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CW Sinks Teeth Into Xbox With ‘Vampire Diaries’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Network will provide full-length episodes with next-day access, SmartGlass integration

Hit primetime series “The Vampire Diaries” will tee off an expanded presence for the CW on Xbox Live via a new app for the broadcaster on the Microsoft-owned gaming console.

The CW app launched Tuesday with full-length episodes of all CW programming that are available just 24 hours after their primetime berth–a first on Xbox without requiring subscribers provide proof of being pay-TV subscribers via password authentication.

“That’s a unique proposition for us in terms of app business models,” said Kathy Styponias, GM of media and entertainment group at Microsoft.

In addition, Microsoft’s second-screen software SmartGlass will integrate with the app to provide synchronized companion content to Thursday’s episode of “Diaries,” which will be a backdoor pilot for a spinoff titled “The Originals.” Only viewers watching the episode via CW’s Xbox app will be able to access extras that explore the series’ world from character biographies to a map of its New Orleans setting.

“We think it’s a great experience for a ‘Vampire Diaries’ fan and that you will see other SmartGlass experiences for more of our shows, like ‘Arrow,'” said Rick Haskins, exec veep of marketing and digital programs at CW.

The pact continues net’s aggressive bid to connect with younger viewers who may be more inclined to watch its programming on digital platforms than over the air, where the CW has struggled in the Nielsen ratings.

The CW app is already active on other platforms including iOs, Android and Windows 8. But with Xbox, the app will make its debut in the living room, where the console is the most highly penetrated offering among the many non-cable set-top boxes vying to be the go-to IP-delivered device.

For Microsoft, providing an exclusive experience surrounding TV content builds up the value of Xbox, which has become just as much a video distribution point as it is a gaming platform. There’s 116 apps delivering video on Xbox Live and thousands of programs that have used SmartGlass, which has done some series-specific content including HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

The CW is not the first broadcaster to get its own app on Xbox Live. Fox made full-length episodes available in its own Xbox app beginning last September, but access requires authentication from participating pay-TV providers Dish and Verizon Fios.

In addition to next-day access to CW series, the app will also make accessible the four most recent episodes.

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