Microsoft is making a big push to bring more content to Xbox, and some of the more recognizable names in entertainment have responded by building apps for the console, bringing their services into your living room. Two weeks ago, ESPN arrived on Xbox with WatchESPN, allowing anyone who has a cable subscription with Time Warner, Bright House, Verizon FiOS, XFINITY (Comcast) or Midcontinent to access ESPN and all of its properties on their Xboxes.
Microsoft is further adding to its catalog today, with a handful of new apps from Rhapsody, Blip.TV, IGN, LOVEFiLM, RTL XL and TOU.TV set to rollout.
Rhapsody first announced its availability to Xbox 360 users yesterday afternoon, bringing its on-demand music service to Xbox LIVE. The company tells us that the new app comes with a UI designed specifically for the platform, which takes advantage of HD displays and integrates voice commands and gestures for Kinect. The app is available now on Xbox LIVE and is free for current Rhapsody members and Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers.
Similar to the company’s apps for LG, Panasonic and Samsung smart TVs, the new Xbox app allows users to quickly find and play their favorite music from Rhapsody’s catalog of 1-million-plus songs. Radio play, popular albums, new releases and playlists are also featured prominently, along with featured editorial stations picked by Rhapsody’s staffers. The app is initially launching for U.S. subscribers and will roll out worldwide in the coming months.
Blip.TV also launches on Xbox today for U.S. subscribers, allowing users to discover, watch and share original web series from up-and-coming and professional content producers. Blip works with production companies (and is probably best known for its work with those in the gaming world) to bring comedies, sports, arts and dramatic series to users through its content and distribution network. The new app has a familiar layout to users of Blip’s web interface, offering an experience and dashboard that’s similar to its Windows 8 UI. It’s simple and straightforward, focusing on smooth playback, and enables users to login directly or via Facebook authentication.
IGN’s new app is now available to subscribers in Canada, and brings the company’s original video content, reviews, live streams and shows like Pro League, Daily Fix and Strategize to Xbox LIVE. Users can watch reviews, previews, news and demos of popular games and easily navigate directly to those games for download. IGN’s app also integrates with Kinect so that you can play, rewind and pause that content with voice and gestural commands.
LOVEFiLM, the international Netflix competitor, is today updating its Xbox app for users in the U.K. and launching it in Germany, meaning subscribers can now watch thousands of films streamed directly to their Xboxes. Subscribers who pay LOVEFiLM’s $7 fee can check out movies instantly and get access to what the company claims is the U.K.’s “largest selection of DVDs and Xbox games.” For those already using the service, the new Xbox packages comes as part of the subscription, meaning it’s free.
As part of its (internationally aware) content rollout, RTL XL will also be launching its programs on the Xbox, beginning in the Netherlands, and TOU.TV (the French-language entertainment service) will be launching in Canada to give users access to 2,000 hours of free video content (serial dramas, documentaries, soap operas and web series, etc.) from the French-speaking world.
Now that both Netflix and LOVEFiLM are on Xbox 360, it will be interesting to see if Rhapsody’s arrival will encourage Spotify to push onto the Xbox platform. Rhapsody is an old hand in the on-demand, streaming music world (after all, it acquired Napster) and has been quietly moving out across platforms. While Spotify has become one of the most popular music-streaming services out there over the last year, it’s been lagging behind a bit in this regard. And no doubt there are more than a few Xbox users who are eager to get access to Spotify in their living room.