Time Warner Cable digital subscribers in the Austin, Texas, area will take part in a one-year test of new technology designed to make cable TV more Internet-like.
"We think it's the next step for our customers to have an enhanced television experience with digital service," said Tom Kinney, the Austin division president of Time Warner Cable, a unit of Time Warner .
The test is part of a wider cable industry initiative to retain customers in the face of competition from satellite TV.
Cable also faces heat from telephone companies in coming months as they begin to.
The software used in Time Warner Cable boxes is designed by BIAP, a privately owned company based in Plano, Texas, which designs software that lets TV viewers hunt down Internet programming.
Viewers in Austin will be able to click their remotes to view the status of eBay bids they made on their computers. People can set the software to alert them on their TV screens if they are outbid and can then use their remotes to raise their bids.
Time Warner Cable, through a partnership with BIAP, has already begun testing similar applications that let viewers tailor interactive menus to access local weather, news, stock prices and sports team scores from their TV sets in four markets including Portland, Maine, and San Antonio, Texas.
"We're also working on game applications and digital phone uses," Kinney said.
Time Warner sealed a deal with Comcast in April to jointly buy the bankrupt Adelphia Communications, a fellow cable company.