Microsoft’s Xbox is the latest videogame console to take advantage of the kickoff of football season, with ESPN revamping its presence on Xbox Live to feature Kinect controls among other new features that could signal how watching sports will soon become more interactive.
In addition to redesigning its overall interface with new graphics, the sports cabler has added a splitscreen that enables fans to watch two events at once. Each can be controlled individually.
With more sports fans — i.e., younger males — glued to their vidgame consoles, cablers including ESPN have been trying to come up with ways to keep them glued to their brand but also to be innovative about how sports programming is delivered.
Should the features become popular, it’s feasible they could be borrowed for events like the Olympics and Super Bowl.
ESPN’s Xbox Live feature plays live content that streams on ESPN.com and ESPN 3, offering 400 college football games, 31 bowl games and more than 75 exclusive games — close to 50 in the first five weeks of the season alone.
New features also enable users to customize which teams or sports to follow and provide highlights of games through “My Sports”; “Mini Guide” previews of upcoming sports content at the bottom of the screen, an area that will also provide live alerts of score changes and a news ticker of breaking newswhile a live college football scoreboard tracks games; and reminder tags of upcoming games. All can be accessed via Kinect’s voice controls.
An Xbox Live Gold membership is required; sources put the number of Gold members at around 12 million.
ESPN has been available on Xbox Live since June 2010, when live and on-demand college football and basketball, MLB, NBA and soccer games were made available. Xbox’s moves follow DirecTV’s deal to stream a full season of “NFL Sunday Ticket” games through Sony’s PlayStation 3 for $50 for existing customers, and $339.95 for non-customers.