Someday, people will use the Internet for much more than sending emails and instant messages, reading sports scores, ordering books, and buying stocks. Someday, all the data on the information superhighway will converge and pass through boxes sitting atop television sets, making the technology as easily accessible and as smoothly integrated into people's lives as TV is today.


It won't be for a long, long while, but before you know it, people will be getting their important facts and figures and their treasured entertainment right in their living room, delivered over whatever the broadband/Wi-Fi technologies of today ultimately become. (See what Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings thinks about this subject and its potential effect on his company's future business model.)

That's what I was thinking about as I read that online video-on-demand concern CinemaNowis now in business with General Electric's (NYSE:GE) studio division, NBC Universal (I loved this merger). According to the announcement, this deal will see NBC Universal's content rented out and streamed on a 24-hour basis. Given the savvy investors that CinemaNow has behind it, such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF), and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), it's obvious that a lot of intellectual capital believes this avenue could become a significant revenue source for content players down the line.

For now, however, NBC Universal is merely exploring the potential for its content in this medium. This venture is not going to undermine the company's existing pay-per-view and DVD strategies, and it won't become a huge part of GE's revenue base anytime soon. Nevertheless, somebody needs to stake a claim in this space, if only to keep up with the likes of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) and Sony (NYSE:SNE), studios that were already involved with CinemaNow. (There are other current players, too, with the notable exception of Paramount.) The first movie to kick things off for the relationship is The Bourne Supremacy. Matt Damon should be proud.

I think shareholders should applaud the partnership, but they should also keep a lot of patience on hand to see where everything leads. It'll be a long time before we see exactly how the move will drive value.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of General Electric. Feel free to head on over to the General Electric discussion board to share your thoughts. The Fool has a disclosure policy.