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Xbox Live adding apps for Machinima, Flixster, more

Many of new content deals will stream worldwide

More TV shows and movies are coming to the Xbox videogame console.

As it seeks to enhance the Xbox Live as a hub for all forms of entertainment, Microsoft has secured new content deals with 43 entertainment partners who will add apps to the service starting this week and continue rolling out through next spring. Many will be accessible worldwide.

Among the ten launching Tuesday are Vevo, Maxim, Napster, CNET and a karaoke app, while VOD service CinemaNow is expanding its service to Canada. The CW, MTV, Machinima, PBS, Vimeo, and Warner Bros.’ Flixster will follow.

Rollout is heavy on international content, with ARTE, Sainsbury, Sport1, Zattoo targeting Xbox Live members in Germany, the U.K., France and Austria, for example, with live TV, music, movies and sports programming. Microsoft also will add its SkyDrive file storage service for photos and videos, available in all regions.

New batch of partners are the latest to be added to Xbox Live since Microsoft unveiled a revamped service in December 2011 designed to turn the Xbox 360 into a central conduit for entertainment well beyond games.

At that time, Xbox’s partners included HBO Go, BBC iPlayer, Bravo, Syfy, TMZ, MLB, ESPN, UFC, Vudu and NBC’s “Today.”

Netflix was already offered on Xbox and remains one of the service’s most popular apps, along with YouTube.

The new partners diversify the type of content available to Xbox Live members. Not surprisingly, soccer is a huge draw in Europe, for example.

All of the content is searchable via Microsoft’s Bing, built into Xbox Live, eliminating the need for “app diving,” the company said.

“As you put more content on the platform and more apps, helping consumers find content is more crucial than ever,” said Ross Honey, g.m. of Xbox Live and advertising.

The new partners will continue to help Xbox Live put competitive pressure on cable and satcasters, who are looking to push their own VOD services. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, and Verizon-owned FiOs TV are hedging their bets and offering up their own apps on Xbox Live, albeit with limited programming that is only accessible to existing subscribers.

The latest wave of apps comes as Microsoft has seen viewership of video on XBox Live increase significantly.

In fact, it saw more Xbox 360 owners turn to apps for entertainment in November than any other month to date, the company said, seeing a 63% increase during the frame over last year. That’s not surprising given that new tentpole titles like “Halo 4,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” and “Assassin’s Creed III” had the consoles working overtime last month.

Globally, video consumption on Xbox Live has increased 140% year over year, Microsoft said, with Xbox Live subs now spending more than 300 million hours per month on video applications.

In the U.S., 42% of Xbox Live subs watch an average of an hour of TV and movies on their Xbox 360 consoles a day and more than 30 hours a month.

That is expected to grow as Microsoft sold 775,000 Xbox 360s on Black Friday alone. It now has 70 million Xboxes in homes worldwide and counts 40 million Xbox Live members.

It also should increase as former CBS exec Nancy Tellem introduces new TV experiences through Xbox Live. While Tellem was not involved with brokering deals for the new apps, “she’s deeply involved with setting our TV strategy moving forward,” and building out Microsoft’s Los Angeles studio and developing new TV content, Honey said.

In addition to the apps, Xbox Live also continues to stream more live events through the console, including the Mars rover landing, the presidential debates, Spike TV’s recent “VGA Ten” kudocast and Monday’s Bruno Mars concert, hosted by iHeartRadio, in New York City.

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