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Xbox 360 lines up programming providers

Nearly 40 outlets to provide content for Microsoft

Microsoft has lined up nearly 40 new cable and satellite providers, and individual channels to stream live TV and VOD programming through its Xbox 360 videogame console in 20 countries.

As expected, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Verizon’s FiOS TV, Epix, HBO, Bravo and Syfy are among them (Daily Variety, Oct. 3), but the U.K.’s BBC, Canada’s Rogers On Demand, Telefonica in Spain, Televisa in Mexico, ZDF in Germany, and

MediaSet in Italy will also join Xbox Live’s lineup of content partners sometime this fall.

In addition, Best Buy’s CinemaNow and Sony’s Crackle will offer up films and TV shows alongside Netflix, while online entertainment and news sites AlloCine, Dailymotion, iHeartRadio, MSNBC, NBC’s “The Today Show,” and TMZ will appear on Xbox Live. The integration of YouTube, Vevo and UFC fights had already been announced at the E3 vidgame confab in May.

All will offer streams through apps that each company will launch and manage. In most cases, the apps will mirror each company’s mobile apps like HBO Go or ones that appear on the screens of smart TVs. But the apps will also be a way for channels or specific shows to offer up more video or original programming like Web series it doesn’t have time to air on TV.

“By having their own, (content owners) will have the ability to push programming out directly to the consumer,” Blair Westlake, corporate VP of the Media & Entertainment Group for Microsoft, told Daily Variety. “They’ll be able to tailor the app to the content they produce.”

Microsoft has yet to disclose an exact date of when the partners will begin appearing on the console, but they will rollout as a relaunch of the interface currently used to control the Xbox Live service, which is being redesigned to better integrate more programming options.

Key element of the design will be the incorporation of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which will locate content using Kinect’s voice and motion controls. Microsoft has sold 10 million Kinect sensors worldwide.

Given the sheer number of apps that will appear on Xbox Live, Microsoft is relying on Bing as the way to cut through the clutter of content.

A search for a title, for example, will identify all content providers that carry it and various forms — sequels, videogames, soundtracks — that may relate.

“For many years, we’ve been talking about 500 TV channels; now we are approaching more than 500 apps,” Westlake said. “That’s where search will come hugely into play. The ability to find what you’re looking for will be key.”

As viewership of videos on the Xbox 360 has tripled over the past year, Microsoft is eager to up the number of content deals it has for Xbox Live as it looks to turn the console into an all-in-one set-top box that can access all forms of entertainment, not just games.

And by adding their services to consoles like the Xbox 360, TV providers believe they can put programming back in front of gamers by turning to the device they’re already using rather than hoping they switch to other set-top boxes.

Microsoft has sold 55 million Xbox 360s. Xbox Live has 35 million members who pay to access content, versus Comcast’s 22.5 million and Verizon’s 3.8 million for FiOS TV.

“Today’s announcement is a major step toward realizing our vision to bring you all the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, made easy,” said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Combining the world’s leading TV and entertainment providers with the power of Kinect for Xbox 360 and the intelligence of Bing voice search will make TV and entertainment more personal, social and effortless.”

The new partners join AT&T’s U-verse, Netflix, ESPN 3 and Hulu Plus, in the U.S., Telus in Canada, BSkyB in the U.K., Canal Plus in France, Vodafone Portugal, VimpelCom in Russia, and Foxtel in Australia, which already offered streaming video through Xbox Live in their territories.

Through Verizon’s FiOS TV, Xbox Live will offer up 26 live TV channels, including MTV, Spike, Food Network, Comedy Central, HBO, CNN and Nickelodeon.

In order to use the services, Xbox Live users must prove they are subscribers to the cablers or satcasters, or in Bravo or Syfy’s case, confirm that they are paying cable or satellite customers.

Full List of Partners and Territories:

• Australia: ABC iView, Crackle. Foxtel, SBS On Demand

• Canada: Astral Media’s Disney XD, Crackle, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment/Real Sports, Netflix, Rogers On Demand Online, TELUS, UFC, Vevo

• France: AlloCiné, Canal Plus,

• Germany: AlloCiné, LoveFilm, MUZU.TV, ZDF

• Italy: MediaSet, MUZU.TV

• Japan: Hulu

• Mexico: Televisa

• Portugal: Vodafone Portugal

• Russia: VimpelCom

• Spain: AlloCiné, Antena 3, Canal Plus, GolTV, MUZU.TV, RTVE, Telefonica

• U.K.: AlloCiné, BBC, blinkbox, BSkyB, Channel 4, Channel 5, Crackle, Last.fm, LoveFilm, MUZU.TV, Vevo,

• U.S.: AT&T U-Verse, Bravo, CinemaNow, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Crackle, Epix, ESPN 3, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, iHeartRadio, Last.fm, Manga Entertainment, Netflix, Syfy, “The Today Show,” TMZ, UFC, Verizon’s FiOS TV, Vevo,

• Facebook, MSNBC, Twitter, YouTube, Zune are available in tens of markets.

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