Microsoft (s MSFT) is negotiating to carry cable networks over its Xbox Live service, according to Reuters (s tri).The news service is reporting today that Redmond is trying to get more TV content on the gaming device, with one option being the licensing of individual cable channels like HBO (s TWX) or Showtime. Xbox Live users already have access to ESPN3, (s DIS) and Hulu Plus is scheduled to arrive on the console in early 2011.
Another option raised in negotiations with content owners is for Microsoft to create a virtual cable operator, which would essentially mean that Xbox Live users could subscribe to a cable-like service delivered over the Internet without depending on their local cable company.
There’s always TV Everywhere if all of that doesn’t work out. From the article:
“Other options include using the Xbox to authenticate existing cable subscribers to watch shows with enhanced interactivity similar to how pay TV operators have sought to do over the Web.”
Either type of service likely won’t arrive on the Xbox for another 12 months, according to Reuters. That could be a sign of Microsoft having bigger ambitions. Implementing existing TV Everywhere services shouldn’t take 12 months, after all; Google TV started with HBO’s TV Everywhere play out of the box, allowing existing HBO subscribers to access some of the network’s content online. Other networks have their own authenticated offerings up and running on the web already as well.
The idea that a company like Microsoft could get access to a cable TV crown jewel like HBO seemed a little far-fetched just a few months ago, but Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes actually raised the possibility of selling HBO without a cable bundle on a recent earnings call, saying: “We do have the ability to do that.” Bewkes said the company hasn’t done this yet because of its good relationship with cable companies, but added it could do so in the future if initiatives like TV Everywhere wouldn’t “work well, or speedily enough.”
Xbox Live has 25 million subscribers worldwide. Compare that to Comcast’s less than 23 million, and it starts to make sense that TV networks might feel compelled to license their content to Microsoft.
Check out our recent Cord Cutters episode to see the video offerings available on the Xbox today:
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