Microsoft TV: A Bold Move That May Blow Up Broadcast

From what we can tell from a brief Reuters report, Microsoft is in talks with HBO and Showtime to broadcast and sell a la carte video through the XBox. Microsoft already offers ESPN through XBox Live.

For years pundits have been blathering on about the “Trojan horse” that is console gaming. The Playstation 2, arguably, was the first DVD player many of us ever had while the PS3 is probably the first Blu-Ray player many of us ever used. These devices were also some of the first to stream Netflix and, with this new deal, they’ll start replacing the cable box entirely. Imagine – a full complement of content available 24/7 from a box you already own. That is amazingly compelling and, dare I say it, kind of exciting.

Presumably you’re not going to sit and watch HBO’s regular programming through this service. Instead, you’ll watch a la carte versions of their original shows and exclusive movies, which is definitely compelling to some. The issue, obviously, is the cost associated with this service versus the cost tacked onto your cable bill for the actual channels.

Where does that leave broadcast TV? Well, as Matt pointed out, the best way to watch TV on your TV is to get cable. Still formats and tastes change and while a decade ago you couldn’t imagine buying more than a few singles over a full album, now the album as an art form is all but dead. For better or worse, the “channel” – meaning a group of programs that appear one after the other interspersed with commercials – may be going away.

Working with the XBox team on this is a boon for both HBO and Microsoft. HBO gets a new subscriber based addicted to their programming while Microsoft becomes known as the first company to dismantle the decades old cable companies. Here’s hoping that the rumors aren’t just hot air.