SkypeBroadband video phone conversations via HDTV? It’s potentially happening. Panasonic and LG Electronics announced that new HDTV models will include Skype’s voice and voice-video communications at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today.

Panasonic said that the ability to make and receive Skype voice and voice-video calls will be built into its Viera Cast HDTVs and introduced in the market come spring.  LG intends to embed Skype in 26 of its 2010-model LED, LCD and plasma HDTVs with its NetCast Entertainment Access Web application by spring.

Some 34% of Skype-to-Skype calls–which are free of charge–include video, according to CEO Josh Silverman.

“This is very exciting for us. TVs are a logical and natural platform for video communications. TVs will no longer be just the center of people’s entertainment experience, but have the potential to be the center of people’s communications experience.”

“We know that Skype users are increasingly interested in conducting video calls away from their computers. With Skype, consumers of LG’s NetCast HDTVs will now be able to participate in rich, real-time video conversations from the comfort of their couch,” he said in the news release.

In addition to having a broadband Internet connection (plugged directly into them as opposed to running it through a set-top box) Panasonic Viera Cast and LG HDTV owners will need to purchase specially designed, high-performance cameras in order to conduct video calls.

The cameras have built-in, long-range microphones that can pick up sound from “couch distance,” according to the news releases. Viera Cast HDTVs will also come with pre-programmed access to other Web apps, including Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube, Picasa Web Albums, Bloomberg News and weather information.

“VIERA CAST was created to offer Panasonic VIERA® HDTV owners a new level of entertainment by giving them access to some of the most popular content-driven web sites. Panasonic VIERA HDTV owners can now not only share photos and videos online; with Skype they can also talk to family and friends from the comfort of their living room,” vice president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co. Bob Perry commented.

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