Google is involved in a pilot project to target television commercials to cable customers. The aim is to extend its success in online adverts to the currently much bigger business of television advertising.

Google has been serving commercials to cable customers of Astound Broadband in Concord, California, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The pilot project with a small group of advertisers is apparently based on an auction system. It is currently being conducted by sales staff, rather than the automated system successfully used by Google to sell online advertising.

The experiment will no doubt be watched with interest by the major cable television operators, although it is far from clear whether they will allow Google to establish such a role in selling adverts on their networks.

“We all believe as advertising moves from one-way to two-way, the winners are the Googles of the world and others that can provide truly two-way addressable advertising,” Steve Burke, the chief operating officer of Comcast, recently told analysts.

Comcast is understood to be working on its own targeted advertising plans in conjunction with companies including OpenTV, Visible World and Invidi.

Vincent Dureau, the former chief technology officer of interactive television company OpenTV, last year left the company to become head of television technology at Google. The search company has been advertising for sales staff and software engineers to “sell television solutions and shape a next generation advertising platform”.

Time Warner Cable reportedly had initial discussions with Google, but according to chief executive Glenn Britt, claims it has the technological capability without Google.

In a recent earnings conference call, Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google said the company is experimenting with traditional television advertising. “It is fair to say that whatever we do will be new and different form the way it is currently sold and marketed,” he said, “using our targeting technology and our tremendous reach to see if we can improve what is already a good and robust business that others are in”.