Microsoft’s Xbox Live internet service, which recently lost one of its trump cards when rivals Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Nintendo matched its partnership with Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), may soon fire back with a new content deal of its own. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) “has held in-depth discussions” with Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) over a deal that would let Xbox 360 owners stream some live ESPN content directly on their consoles, the NYT reports.
For a year-and-a-half now, Xbox Live subscribers have been able to stream Netflix content on their consoles — a relationship that has been credited in part with boosting the popularity of the subscription service, which Microsoft now says has 20 million members, up from 17 million a year ago. That relationship is no longer exclusive, however, since both Sony and Nintendo have announced in recent months that they too are partnering with Netflix so that owners of their respective consoles who are also Netflix subscribers can stream Netflix content.
An ESPN deal, therefore, would once again put Microsoft ahead of its two competitors, especially among male-dominated gamers, many of whom also are among ESPN’s core demographic (Microsoft has also brought Facebook, Last.fm and Twitter to Xbox Live recently).
Few details about the possible ESPN deal, although the NYT says that Microsoft might pay a “per-subscriber fee.” The paper says the content would be similar to that available via ESPN 360, which provides free streaming of thousands of live games and events, as long as a user gets his or her internet connection through select internet service providers.
We reached out to ESPN and Microsoft representatives and are waiting to hear back. A representative for ESPN said that the company does not comment on “speculation,” while a Microsoft spokeswoman said, “We don’t discuss future products, services or games which may or may not come to the Xbox 360 platform in the future.”