Microsoft has been dropping hints since June about adding TV to its Xbox 360 entertainment hub, and today it announced the deals that will make this initiative actually happen. In the U.S., the company has partnerships with Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FiOS, HBO Go, Bravo, Crackle, Syfy, TMZ, UFC and The Today Show to bring on-demand television to the Xbox. In the U.K., the initial partners include the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Amazon’s movie and game rental service Lovefilm.
Sadly, viewers are still limited to using the Xbox to watch what they’re already paying for directly with these partners. Users are required to have an existing subscription to the content provider along with a subscription to the Xbox Live Gold service (at $60 per year). At this stage, therefore, these deals integrate tv, movies, games and music into one interface, as well as replacing the need for an additional set-top box, but they don’t give access to content unavailable by other means in each territory.
Users also can use Kinect gesture and voice controls in addition to a traditional controller, so searching for a particular episode of a TV shows can be done by talking directly to Bing.
“Today’s announcement is a major step toward realizing our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy,” Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, said in a statement. “Combining the world’s leading TV and entertainment providers with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless.”
Xbox 360 already has partnerships in place with AT&T, Netflix and Hulu+ in the U.S., TELUS in Canada, BSkyB in the U.K., Canal+ in France, Vodafone Portugal, VimpelCom in Russia, and FoxTel in Australia.
“I’ve had the opportunity to engage with some of the early beta services, and I know you’ll find that your Xbox 360 entertainment experience is unique and a cut above the rest because of your ability to easily search and discover content from multiple providers on Xbox LIVE and interact and enjoy the content in extraordinary new ways. For me, the biggest frustration has been the delta between what I know is out there and what I can easily find via my remote, or even my PC,” Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president, Corporate Communications, Microsoft wrote on the company’s blog. “The ability to watch multiple Pac-12 games simultaneously via split screen is great, but the experience is completely transformed by my ability to voice and text chat with friends throughout the game. The term ‘smash mouth football’ is taking on entirely new meaning in my household.”