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Microsoft: Gaming the TV Download Market - Broadcasting & Cable

Microsoft: Gaming the TV Download Market

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Microsoft is aiming to give Apple a little competition in the video download business.

It announced late Monday that its game console, Xbox 360, will now support downloads of video content from CBS, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, TBS, Ultimate Fighting Championship and Warner Bros. Hom Entertainment.

Beginning Nov. 22, Xbox 360 users will be able to use the Internet to download both standard- and high-definition TV shows and movies through Microsoft's Xbox Live online service, at prices that are expected to be competitive with iTunes' $1.99 per TV show and movie service CinemaNow's $2.99 to $3.99 per movie rental.

High-definition download-to-own titles from CBS will include CSI, Jericho, Numb3rs and currently syndicated remastered Star Trek episodes, though the Xbox can only store about 4.5 hours of HD video and 16 hours of SD video.

"CBS is very pleased to be the first broadcast network to provide programs for the Xbox 360 console, which marks a new and innovative way to distribute and monetize CBS' world-class content in the digital space," said CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group president Nancy Tellem in a statement.

The Xbox download move may also give Microsoft a jump on Sony as the companies' competing game consoles enter the HDTV realm.

Sony's latest console, the Playstation 3, is expected to be introduced later this month with the ability to play Blu-Ray discs, the high-definition optical format that Sony and a bevy of movie studios are supporting as a replacement for standard-definition DVDs. Meanwhile, Microsoft is expected to introduce later this month a $199 accessory drive to Xbox that will play a different optical disc format, HD-DVD, which is backed by Microsoft and Toshiba as well as movie studios Universal, Warner Bros., and Paramount.

As the format wars of HD discs heat up, offering an alternative path--direct distribution of HD video to the game console's hard drive--could be a selling point for Xbox. But most gaming industry pundits say the real driver of sales for either Xbox or Playstation 3 will be high-definition games, not video.

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