Microsoft to sell TV shows, rent movies – some in high def – for Xbox starting Nov. 22

“Microsoft Corp. on Monday said it would rent movies and sell television shows through Internet downloads to its Xbox Live video game service, pitting the software giant against long-time rival Apple Computer Inc. and others responding to the explosion of video on the Web,” Lisa Baertlein reports for Reuters.

Baertlein reports, “Microsoft will begin on November 22 to offer standard and high-definition films such as Warner Bros.’ ‘Superman Returns’ and ‘Jackass: The Movie’ from Paramount Pictures through its Xbox Live Marketplace. Television shows will include Viacom Inc’s ‘South Park’ and ‘CSI: NY’ from CBS Corp.. Viewers will need the current-generation Xbox 360 console with a hard drive to take advantage of the service.”

“Apple also is planning a 2007 launch for its iTV, which will allow users to watch downloaded movies and television episodes from iTunes on the television,” Baertlein reports.

“Microsoft customers have a two week window from when they download a movie to watch it, but once they begin watching it they have only 24 hours to keep it. Television shows, on the other hand, will be sold for purchase through Xbox Live. Microsoft expects to offer 1,000-plus hours of video content through Xbox Live by the end of 2006,” Baertlein reports.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “jimbo” for the heads up.]

“The new service will enable subscribers to receive content directly over the Internet on their Xbox 360, which they then can view on their living room televisions without having to stream it from a personal computer,” Ryan Kim reports for The San Francisco Chronicle.

Kim reports, “The Xbox offering, which becomes available Nov. 22, is the first service to feature downloadable high-definition television shows such as ‘CSI’ and the first console to offer full television shows and movies, Microsoft said.”

“Xbox 360 users will find the new content on the Xbox Live Marketplace, a part of the Xbox online network, and will be able to download it to the machine’s 20-GB hard drive. Pricing hasn’t been announced for the movies and shows; Henson said it would be competitive with similar services, with a small premium for high-definition content,” Kim reports. “Microsoft has not said when high-definition movies and television shows might be available for PCs and for its new Zune media player.”

“Xbox 360 users will find the new content on the Xbox Live Marketplace, a part of the Xbox online network, and will be able to download it to the machine’s 20-GB hard drive. Pricing hasn’t been announced for the movies and shows,” Kim reports. “Microsoft has not said when high-definition movies and television shows might be available for PCs and for its new Zune media player.”

Kim reports, “Henson said it will take 13 minutes for users with an average 3-megabit-per-second broadband connection to download a half-hour television show in standard definition. That means they can begin watching the show immediately while the rest of the program downloads simultaneously. High-definition movies will take several hours to download.”

Microsoft “is prepared to look into alternative storage possibilities, perhaps bigger hard drives for the Xbox 360,” Kim reports.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Kirk” for the heads up.]

“Ross Honey, senior director of Microsoft’s media, content and partner strategy group, estimated that 750 hours of programming would be available as soon as the service launches,” Elizabeth M. Gillespie reports for The Associated Press.

Gillespie reports, “The programming — most of it in standard-definition format and some in high-definition — will be available through the Xbox 360 console to any user of Xbox Live’s free or paid online service, which allows gamers with broadband connections to send text or voice messages to each other, and watch movie trailers and other product demonstrations.”

Gillespie reports, “Some analysts said the initial variety of Xbox TV and movie programming struck them as a bit thin. ‘The size of the launch library did feel a bit too small to be able to make a huge immediate impact,’ said Jason Anderson, director of research at San Francisco-based International Development Group. ‘But what it does is send out a signal flare to the rest of the industry that there’s a commitment from Microsoft to be able to sell multiple types of content through the Xbox.'”

“Analysts are not predicting that the new service will steal much business away from Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE – news).’s market-leading PlayStation franchise, but the consensus seems to be that it will help Microsoft remain competitive,” Gillespie reports. “The Xbox service will launch less than a week after Sony’s PlayStation 3 video-game console hits store shelves in the United States.”

“Sony has not said whether it will sell TV shows and movies through PS3, though company officials last month said the forthcoming online PlayStation Store is being set up so users could potentially download movies through the PS3,” Gillespie reports. “It would be easy for Sony to sell TV and movie downloads, given its ready access to shows and films produced by its Sony Pictures division.”

