With New Partnerships, Microsoft Shows Xbox Is Long On Streaming Video

Sure enough, Microsoft served up a first look at hot new Xbox 360 titles like “Halo 4” and “Gears of War: Judgment” when it kicked off the annual E3 video game confab in Los Angeles on Monday.

However, the Xbox 360 maker also devoted a good portion of the opening news conference to announcing new media partnerships and showing off forthcoming entertainment features.

Indeed, video game consoles have fast become the most common means of streaming television or movie content on a TV set: according to a recent study from the Leichtman Research Group, 28 percent of U.S. households own a video game console that is hooked up to the Internet. And that figure is rising -- a fact that clearly is not lost on Microsoft, which wants Xbox Live, the Xbox 360’s online network, to become the de facto at-home media hub for its 40 million-plus worldwide users.

To that end, the tech giant unveiled a flurry of new media partnerships and features for Xbox Live, including: 35 new apps from media partners like the NBA, NHL, Univision and Nickelodeon; a new music hub called Xbox Music; and a new feature called Xbox SmartGlass, which enables consumers to stream media on multiple Microsoft-powered devices at the same time.

Separately, Microsoft also expanded its deal with ESPN to offer sports fans 24/7 live programming through its WatchESPN app, which will deliver live content from ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3 and ESPN U to Xbox Live.

Less than four years ago, playing games with friends online was all one could do with a Web-connected console, but Netflix’s groundbreaking partnership with Xbox Live in 2008 changed all of that. Now, Xbox users can use their consoles to stream Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Instant, ESPN 3 and other services, in addition to the new applications that Microsoft announced Monday.

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