At the start of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft Corp. announced more than 35 new content partners that would launch on Xbox Live in various markets around the world over the next 12 months. It also unveiled a number of new features for the platform, including Internet Explorer for Xbox, Xbox Music and the Xbox SmartGlass application for Windows 8, Windows Phone and other portable devices that connects phones, PCs and tablets with the Xbox 360 console.
The announcements highlighted the growing importance of gaming consoles as a way of delivering content to TV screens and Microsoft's success in cutting deals with many major TV programmers.
In terms of new content providers, Microsoft announced several new sports services that will be coming to the Xbox platform this year, including NBA Game Time with NBA.com League Pass Broadband and NHL GameCenter Live. It also expanded its existing content agreement with ESPN to include WatchESPN, which gives authenticated subscribers access live feeds of ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3 and ESPN U on Xbox.
Other new content providers that will be available in the U.S. over the next 12 months include Nickelodeon, Univision, The Weather Channel, Paramount Movies, Indie Flix, Ameba TV, BreakMedia, Comedy Central Stand Up, GameSpot TV, Machinima, Revision3, Rhapsody, Slacker Radio, SnagFilms, The AOL On Network, The Whistle and Twitch TV.
Microsoft also announced that this fall it will launch Internet Explorer for Xbox, which will allow users to surf the Internet on the TV using voice commands and make it possible to navigate the Web on the TV using mobile devices.
Also at the start of the E3 show, Microsoft showed a sneak peek of Xbox Music, an new music service coming to Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8-based devices, and Xbox on Windows 8.
The Xbox on Windows 8 offering will allow users to play games with friends, listen to music and watch TV shows and movies on portable devices. When Xbox on Windows 8 launches, the company reported that it would bring premium entertainment experiences to more than 180 new countries around the world.
Using the Xbox SmartGlass application, users will also be able to start a movie or TV show on a Windows 8 device and finish it on the big-screen TV.
"Xbox is on a mission to make the entertainment that you love even more amazing," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft in a statement. "With Xbox SmartGlass, we are lighting up entertainment across your phone, tablet, PC and TV in a completely new way. If you love to play games, watch TV and movies, surf the Web, or listen to music, there has never been a better time to be on Xbox."
Separately, Univision also announced that it will launch UVideos as an application on Xbox 360 Live Gold in the fourth quarter of 2012. The UVideos offering will include what Univision is calling "the best programming from Univision's growing portfolio of television networks."
Authenticated subscribers of multichannel providers who have cut TV Everywhere deals with Univision will "have even more access to thousands of hours of content across multiple genres, from telenovelas and music, to sports and movies," the Univision announcement noted.
Univision says that the agreement makes it the first U.S. Hispanic network to launch on Xbox.