Microsoft began rolling out access to Internet Explorer (IE) on the Xbox 360 entertainment systems Tuesday, giving brands a new channel to market goods and services. The browser, available through a dashboard, provides a new way to find and view Internet content via the search engine Bing on the biggest screen in the house.
Bing also offers voice search results through Kinect for video across the Web, including YouTube. The last Xbox LIVE update brought Bing voice search to Xbox to search for movies, TV shows, actors, directors and artists. This year, Microsoft added genre search to the list for action, comedy, romance, drama or sci-fi titles.
The integration could add cross-channel ad targeting. Henry Park, executive director of search engine marketing at YP Holdings, views the rollout of IE across Xbox as a significant opportunity for many companies with established brands, but wonders how effective it will become for small and medium-sized business to tap into the new media channel. "Many companies today are still unable to properly assign attribution across different digital channels," he said. "Finding companies that can help businesses properly set attribution will be a key to making these new media channels work for businesses."
Microsoft is one of a few companies that can serve ads across platforms and devices, so it's only a matter of time before they connect all, said Aaron Goldman, CMO at Kenshoo, pointing to Bing as the "killer app" to make that happen.
Marketers could also see the emergence of a new cross-media ad targeting and attribution model, but some believe that any search surfing done on IE through the Xbox could cannibalize whatever volume may have occurred on tablets, mobile devices, PCs or laptops, according to George Michie, CEO at Rimm-Kaufman group.
"It's almost like another tablet coming on the market -- interesting, but it doesn't change the game," Michie said. "Gaming consoles provide another option for browsing, but the vast majority of Xbox searchers would likely have reached for their laptop, tablet or phone if XBox didn't have a browser."
Calling the media "a tethered environment," Richard Harris, CEO and co-founder of Intent Media, agrees that it could shift some impressions and clicks from PCs to Xboxes. He said that by consuming the TV it creates a one-screen experience, similar to desktop, and not a multi-screen environment like watching TV while using a tablet. It could, however, open new targeting opportunities based on Xbox 360 demographics.
Filling a marketing mix, aimClear founder Marty Weintraub said the media skews toward search and social psychographic segments in the Xbox 360 marketplace. He guesses the audience will feel similar, in some ways, to Reddit.
Adding social aspects into IE also brings in recommendations allowing users to discover new favorites based on variables like content previously viewed, what friends consume, and the most relevant and popular stuff across the Xbox community.