Microsoft teams with pay-TV operators for Xbox live TV

Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 06-10-2011

Microsoft has followed through on its previously announced plans to roll out live TV on Xbox LIVE, the online entertainment service for Xbox 360.

This is no cord-cutting strategy, however: The software giant is teaming with operators like AT&T, BBC, Comcast, HBO, Rogers, Telefonica, Televisa and Verizon to populate the service with content and certify the Xbox as a set-top console, enhancing their TV Everywhere strategies.

Comcast and Canada's Rogers, for instance, are making their on-demand libraries available via Xbox LIVE. As for Verizon, the carrier calls it a step towards borderlessness.“Microsoft and Verizon share a common vision to transform the ways people enjoy and interact with the entertainment they want — what Verizon calls the borderless lifestyle,” said Eric Bruno, vice president of consumer and mass business product management for Verizon. “FiOS TV on the Xbox 360 is an excellent example of how we’re working with market leaders to erase old technology borders to expand the FiOS TV experience."

In all, nearly 40 TV and entertainment providers are on board in 20 countries, including Bravo, HBO GO and Syfy in the U.S.; ZDF in Germany; and MediaSet in Italy. The new additions join previous partners, which include AT&T, Netflix and Hulu Plus in the U.S., TELUS in Canada, BSkyB in the U.K., Canal+ in France, Vodafone Portugal, VimpelCom in Russia and FOXTEL in Australia.

Microsoft is not just making TV programming available on the service, however. It's also enhancing the viewing experience by using voice search with Bing for content discoverability, and the Kinect technology that allows voice and body gesture control over the interface, so no remote control is needed.There are also built-in social networking capabilities.

Users can share recommendations, show the Xbox LIVE community what movies they've been watching and invite them to join in, while sharing info about favorite movies directly to a user's Facebook wall from Xbox LIVE.

"Today's announcement is a major step toward realising our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "[We] will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless."

Microsoft will deliver a range of multichannel programming including BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and LOVEFiLM in the U.K.; and Bravo, Comcast's Xfinity On Demand service, Crackle, EPIX, Syfy, TMZ, 'The Today Show' and HBO GO in the United States. Aware that sports is one of the more lucrative and attractive forms of linear televison, Microsoft is well representing the genre, with ESPN in the U.S., UFC in the U.S. and Canada, GolTV in Spain and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment/Real Sports in Canada.

ESPN on Xbox LIVE features live events and video highlights with enhanced personalisation features, split-screen viewing and an updated interface content guide so that fans can find the highlights from the teams and sports they care most about. UFC on Xbox LIVE gives fans access to live pre-event videos, a catalog of on-demand video, an Interactive Fight Card and pay-per-view events in HD, all together in one place. Web video, news and music are also coming to Xbox 360, including AlloCine, Dailymotion, iHeartRadio, MSN with, The Today Show, TMZ, VEVO and YouTube.