Microsoft just announced a slew of new content partnersto make its XBox 360 Liveplatform the entertainment hub of your living room.
Now the 35 million people who pay $5 a month to access XBox 360 Live will be able to seamlessly switch between playing video games and watching a ton of TV content, both on-demand shows and live TV, through apps that will be available on the XBox platform later this year.
Microsoft says it has "nearly 40 world-leading TV and entertainment providers" including Comcast and HBO Go for "catch up TV" and Verizon FiOS for live streaming TV, joining AT&T which signed on to allow its U-Verse customers access streaming content last year. Overseas the list includes deals with BBC in the UK, Telefonica in Spain and Rogers on Demand in Canada.
Today's news isn't just about giving consumers to access video — it's about changing the way they search and watch. Blair Westlake, Microsoft's Corporate VP of the Media & Entertainment Group, says this is designed to "enhance the TV experience." XBox Live is partnered with Microsoft's Bing search engine to allow you to search within all the apps on your XBox Live platform. Looking for a particular TV show? Bing will search all the content on all the apps and direct you to HBO Go or Comcast's XFinity app. Plus, users will be able to control their TV, and do a search with a voice or a hand gesture through Microsoft Kinect's motion sensor. Microsoft is also unveiling a new user-friendly interface to make it easy to navigate the apps and find content
The fact that consumers can access all these video apps — and live TV — through XBox does NOT mean they can "cut the cord" and drop TV subscriptions. So to that end, today's announcements are not particularly revolutionary. Users have to subscribe to Verizon FiOS or Comcast to access their apps, and they have to pay for HBO to access HBO Go.
Today's announcement should drive the adoption of apps from Comcast, HBO and Verizon-- apps which are designed to give subscribers more flexibility and make them more loyal.
Microsoft already has incorporated live TV offerings into XBox Live overseas — in the UK, Australia and France. The tech giant is currently in the process of negotiating more deals. Westlake tells me that he expects the list of content deals to "grow by the week."
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