New era in home entertainment as Sky player launches on Xbox 360

28 Oct 2009

Microsoft’s quest to be the digital hub for most people’s lives is almost complete with the addition of Sky television channels to the Xbox, making the gaming console a portal for games, music, films, TV and very soon, social media.

The deal between BSkyB and Microsoft means Xbox 360 owners have access to live and on-demand pay-TV content via their console.

The service, the first of its kind on any games console, will give Xbox LIVE users full access to all the live and on-demand channels currently on Sky Player. This includes popular, hit TV shows from Sky1, blockbuster films from Sky Movies, and must-see entertainment and documentaries from MTV, Disney, G.O.L.D, Sky Arts, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, Eden and History.

In addition, sports fans will be able to enjoy the biggest sports events – as they happen – from Sky Sports, ESPN and Eurosport.

From games console to home-entertainment system

“The introduction of Sky Player on Xbox is an exciting development for both companies. For BSkyB it offers further evidence that its future subscriber growth is not dependent on its traditional satellite set-top box strategy; and for Microsoft it is further confirmation that the Xbox is on its way to becoming not just a games console, but rather a complete home-entertainment system,” explained David Mercer, principal analyst, Digital Consumer Practice, at Strategy Analytics.

Subscribers to the Xbox LIVE Gold service will also be able to enjoy a range of interactive features to enhance their viewing with friends and family. For example, viewers will be able to use their Xbox avatar in the “Avatar Party Mode” to watch live TV alongside their friends’ avatars.

Once there, they will be able to chat live and interact with each other through their Xbox – yet another feature that makes Xbox LIVE a fun, social experience whether you are together with friends or wherever they are located, from Limerick to London.

What else is on offer

As well as 24 live streaming channels, Sky Player offers thousands of hours of on-demand programmes, making it the most comprehensive web-based, on-demand service available from any UK and Ireland broadcaster. There are more than 400 movies to watch at any time from Sky Movies, more than 1,000 sporting highlights from Sky Sports, and hundreds of other programming highlights spanning entertainment, drama, comedy, music, documentaries and kids’ entertainment.

To watch Sky Player on Xbox 360, customers will need an Xbox LIVE Gold membership.  Non– Sky Direct to Home (DTH) customers will also require a monthly subscription which starts at €18 per month to Sky Player’s Base Entertainment Pack.

Gamers who want to watch Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 and Xtra, ESPN and the Sky Movies channels will be able to add these channels to their Base Entertainment Pack for an additional cost. In addition to the live channels, customers will also have access to on-demand programmes from channels they subscribe to.

Gold membership

Existing Sky customers with Xbox Live Gold membership will be able to access Sky Player’s on-demand content in line with the channels they are able to access through their core Sky TV subscription. Customers with Sky Multiroom are additionally able to access live channels for no extra charge.

“Today’s launch marks the first time premium live television is available through a broadband-connected games console, helping transform the way entertainment fans watch TV,” said Mark Deering, director of Sky in Ireland.

“At Sky, we believe in innovating for customers so they can enjoy the content they love, how they want. Whether that’s through their Sky set-top box, computer screen, Xbox 360 or mobile phone, customers have never enjoyed more choice, control and flexibility,” Deering said.

Retail bundle pack

A Sky Player retail bundle pack including one-month Sky Player Subscription (Sky Sports Pack), Media Remote and three-month Gold Membership Subscription Card will be available from stores priced at €39.99.

“Today, our customers enjoy film, music, videos and games on Xbox 360 and TV is another significant step forward in our entertainment vision,” Orla Sheridan, country manager, Entertainment and Devices Division, Microsoft Ireland, explained.

“And now Xbox owners will have the variety and volume of entertainment along with unique services, such as the avatar community, which allow you to share, celebrate and chat – it is clear that Xbox 360 is taking entertainment beyond the living room with unique social interactive entertainment experiences,” Sheridan added.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years