Microsoft, looking to fatten its living-room footprint, is working with Comcast and Verizon Communications to bring TV to the software giant’s Xbox 360 broadband-connected game console.
Within the next few weeks, Comcast will make Xfinity On Demand content available to Xbox users, while Verizon will make its full FiOS TV video service available, according to industry sources. AT&T has off ered U-verse TV customers an option to use their Xbox consoles as settops since last fall.
Asked about the Xbox project, Verizon referred to a blog posted by director of media relations Bobbi Henson. “Because FiOS TV is such a powerful, interactive, cloud-based service, it is a natural match for devices like game consoles,” she said in part, adding that “we’ve demonstrated our ability to blend FiOS with gaming systems at events like the Consumer Electronics Show.”
In recent months cable, satellite and telco-TV providers have been working overtime to bring television services to a broad range of Internet-connected devices, including TVs, tablets, mobile phones and PCs.
At CES in January 2011, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts demonstrated an Xfinity video app on a Samsung Internet-connected TV. Time Warner Cable similarly has initiatives to bring cable programming to Samsung and Sony “smart TVs” and currently off ers live TV via an iPad app within customers’ homes.
Microsoft — which increasingly positions the Xbox as an all-purpose entertainment platform — has said it will add the Bing search engine to Xbox. At a company event last month, CEO Steve Ballmer touted the Kinect motion-detection and voicerecognition controller for the game system as providing an ideal way to navigate TV listings.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is negotiating deals with more than two dozen content providers to augment the lineup on its Xbox Live service, including HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Crackle, NBCUniversal’s Bravo and Syfy, and Amazon.com’s Lovefilm to the Xbox platform, Bloomberg reported.
Among other partners, Microsoft has agreements to off er content via Netf lix, YouTube and Ultimate Fighting Championship. ESPN makes its ESPN3.com service available on Xbox to subscribers of participating Internet service providers.
Worldwide, more than 35 million people use Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, according to the company.
AT&T U-verse launched the Xbox-as-set-top option in October 2010, after more than three years of working with Microsoft to enable the service. The telco requires customers to buy a $99 Xbox kit, which includes a Microsoft remote control and Motorola HomePNA adapter, and charges a $55 installation fee.
It’s unclear how much t ract ion the telco has gotten with the feature. AT&T declined to say how many subscribers are using Xbox as a set-top.
“U-verse on Xbox 360 has been avai lable to U-verse customers for nearly a year, a nd we ’ve seen very positive feedback from customers on the convenience and funct ional ity that the service enables,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.
International operators that provide video through Xbox include the U.K.’s BSkyB, France’s Canal Plus, Australia’s Foxtel and Canada’s Telus.
The developments have regulatory implications. Pay TV providers argue that their efforts to deliver video to IP devices obviates the need for the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed AllVid rules, which would force cable, telco and satellite TV operators to make programming available in a standard format to third-party devices.