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

March 27, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Finally, Xbox gets Comcast, HBO and MLB

More TV services are now available for the Xbox. But they’re not for cord-cutters.

Instead, they’re designed for people who already subscribe to those services, and want to extend them through the game console to another room in the house. They also require console owners to subscribe to Microsoft’s premium Xbox Live service.

Perhaps this will lead to the Xbox doing double-duty as a cable box — as it does in some regions overseas already — but for now the additions mostly bring the console’s video options in line with wireless TVs and streaming video adapters. It also showcases the ability to use the Kinect sensor as a remote control using voice and gestures.

Either way Xbox users are taking to the entertainment services. Usage of entertainment apps on the console has doubled over the last year, overtaking the time spent playing multiplayer games on the system, Microsoft said in its release.

Subscribers to Xbox Live Gold service now spend an average of 84 hours per month on the service, and its Zune video store is now the world’s second-largest online video store, the company said.

Video consumption via the Xbox is likely to grow further after today’s announcement that Comcast, HBO and MLB services have joined the console’s video lineup, nine months after they were announced at last June’s E3 game conference. The lineup was confirmed in October and began appearing in December — helping to goose holiday sales of the console — but it has taken awhile to get the lineup filled out.


Comcast, in particular, appears complicated. The company isn’t providing the same on-demand library on the console as it provides through cable boxes and other devices, according to documentation called out by bloggers over the weekend.

Comcast also is excluding content streamed to the Xbox from data consumption limits that it applies to broadband customers, raising a net neutrality question around preferential treatment the dominant cable company is providing to its own video service, Ars Technical noted.

To receive the Comcast video via the Xbox, you need to have the console, a digital cable subscription and a digital cable box in the home.

UPDATE: On top of all that, glitches caused problems for some people trying to set up the Comcast Xfinity app, according to blogger Ed Bott. Perhaps this helps explain why it took so long for the app to appear.

The HBO Go app brings HBO’s full catalog to the console, where it’s searchable by voice. That’s if you already subscribe to HBO through a cable provider.

UPDATE: It turns out the app won’t work on an Xbox for Comcast Xfinity subscribers, because Comcast and a few other large cable providers aren’t supporting it. The statement from HBO spokeswoman Laura Young:

Comcast/Xfinity, Time Warner Cable and Bright House are currently not supporting HBO GO on Xbox 360. They do, however, support HBO GO online and through the HBO GO mobile app (iPad, iPhone, select Android smartphones).

The following television providers are supporting HBO GO on Xbox 360: AT&T, BendBroadband, Blue Ridge Communications, Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Directv, Dish, Grande Communications, HTC Digital Cable, Massillon Cable/Clear Picture, Mediacom, Midcontinent Communications, RCN, Suddenlink, Verizon and Wow.

We believe that HBO GO is a great enhancement to the HBO subscription so we remain hopeful that all of our distributors will support the service on all platforms in the near future. We encourage our subscribers at non-participating television providers to reach out to their provider and request that they add support for HBO GO on Xbox 360.

MLB.TV is providing customers of its premium-level pay TV service 2,430 games (not 2,429 or 2,431 …) to watch in high-definition live or in a condensed recap format on the Xbox. The service provides home and away broadcast feeds for out-of-market regular season games “where available,” according to the release. It can be controlled with voice and motion controls using the Kinect sensor.

Comments | Topics: Comcast, Gadgets & products, Games & entertainment


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