable itself to do battle with the likes of iTunes, Hulu, Amazon and Netflix in a trial run at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall.

When giants walk, all others be wary. Comcast’s goal is to bring live television to any device that can access the Internet. Its test will be available to MIT students who will be able to watch video on any device this fall. Is this what consumers have been waiting for? Who better to do it than a cable company with a giant infrastructure and content distribution broadcast rights?

The move would not just be live television via IP, it could also bring Internet video to the television. A such, it is more than just Hulu and Netflix that need to watch out for Comcast’s move. Internet TV providers and enablers like Apple TV, Samsung, Roku and SlingBox could be directly affected if one or all of the major cable operators get serious in this area.

Yet, according to The Wall Street Journal, Comcast will not make wholesale changes to the way it delivers television content, at least at first. Television over IP “would eventually be added to its existing suite of services; it will continue to offer its traditional cable service for the foreseeable future.”

Cresting The Wave Of Internet Television

Comcast is not the first to get into television over IP, but the ability to watch all live television from any device would be a big step. Verizon FiOS, Time Warner, DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse and Cablevision Systems (CSC) all use IP to deliver video. WSJ points out that the ability to deliver television through the Internet is only part of the equation: distribution rights for programs over new and varying technologies clouds the scope of existing contracts and what can be seen, where, when and how. Will Comcast be able to show all of its television offerings live or will the content owners block some or all of their offerings?

Digital rights and distribution timing have been a problem for Netflix and Hulu. Netflix needs to license the content to be able to stream it and content owners are not entirely willing to just hand it to them cheap. The owners of Hulu include the major broadcast networks – Fox, NBC (owned by Comcast) and ABC and at this point new shows appear on service 24 hours after debuting and then only with a limited catalogue of previous shows.