Microsoft is readying a long slew of announcements about new features it will cram into its Xbox tomorrow, according to people briefed on the company’s plans. Of interest to many of you: The ability to use the game system as a cable box/streaming video service.
Which sounds cool!
But let’s be clear about what this — an extension of the “TV Everywhere”/”authentication” concept that lets cable subscribers watch programming via alternate delivery systems.
And let’s be clear about what this isn’t — a tool for cable cord-cutters or cord-shavers.
Bloomberg laid most of this out last month in a story previewing tomorrow’s announcement. Steve Ballmer has been “promoting the Xbox 360 console as a way to switch easily between games, DVDs and pay TV” — not as a way to ditch cable. Which is why cable providers and programmers like Comcast and Verizon are working with him.
Another way to think about it: Look at the iPad and iPhone apps we’ve already seen from the likes of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and ESPN.They let subscribers watch some (though usually not all) of what they can get from their various cable packages on a different device. The Xbox deals should work the same way.
There’s always a miniscule chance that one of Microsoft’s partners will stray way outside the reservation and actually offer cable-like programming without requiring a cable subscription. One day, for instance, I could see Time Warner finally giving its HBO unit the go-ahead to start selling a la carte subscriptions to the pay service, at the same rates that it’s charging the cable guys.
The cable guys wouldn’t like it, but they didn’t like when HBO et al did the same with the satellite guys in the 90s. There’s not much they can do about it.
But given that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is the chief proponent of the cable-protecting “TV Everywhere” plan, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
More tomorrow, once Microsoft makes it all official.