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Microsoft adding new television content to Xbox game console

October 5, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Microsoft Corp. is adding significantly more video content to its Xbox 360 game console, though it's not yet ready to replace the cable box.

The technology giant has reached deals with nearly 40 television distributors and content providers that will offer more TV shows via the Xbox Live online service by this holiday season.

However, with only certain channels and programs available, the agreements fall short of aspirations Microsoft discussed at the E3 industry conference in June of making its console an all-in-one entertainment device that could replace traditional set-top boxes from cable and satellite television services.

Moreover, users will still have to subscribe to traditional cable services in order to access much of their content on the Xbox.

The nation's largest cable TV distributor, Comcast Corp., said it would put its Xfinity service on the game console, allowing its subscribers to watch a wide variety of TV shows on demand. Telecommunications giant Verizon also will offer some live channels from its FiOS TV service.

And, premium cable channels HBO and Epix will allow subscribers to watch their movies and original programs on demand through the Xbox, as will NBC Universal-owned networks Bravo and Syfy. Internationally, the BBC will be available in the U.K.

Marc Whitten, vice president of the Xbox Live service, said the agreements expand the console's entertainment offerings. Some 35 million people use the Xbox Live service, which extends the gaming experience online and provides access to movies, TV shows and music.

Over the last few years Microsoft has made a wide variety of TV shows available to watch or rent and also added popular on-demand offerings from Netflix and ESPN.

Roughly 40% of the time people spend on Xbox Live is devoted to activities other than gaming, with video consumption up 300% from a year ago, said Whitten.

A new version of Xbox Live will be released in time for the holidays to allow people to use voice and gestures (instead of remote controls) to search for movies and TV shows with Microsoft's Kinect controller.

"What we're trying to do is change the way the content is experienced in the living room," Whitten said.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski and Ben Fritz


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Photo of Comcast Xfinity on Xbox Live, which will give subscribers access to over 10,000 episodes of catch-up TV. Image credit: Microsoft Corp.