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Sony's Internet TV service to launch with Viacom channels

Sony's fully online TV service -- teased at CES in January, and the first of its kind -- is coming, but it won't replace cable at launch: it's limited to Viacom channels like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV.

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Sony executive Andrew House announces the company's virtual pay-TV service at CES 2014. Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony's coming cloud-based TV service will carry 22 Viacom networks at launch, the companies said in a release Wednesday.

The deal is a milestone in the tech and entertainment industry's ambitions for a fully online pay-TV service. It has been a goal for a plethora of companies but one that has remained out of reach. Apple, Sony, and Google have been said to be in pursuit, and for nearly a year, Intel was the only company to outright broadcast its plans to launch one, until Sony went public unveiled it goal at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, saying it plans to pilot a cloud-based TV service this year that combines live television content with on-demand and DVR.

The deal signifies Sony has cleared the major hurdle that has tripped up its rivals -- securing the programming.

Though the service will lack a breadth of channels to rival pay-TV services from cable and satellite companies, it is Viacom's first-ever agreement to provide its networks for an Internet-based live TV and video on demand service. Though Viacom is only one television company of about nine that comprise the vast majority of TV channels consumers in the US watch, it is one of the biggest: It will provide 22 channels for the Sony service, which include Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, Spike, TV Land and VH1.

"Viacom always strives to create transformational opportunities that combine consumer value and technological innovation," said Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, in a release. "Given our young, tech-savvy audiences, our networks are essential for any new distribution platform, and we're excited to be among the many programmers that will help power Sony's new service and advance a new era for television."

Last year, Dauman said at UBS investor conference that an so-called "over-the-top" TV service had "a very strong chance" of arriving in 2014.

The companies didn't provide details such as a launch date.

This is a developing story, and CNET will update.