Microsoft has launched its streaming film and television content service in association with Sky TV for the UK and Ireland today.
The Sky Player for Xbox 360 will allow Xbox Live Gold members to watch programmes from 24 different channels live, with an additional selection of on-demand channels featuring key shows from the past month as well as over 400 movies on offer from the current Sky Movies channels line-up.
For Gold members that already have a subscription to Sky, the content will be free, depending on that level of subscription - Sky Sports and Sky Movies content will require appropriate accounts - although as with the PC-based Sky Player users will also need to pay a GBP 5 Multi-Room charge if they don't already.
Non-subscribers will be able to receive the service as an internet-only offering, not requiring the installation of a satellite dish, for a fee of GBP 15 per month for the basic Entertainment Pack, rising to GBP 50 for the full Sports and Movies pack, with ESPN access also included.
Meanwhile, for Xbox Live Silver members, Sky News will always be free, while a special Sky Player Retail bundle pack will be available in stores from today which will include one month of the Sky Sports subscription pack, a three-month Live Gold membership and a Media Remote for GBP 29.99.
"Today our customers enjoy film, music, videos and games on Xbox 360 and TV is another significant step forward in our entertainment vision," said Microsoft's senior regional director at Entertainment & Devices for the UK and Ireland, Neil Thompson.
"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.”
As well as watching content through the Xbox 360, users will be able to watch with other people on their friends list and have their avatars sit on a virtual sofa, side-by-side with others. At the same they'll be able to communicate via an emote wheel on-screen, with a number of pre-set avatar animations available, or talk directly through the 360's headset.
"What makes it really interesting is at this point, if you've got a headset on, you can be talking to that person directly," said Thompson in a media preview last week. "If you're watching sport, you can chat about what you're seeing. If it's a movie, you can chat about that. It's a whole new way of consuming entertainment socially.
"This sort of experience is unique to the Xbox Live service - you don't get this sort of interaction on any other entertainment service," he added.
Content will only be available in standard definition in order to ensure that the streaming service is as seamless as possible to the highest number of users, and will be available in three different quality levels - with a maximum line speed requirement of around 2mbps.
While the number of available channels currently stands at 24, it's likely that Sky will opt to add more channels to the offering over time, with a theroetical maximum of around 140, although it was noted that the 360 line-up is unlikely to extend that far as the "+1" channels wouldn't be included. There are no details at this time as to which channels may be added, but currently no UK terrestrial channels will be available at launch.
The full channel line-up is as follows:
- Sky Real Lives
- Sky Arts 1
- MTV ONE
- Sky Sports News
- British Eurosport
- ESPN Classic
- Sky News
- National Geographic
- Nat Geo Wild
- Cartoon Network
- Disney Channel
- Nick Jr
- Sky Sports 1
- Sky Sports 2
- Sky Sports 3
- Sky Sports XTRA
- ESPN (additional cost)
- (Plus all sport video on-demand channels)
- Sky Movies Screen 1
- Sky Movies Screen 2
- (Plus over 400 movies on-demand)