Search engine leader Google Inc. is delving deeper into an unconventional business, offering an Internet streamcast of last week's television premiere of Chris Rock's new comedy.
Other online outlets have made network prime-time shows available before, but "Everybody Hates Chris" marks Google's most high-profile video offering so far. It comes as Google increasingly ventures beyond its search roots as it battles the likes of Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
"We're constantly exploring new ideas on how to deliver content to users," said Peter Chane, senior business product manager for Google's video team. He described the Rock offering as a test of "how many users want to watch the show on the Internet if they didn't watch it on television."
The series premiere — 21 minutes long after removing commercials — is being offered through Google's servers Monday through Thursday, when the new episode broadcasts on UPN.
For UPN, the offering is an opportunity to reach viewers, particularly younger ones, who might have missed the premiere on broadcast TV. To prevent further distribution, the video is available as an on-demand stream rather than a download, which could be stored on a computer and copied.
For Google, it is a chance to demonstrate that its Google Video service, still in a "beta" test phase, is more than a collection of home videos, which users are encouraged to upload.
Through Google Video, professionals and amateurs alike may submit video that is indexed and then displayed through a browser-based video player. All the currently available videos are free, but Google hopes to eventually charge for some of material in partnership with the content providers.
Google also has been recording television shows off the air, but largely because of copyright restrictions it is displaying only still images and portions of transcripts from those shows.
Earlier this year, the WB debuted its new series "Supernatural" on Yahoo before airing it on television, and last year it showed "Jack & Bobby" on America Online first.
Yahoo also streamed the pilot of Kirstie Alley's "Fat Actress" at the same time it debuted on Showtime.
The BBC also is experimenting with video online and plans to eventually let Web users watch its programs up to a week after they have aired.
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