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Google to showcase video-on-demand service

It's a burgeoning market, but analysts wonder if people are even interested in swapping their TVs with a PC.

Google plans to sell television shows and sports programming that customers can download from its Web site, a source familiar with the deal told CNET News.com.

Users will pay an undisclosed fee to download content supplied by partners that Google has lined up. These include TV broadcasters and the National Basketball Association, according to the source, who requested anonymity.

Mountain View.-based Google is expected to debut the new service at the Consumer Electronics Show Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. A Google representative responded to an interview request by saying that the company anticipates "many exciting announcements" on Friday. (Larry Page, co-founder of Google, is scheduled to give a CES keynote at 4 p.m. PST on Friday; CNET News.com will have full coverage.)

A slew of companies, including Apple Computer, are trying to seize turf in the tiny video-on-demand market, even though studies indicate that the public has remained cool on the idea of replacing their TVs with a PC.

According to a Jupiter Research survey, only one in four people was interested in watching live or recorded TV on a PC. Just 28 percent of poll participants between the ages of 18 and 24 had ever watched a music video online.

"It's safe to say that only a small minority of the population are doing anything with downloadable video," said Todd Chanko, a media analyst at Jupiter, adding that he had no reason to believe a surge of interest in downloadable video is just around the corner.

Steve Jobs seems to disagree. Last month, Apple announced a deal to add 11 NBC shows to its stable of television programming on iTunes. That followed deals that Apple cut to obtain reruns of popular ABC shows "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" last October.

Last month, Apple said it had sold more than 3 million videos, which cost $1.99 each, since launching the service in October.

Nitin Gupta, a media analyst for research firm Yankee Group, said the surging interest in mobile products will spur sales of downloadable video and the market is too new to gauge public opinion.

"Services like this are the foundation for innovation," Gupta said. "Companies here will find new ways to package video content, make interfaces more active...I don't know the economics of Google's model for this, but with their track record, I'm betting they have found a way to make money on this."