Google is extending its search capabilities to let users find pictures and key phrases from their favourite film and TV programmes in an attempt to catch up with rivals offering similar services.

The online search giant said it has agreed terms with a handful of broadcasters to enable users to search for content in the so-called closed captioning in TV programmes.

A trial version of the service. Google Video, launched in the US today, ranking results alongside still pictures from the relevant programmes. Later versions are expected to enable users to search TV programmes to retrieve video snippets along with text.

Users searching for specific terms in 24 or American Idol, for example, would receive their results alongside a picture from either show and a listing indicating where and when the clip would next be shown on television.

The online giant said it had signed deals with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Network, the Public Broadcast Service, C-Span, the American cable equivalent of the Parliament Channel and the NBA.

Google said it would not disclose financial terms reached with partners, but it is expected to include TV adverts in video searches at a later date.

Google's move into TV comes just weeks after arch rival Yahoo! launched a trial of a TV search services. The company said today that it would begin offering searches of BBC, Sky and Bloomberg programming.

Other search engines such as Altavista have been offering video searches for at least a year. A Google spokeswoman said the company "didn't have specific plans" to roll out the service internationally.

Video search is the second offering Google has launched in association with media owners after Google Print, the service that let users search excerpts from books.

"Our mission is to help Google users find the information they need, whether it's on the web, in a library or on TV," said Google co-founder Larry Page.

"Google Video unlocks the information that streams across our TVs every day. Now users can search the content of TV programmes, find the shows that have the information they're looking for, and learn when they can watch them."

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