As has been rumored for some time now, Microsoft announced today that the Xbox 360 gaming console will feature video content from Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FiOS, and a host of others. Access to the new video content will be a part of the Xbox LIVE Gold subscription, which currently is $60/year.
Access to both Comcast and Verizon content on the Xbox 360 requires customers to subscribe to both their respective video and broadband services. No cord cutting opportunity here. Comcast customers will be able to access Xfinity On Demand content only and FiOS Customers will have access to their TV Everywhere authenticated content, which does not include all available channels. Unlike Xbox 360 LIVE with AT&T U-Verse TV, the Comcast and Verizon options do not turn the game console into a fully functional set-top-box.
Microsoft announced a variety of additional content options for Xbox 360 LIVE, which has 35 million subscribers worldwide. In addition to Comcast and Verizon, these content partners include Bravo, HBO GO, and Syfy in the U.S.; BBC in the U.K., Telefónica in Spain; Rogers On Demand in Canada; Televisa in Mexico; ZDF in Germany; and MediaSet in Italy. The new video options are expected to be available this holiday season.
Microsoft reports that they intend to integrate their popular Kinect device into these video options, allowing customers to search for content in unique ways, including voice commands.
“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,” said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “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.”
The move demonstrates Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to transform the Xbox gaming console into a home entertainment gateway. The true value brought by these announcements is debatable. The Comcast and Verizon content was already available on a multitude of other devices, including iPads and more obviously, on the set-top-boxes that must be present in the home for this service to work anyway.
This is less of a revolutionary announcement regarding digital delivery of content and more of an evolutionary blip in the TV Everywhere landscape.