Microsoft’s Slow Road to TV Land

Mari Silbey —  June 8, 2011 — 8 Comments

There was a lot of hype leading up to Microsoft’s keynote at the E3 conference earlier this week, with huge speculation that the company would launch a new live TV service on the Xbox. The announcement itself, however, was a bit of a let-down, at least for those of us in the US. After years of trying to get into the TV game, Microsoft’s latest foray involves live TV as an Xbox app. Sounds great, except the service is only scheduled to launch in the US “by the end of 2012,” and no major broadcast partners have been announced yet. Given how long it took Microsoft to add the Xbox as a U-verse set-top option with the AT&T service, I’m not holding my breath for a speedy deployment.

From Engadget’s coverage of the keynote, it looks like Microsoft has already worked out its guide software and DVR menus for Xbox TV. Execs also announced a new YouTube channel on Xbox Live, and there are hints (see photo above) that Microsoft is making headway with ABC. ESPN content is already in place, so that’s perhaps not a surprising development.

Dave and I sat down with a Microsoft rep back at CES when rumors of an Xbox live TV offering in the US were already making the rounds. And Microsoft has had live BSkyB TV on the Xbox in the UK since 2009. (Thanks, Lawler) It’s certainly progress, but other players are now pursuing the same over-the-top holy grail. Verizon theorized about FiOS as an app back in January, Comcast has said it will bring live TV to iPads later this year, and Time Warner launched a live TV app for the iPad back in March, with Cablevision following suit in April. Microsoft could have been a front-runner years ago with its Xbox-as-trojan-horse. In 2011, it’s just another player at the web TV party.

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8 responses to Microsoft’s Slow Road to TV Land

  1. While the ability to utilize Bing across multiple apps on the platform is interesting, YouTube is a huge yawn for me. Are people really still interested in YouTube? I thought live TV was scheduled for the end of 2011. The end of 2011 is disappointing enough…the end of 2012 is a lifetime away in this environment. I agree that at this point Microsoft is just another player at the web TV party. It appears as if the wait for a device/platform that can deliver video content via multiple compelling apps (e.g. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, etc.) combined with live content, currently limited to cable/satellite systems, continues. It will be interesting to see which player – big boys like Apple, Sony, Google or Microsoft; or smaller players like Boxee or Roku – will be the first to sign some significant content deals for live TV and really make a statement in this category.

  2. jcm- I’m with you on YouTube. Why do people care?

  3. Wow, end of 2012??? I read Engadget’s live-blog of the keynote, but didn’t realize it was that far out.

    Re: YouTube on TV — isn’t YT slowly transforming into Google’s video platform by having more full-length content on it (think Hulu)?

  4. I agree on the Youtube… YAWN.

    How about the XBOX start supporting 3D or Bluray?

  5. Scott,

    Completely agree regarding Blu-ray support. If Xbox is looking to be “the complete entertainment hub” (paraphrasing a comment made by a Microsoft representative), neglecting Blu-ray seems to be a serious omission. As it stands now, I use Xbox as my primary source for Netflix and Hulu Plus; and for ESPN3, while the PS3 is used for Blu-ray and Vudu; and as the secondary source for Netflix and Hulu Plus. I would love to be able to get Netflix, Hulu Plus, ESPN3, Vudu and Blu-ray support on one device. Whichever device can get consumers as close as possible to that…and can deliver a fair amount of live TV would rightfully assume the title of “The Entertainment Hub”.

  6. @JCM — Why is 360 your primary Netflix device? I thought, it didn’t support surround sound like PS3 or has that changed?

  7. Ivan Y –

    The Xbox does not support DD 5.1 audio. You are correct. Clarifying my statement. For serious viewing (in my theater/media room), I use the PS3 for Blu-ray playback and Vudu (HD or HDX and DD 5.1). I rarely watch Netflix in that room. For more daily, casual viewing (80% of the time?) for Netflix or Hulu Plus playback, when I am watching TV in either the living room or bedroom, I use XBoxes. I was equating “primary” with majority use and not necessarily best playback.

  8. JCM – thanks! I haven’t used Netflix on my 360 in quite a long time (use TiVo Premiere and PS3), so wasn’t sure.

    P.S. Glad to see another person using VUDU. I’ve had it ever since they had their own boxes (own two in addition to service on Boxee Box and PS3) and it’s really neat. New interface is really great and something Netflix should emulate.

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