Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s broadband-fueled Xbox 360 console wants to be your next set-top box.

Speaking at a Microsoft financial analyst conference on Wednesday, company CEO Steve Ballmer gave a preview of Xbox TV, an update that will enable the console to deliver not just on-demand content but a number of live TV channels, as well. Microsoft plans to launch Xbox TV in time for the 2011 holiday season.

Microsoft hinted at its live TV streaming plans for the Xbox 360 at the E3 conference in June. (See Xbox 360 to Stream Live TV.)

Ballmer reportedly didn't offer much detail about pricing, content or who its initial partners will be (the Seattle Times posted a Microsoft slide that supplies some bullet points), but did note that Microsoft would be working with "dozens or hundreds of additional video content suppliers." He didn't offer a list of networks or MSOs that will be among Xbox TV's initial U.S. partners, but noted Microsoft would package in "news, sports, and your favorite channels."

Microsoft will also let users navigate for video using Xbox's motion-based Kinect system and use Bing to help users find and discover content.

Why this matters
With a an Xbox Live user base in the tens of millions, Microsoft probably has a customer base that's large enough to support a trimmed-down video subscription service that would be appealing to potential cord-cutters, but that's not what Microsoft has in mind.

Instead, it appears that the plan is to integrate the Xbox 360 with MSOs and other pay-TV operators so their subscription video services can be delivered to the gaming console over IP (and using software-based security instead of a clunky CableCARD)-- essentially replicating what Samsung Corp. and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) are already trying to do with cable operators via their new line of connected TVs. Cable MSOs have incentives to strike such deals as they look to avert AllVid, a "notice of inquiry" at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that's threatening to become a rule-making effort that would succeed today's CableCARD rules and apply to all domestic pay-TV operators.

Microsoft and the Xbox 360 have some experience in the live TV arena, having already done some similar kind of work with Sky TV in the U.K. and with FoxTel in Australia that lets the Xbox stream a limited number of linear channels.

In the U.S., Microsoft has completed full Xbox 360 integrations with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse and with Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) in Canada. Both require specialized hardware kits, with AT&T charging $99 for the option, while Telus charges $50.

For more
For more about Microsoft's video ambitions and cable's flirtations with the CE industry, check out.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:53:36 PM
re: Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV

Saying they'll offer live TV on the Xbox is one thing, but I'm curious to know how much support is to be given by major MSOs when this thing gets unleashed.  But it'll be nice for consumers who already have an xbox 360 and happen to live in a market where the MSO is partnered up and happens to be doing an IP video simulcast already.  Lotta stars need to align for this to go. JB

msilbey 12/5/2012 | 4:53:35 PM
re: Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV

How long has Microsoft tried to wedge itself in with the cable operators? And how much longer can the company continue to beat its head against a wall? 

In this case, Microsoft does bring the advantage of an installed customer base, but it's hard to imagine that the MSOs want to cede any of the living room experience over to the Redmond giant. Presumably Microsoft's play is to get its branding on premium TV services and start integrating the Xbox Live platform. Meanwhile, all the operators want is a way to offload the hardware headache. The aims aren't exactly complementary.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:53:34 PM
re: Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV

How long?  Since at least back to the DCT5000, may it rest in pieces. But, yeah, Microsoft sure doesn't like to give up, does it? Points for persistence.

I'll have a bit more on this soon, but I think cable's move to IP and the idea of an IP simulcast bodes well for Microsoft this time around since integration should be easier, but this is cable -- nothing ever seems to come easy or quickly  for its partners.

And I think the specter of an AllVid rulemaking proceedure will cause cable to play nice, or at least nicer than it has in the past. But agree that ceding control of the interface and the cable set-top's dominance as the home's entertainment hub would be quite a big deal.

And it's still hard to know what exactly MSFT has in mind here because they are purposefully being so vague. Will it be a subset of live TV channels with the hope that they can get access to cable's entire subscription TV lineup?  JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:53:33 PM
re: Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV

 Yeah, I'm sure I probably wrote at least 15,000 words about that one when it was all said and done... probably doesn't rival how many I put in covering OCAP/tru2way since 2000 ;)

But it was fun to cover the weekly jabs between Microsoft and Liberate in those days when they were sorta fighting and hemming and hawing over nothing since neither was really getting much traction back then.  Then we'd have Hal K. at WorldGate throw in and regale us about the wonders of "Channel Hyperlinking". Good times, indeed.

Of course, the interesting about this is that I wrote ICTV (nee ActiveVideo) eulogy more than once during this span and they seem to be doing pretty well now.  Talk about a company that's been persistent, and now seeing that pay off . JB


msilbey 12/5/2012 | 4:53:33 PM
re: Microsoft Sees Xmas Debut for Xbox TV

Remember Microsoft TV Foundation Edition? Good times. 

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