Owners of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 are to be able to use the games console to access a range of pay TV channels over the internet, following a deal struck with BSkyB, in the latest sign of the digital revolution taking place in the nation’s living rooms.
Last year, the Nintendo Wii became the first games console to deliver UK television content over the internet, through the BBC iPlayer. The iPlayer is also available on Virgin Media’s on-demand service and through Sony’s PlayStation3.
From the autumn, viewers will be able to view Sky’s films, culture shows, documentaries and children’s programming “on-demand” over the internet, while its sport and news channels will be streamed live in what Microsoft claims is a world first.
The deal is a sign of manufacturers’ plans to make games consoles play a much broader role in home entertainment.
Xbox owners will be able to watch Premier League football matches while chatting online with friends or even sitting together on a virtual sofa in front of the game.
Sky says hundreds of thousands of people already use its Sky Player service to watch selected Sky content on a PC or Mac. It is expected that the Xbox service will retain the present format of the Sky Player, which is free for Sky subscribers but costs £15 to £38 ($24 to $61) a month for new customers.
A pricing structure specifically for the Xbox is yet to be confirmed but it is likely any payment model will allow for greater user control than the traditional tiered subscription offering, including pay-per-view.
Stephen Nuttall, director of Sky’s commercial group, said that this partnership would put “more choice and control in the hands of customers”.
Microsoft already offers a limited selection of films to download in the UK. The Sky partnership goes further towards justifying Xbox’s initial promise of providing “360 degree entertainment”, as it tries to boost sales beyond traditional gamers.
“This is a sign of the times,” said Martin Olausson of Strategy Analytics. “We are going to see much more of these types of deals going forward.”
Microsoft has sold 30m Xboxes worldwide, two-thirds of which are connected to the internet.