In, perhaps, the most significant bit of Xbox 360 entertainment news since we “brits” have been crying over the lack of any sort of on-demand, subscription based movie or television content on our Xbox 360s (damn you, Netflix), Sky and Xbox 360 have joined forces to bring their SkyPlayer service to subscribers’ Xbox 360s and, it would seem, a variety of packages for new customers who would subscribe through their Xboxes. This service will be available in the UK and Ireland and is slated to hit Xbox LIVE in Autumn, however no release date is yet set and we’ll have to wait for details of the full channel line-up.
The new service will include subscription-based live and on demand television services, in addition to pay-per-view that will allow you to access your favourite shows at a hopefully not unreasonable price.
The Xbox 360, being the flexible “computing” platform that it is, will also allow Sky to offer a range of truly interactive services tied into whatever you might be viewing. They’ve hinted that this could include live chat functionality between football fans, in addition to league table and other on-demand information access. One of the screen-shots below shows a football stadium esque area populated by the Xbox 360s answer to Miis who can chat and emote whilst watching the game. I’m not a fan of sports, and not quite sure that, if I were, I would want my viewing interrupted by fellow fans unless they were bringing me beer. But it looks cool none the less.
The possibilities for interactive services for other broadcasts have not been revealed, but we should hopefully see some interesting interactive developments to accompany our favourite television series.
The service will be available to both new Sky customers, subscribing via their Xbox 360 to access the on-line content, or existing Sky customers where it will offer an entirely new way of tuning in.
Stephen Nuttall, Director of Skyâ€™s Commercial Group commented:â€ Our partnership with Xbox is a further example of our commitment to put choice and control in the hands of customers. Xbox owners now have a range of ways to access Sky content and can pick and choose the platform and packages that are right for them. We are extremely excited about the opportunity of reaching Xbox owners who are looking to experience Sky for the first time, as well as giving our existing customers yet another way to experience the content they love.â€
Echoing this, Neil Thompson, Head of Xbox UK and Ireland, added: â€œOur customers have told us that they want the opportunity to use their consoles as a way to access TV and once again Xbox has pulled off an entertainment first with amazing content and rich interactive experience. The combination of Skyâ€™s leadership in content creation and aggregation and our own in creating a constantly evolving new generation of rich 360 entertainment experiences means we are one step closer to our goal of offering Xbox owners the best entertainment experiences out there, whether itâ€™s movies, music, games, interactive experiences or high quality TV.â€
The real key to this partnership is not the on-demand content, but the concept that, for the first time ever, Live television will be delivered through the Xbox 360. This trumps even the state-side Netflix functionality that we’ve long envied across the pond. Unfortunately, it’s likely that this live television will only include major sporting events, Sky wouldn’t want to cannibalize sales of their multi-room services, but we can only hope.
I quite neatly tucked an Xbox 360 away in our bedroom, secretly wishing it was a PS3 capable of bringing iPlayer and streaming media to the bedroom-wall-mounted LCD (Yes I know the Xbox 360 can kind-of stream video, but the PS3 slaughters it, and has a closet-installation-friendly bluetooth remote, too). It’s been gathering dust ever since but depending on what free, on-demand content is available (House, please. House! HOUSE!) SkyPlayer might just resurrect it.