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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 5, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Xbox becomes TV hub with Comcast, FiOS, HBO; no Frontier

Microsoft today confirmed the lineup of TV services that will be available this holiday season through the Xbox 360 console. It’s a huge step for Microsoft’s longtime goal of expanding the console beyond gaming and into an entertainment hub.

The company lined up most of the leading TV providers, which will stream selected content through the Xbox Live service. Most regions of the U.S. won’t yet be able to get broadcast channels via Xbox though.

On the console, the TV content will be accessible through an interface that can be controlled with the Kinect motion and voice sensor, as well as traditional controllers.

“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 Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, said in the release. “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.”

Microsoft announced the TV plans at the E3 conference in June but didn’t say which services would be available.

The lineup includes Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FiOS, HBO Go, Bravo, Crackle, Syfy, TMZ, UFC and The Today Show in the U.S. In the U.K., partners include BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Lovefilm. In Spain, it’s Antena 3, RTVE and Telefonica, and in Mexico it’s Televisa.

However it’s not the full content provided through the cable services necessarily. Comcast, for instance, is only providing “on demand” content and none of its broadcast channels. Verizon is providing 24 cable channels but not local stations.

AT&T cable customers will get their full lineup through the console, an arrangement that has been available through a previous deal with Microsoft.

Nor is it free TV. You have to already subscribe to the services, so the deal basically expands the Xbox’s capability as a streaming content adapter for the TV.

Verizon customers, for instance, have to subscribe to the FiOS TV and broadband service and Microsoft’s $60 per year Xbox Live Gold service to stream their TV service through the Xbox.

HBO Go also requires subscribers to already have HBO via their cable plan.

There will be free, non-premium video content, though. Also coming to the console through the update are YouTube, AlloCine, Dailymotion, iHeartRadio, MSN with MSNBC.com, The Today Show, TMZ and VEVO.

FiOS TV service is not available to cable customers of Frontier Communications, which offers FiOS in parts of Washington state, including the area around Microsoft headquarters.

A few screenshots:

prod_xboxTVXfinity_web.jpg

prod_xboxTVHome_web.jpg

prod_xboxTVSearchResult_web.jpg

The full list of content partners – it’s too bad you they’re tied to particular geographies, it would be cool to be able to watch BBC in the U.S. for instance:

ABC iView – Australia

AlloCine – France, Germany, Spain, U.K.

Antena 3 – Spain

Astral Media’s Disney XD – Canada

AT&T – U.S.

BBC – U.K.

blinkbox – U.K.

Bravo – U.S.

BSkyB – U.K.

Canal+ – France, Spain

Channel 4 – U.K.

Channel 5 – U.K.

CinemaNow (Best Buy) – U.S.

Comcast – U.S.

Crackle – Australia, Canada, U.K., U.S.

Dailymotion – Available in 32 markets

EPIX – U.S.

ESPN – U.S.

Facebook – Available in all 35 Xbox LIVE markets

FOXTEL – Australia

GolTV – Spain

HBO GO – U.S.

Hulu – Japan

Hulu + – U.S.

iHeartRadio (Clear Channel) – U.S.

Last.fm- U.K., U.S.

LOVEFiLM – Germany, U.K.

Manga Entertainment – U.S.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment/Real Sports – Canada

MediaSet – Italy

MSN with MSNBC.com – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, U.K.

MUZU.TV – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, U.K.

Netflix- Canada, U.S.

Rogers On Demand Online (RODO) – Canada

RTVE – Spain

SBS On Demand – Australia

Syfy – U.S.

Telefonica – Spain

Televisa – Mexico

“The Today Show” – U.S.

TELUS – Canada

TMZ – U.S.

Twitter – Available in all 35 Xbox LIVE markets

UFC – Canada, U.S.

Verizon – U.S.

VEVO – Canada, U.K., U.S.

VimpelCom – Russia

Vodafone Portugal – Portugal

YouTube – Available in 22 markets

ZDF – Germany

Zune- Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, U.K., U.S.

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