Xbox live logoMicrosoft continues to add content to XBox Live, today announcing a deal with ESPN to offer select NCAA basketball and football games on-demand within 48 hours of broadcast.

The Xbox is increasingly promoted as a media extender, capable of delivering HD content to the TV, and competing with cable set-top boxes. Microsoft’s content lineup now includes more than 1500 hours of video, and an IPTV edition of the 360 is in the works.

At a price of $3 for in standard definition or $4.50 in HD, it’s hard to imagine Microsoft will sell many games two days after they air — live content is still where the money’s at. But once IPTV capability is rolled out to the more than 11 million and counting Xboxes, live content may not be far behind. ###
“Delivering content through Xbox 360 is another way that we can connect fans with the sports they have such passion for,” said Matt Murphy, SVP of digital video distribution for Disney and ESPN Media Networks. And ESPN’s digital media offerings continue to grow.
Smaller networks might face repercussions if they attempted to circumvent cable operators, but ESPN continues to do so, offering additional live video to a growing audience by forging new relationships with ISPs. In recent months ESPN has expanded their online content, renegotiating for additional live streaming rights and redesigning ESPN 360.
As Microsoft continues to grow their content library, Xbox 360 is becoming far more than just a gaming device. Microsoft has experimented for years with ways of delivering IPTV, and the Xbox may be the cornerstone of their strategy.
It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine slightly scaled-down Xboxes rebranded and sold as strictly IPTV devices. Building on their current technology and Xbox Live library, Microsoft could likely offer a lower cost AppleTV competitor with a more robust content offering.

Ben Homer is a contributing writer from Online Video Watch.

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