If many TV Companies once worried that the growing popularity
of game consoles would siphon off the next generation of younger
TV viewers, many of these same companies are now rushing to cut
content deals with the major game console makers.
In early June alone, Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform announced more
than 35 new deals with ESPN, Nickelodeon, the NBA, the Weather
Channel, Univision and others that will stream their content over the
Xbox Live platform to TVs.
Such deals reflect the fact that Magna Global predicts there will be
91 million game consoles in U.S. homes by the end of 2012. And a
growing body of data from research firms such as Nielsen shows that game consoles are the most popular
method of streaming content from over-the-top providers like Netflix and Hulu to the TV set.
But game consoles are also top of mind for multichannel operators, who are using these widely deployed
Internet-connected devices to deliver more over-the-top content and to use their voice and motion commands
to help users easily navigate through massive libraries of content.
In all of this, Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform, under the direction of Marc Whitten, has been a clear leader.
In addition to the June deals, Microsoft had earlier announced content agreements with programmers
including HBO, Fox, Netflix, Hulu and MLB.tv, as well as operators such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon,
which is streaming live channels from its FiOS TV service over the Xbox platform.
One key reason for this success has been Whitten’s collaborative approach. Unlike a number of major
tech and consumer electronics players that have struggled to get into the TV business because of their “my
way or the highway” approach to business models, Microsoft has worked within existing business practices.
Some agreements, such as the Watch ESPN, HBO Go or Fox Xbox Live deals, provide access to authenticated
multichannel subscribers; others rely on subscription, pay-per-view or free ad-supported models.
And more is on the way. Microsoft recently unveiled a free Smart Glass app that will allow Apple, Android
and other devices to stream media to a TV via the Xbox, and it is working to closer integrate the Xbox
platform with its Microsoft Windows 8 and mobile platforms, all of which puts the talented Whitten at the
center of the tech storm.