Microsoft Switched to HTML5 for ESPN3’s Xbox Live App


In rolling out its application for ESPN3 video on the Xbox 360, Microsoft backed off demands for publishers to use its proprietary streaming format, enabling them to stream video via HTML5 instead, according to an MLB exec. The introduction of HTML5 will not only make it cheaper for ESPN, MLB and other providers to deliver live video to the gaming platform, it could also open the door for more content being streamed on the Xbox 360.

Speaking at Appnation this morning, MLB Senior VP of Multimedia and Distribution Joe Inzerillo said that Microsoft made some concessions in getting ESPN3’s live-streaming video on its Xbox Live service. Xbox had previously required content providers to use its Smooth Streaming technology for live video, which Inzerillo said added significant cost to video delivery on the game console. He said:

“When [ESPN was] looking to get to that platform, Microsoft would generally want you to use Smooth technology for the Xbox. The problem is that the economics for someone who has content, live content, that they’re constantly putting out huge volumes of, like us or ESPN — the cost to deliver is a real huge issue.”

Inzerillo said Microsoft realized it didn’t make sense to create an Xbox-specific version of the stream. So instead, the software giant implemented HTML5 in its game console to enable content providers to reuse the same streams they were delivering for other connected devices. Now, Inzerillo said, “PlayStation, Roku, Boxee, Xbox, connected devices from LG — all of those folks are using the same fundamental streams.”

According to Inzerillo, Microsoft’s implementation of HTML5 alongside its own Smooth Streaming technology “could open the door” for MLB to introduce an Xbox 360 app for Opening Day next year. However, compared to Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS platforms, Microsoft doesn’t have a good framework or methodology for third parties to create applications for Xbox Live, so publishers have to strike a business relationship with Microsoft to get their content on the platform.

While MLB would like to get on the Xbox platform, it will require either Microsoft using some of its resources to get an MLB app on the platform or extending its APIs to enable MLB to build its own app. The good news is that now that Microsoft has changed its core technology, it shouldn’t be too hard for MLB to do.

“I would hope to see MLB on Xbox for opening day 2011, I just don’t know if it’s going to happen, though,” Inzerillo said.

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