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As TV Battles Heat Up, Comcast Launches New Web Delivery Service

As regulatory battles and mega-mergers roil the media business, Comcast is preparing to offer a new service for Web content companies that will enable them to bypass network middlemen and deliver their services directly to Comcast Internet customers.

The new service allows companies publish their content inside of Comcast’s network so that it is closer to Internet subscribers, something they haven’t been able to do in the past. John Schanz, Comcast’s chief network officer, said in an interview that the offering is currently being tested with some customers and is expected to roll out broadly if all goes well.

Comcast’s initiative could have implications for hundreds of websites, ranging from video services like Netflix and Google’s YouTube to Sony’s gaming network and security software providers like Symantec, which often ask customers to download big software updates. It also will put pressure on the multi-billion-dollar content-delivery-network industry, which helps Web content companies deliver their videos or software to Internet service providers.

Comcast’s effort comes amid upheaval and consolidation in the TV business, driven in part by the emergence of the Internet as a dominant medium for video distribution. AT&T’s agreement to acquire DirecTV, announced Sunday, reflects a scramble by big companies to bulk up for a new era in which scale will be crucial for negotiating the best deals with TV networks. At the same time, federal regulators are considering whether so-called “net neutrality” rules are needed to govern how companies like Comcast and AT&T manage Internet traffic on their networks.

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Conflicts between CDN companies such as Level 3 Communications and Internet service providers such as Comcast occur periodically over the costs associated with passing an ever-growing amount of traffic to Comcast’s network when Comcast’s customers request it.