“‘Sony has a wealth of entertainment content available to us at our fingertips, whether it’s movies, television or music. It’s just a matter of us tapping into that content, and we will be making an announcement about that at some point,’ said Dave Karraker, spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment America,” Gillespie reports. “The PS3, due out in U.S. stores on Nov. 17, will be able to play games and DVDs at ‘1080p,’ which is the highest-definition resolution currently available.”

Full article here.
This is good news as it shows that content providers are willing to sell at least some programming in high definition. We expect that Apple would want to match the competition in terms of quality and exceed them in terms of sheer quantity. Obviously, the Xbox’s small hard drive is not capable of storing anywhere near the amount of content that most people would desire and we’re unsure how many will want to wait “several hours” to download a single high-def movie. Still, competition is always good and we hope this spurs Apple to address the quality of the content they are offering; we’d like to see at least the option to purchase higher quality music, TV shows, music videos, and feature films from Apple’s iTunes Store.

49 Comments

  1. This is actually a real threat. Microsoft has sold 6 million XBOX 360s in about a year and quite a large number of them subscribed to the XBOX Live service.

    Apple will definitely have to be on its toes – it would be embarassing to be out-flanked by XBOX on this. I hope Apple is watching carefully because not everything out there will be an epic failure like Zune.

  2. I agree, this is a serious threat, specially now that they will upgrade the firmware to support 1080p. Apple will have to move fast to counter this. Of course, rumor sites do not seem to have much information to share on Apple plans lately, so Steve Jobs may still surprise us before MacWorld.

  3. Again, M$ is going with the exploding media thing. What is the deal with the 24 hour limit?

    Anyway, this is not a threat. iTV works with Mac’s and PC’s, which covers almost everybody. Not many people will rush out to buy an X-Box to download movies.

  4. As long as Apple begins matching the quality of the content that MS is offering this won’t be a threat. But Apple definitely needs to offer Hi-Def as well as movie rentals…. Rentals are what will really push iTv into the mainstream.. I would have no need for Netflix if I could rent any movie I wanted from the iTunes store for 3 or 4 bucks.

  5. typhoon “Again, M$ is going with the exploding media thing. What is the deal with the 24 hour limit?”

    ————–

    Personally, I think this is a great idea for iTunes. I would love the ability to pay a couple of bucks to rent a movie for a 24 hour period.

  6. I’ve got a single 500 GB HD in my G5. I’m already space constrained. I’m giving serious consideration to upgrading to dual 750 GB HDs just to have enough storage space for a decent amount of media for the next year.

  7. hparker,
    I could see that being a good thing, also. I think I’m so used to Microsoft trying to force a subscrition service on us that I didn’t see what renting could mean in this case.

    I don’t see it as a real threat because it’s tied to the X-Box.

  8. Newtype states how this might be a real threat, so lets look at this for a minute:

    – 6 million xBoxes sold in a year. About 4 million of them have been sold in the U.S. where this service is going to take place – for quite a while.

    – Newtype states the connect rate for xBox live is quite high. The information I see, shows about a 50% connect rate, bringing the users down to a 2 million number…

    Two million vs. 100 million iTunes users (and over 80 million iPod owners by end of the year) is a different ball game.

    – Sony PSIII is the new toy, which is expected to sell all 400k in the US by years end.

    – Sony expects to ship another 600k in Q107 in the US.

    – Sony will undoubtably bring their own Connect service for movie and content downloads to the fold.

    Sony and MS will be confusing the market, fragmenting users. Apple will have a simple device that works wirelessly with iTunes on a PC/Mac (a huge install base), or what people do not know, is iTV will also connect directly to iTunes without need of a computer. Wireless N for the content you already have on a PC, or direct from the livingroom, for new livingroom conent ignoring the PC.

    The platform is iTunes, and XBox Live and Zune Marketplace and whatever Sony delivers. These are the platforms and Apple has a massive lead.

    Price: iTV $299, Sony PSIII: $600 for a work-able unit. XBox, $399…

    Oh, one more thing, now you know what that USB port on the iTV is for (to download content from iTV to your new iPod HD (video), if that is the way you acquired it. ; )

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