Xbox lines up partners to own the living room

Microsoft is in talks with leading content providers, including the BBC, Channel 4 and MySpace, to cement the Xbox as a superior home entertainment hub to its chief rival the Sony PlayStation.

The BBC and Channel 4 are considering following BSkyB’s Sky Player ( 27 October 2009) and launching their catch-up services – iPlayer and 4oD – on Xbox Live, as broadcasters turn to consoles as the next key distribution channels.

Microsoft has also held talks with smaller content providers, including Vice magazine’s, about launching an Xbox Live service, while brands like MySpace are also investigating the platform.

This week Xbox rolled out Facebook, Twitter, and Zune services following a six-week trial ( 1 October 2009), strengthening the console’s social networking and media services. Xbox Live has 17m subscribers worldwide.

new media age can reveal commercial partners including Sony Pictures, Vodafone and Waitrose have already taken advantage of ad opportunities on the services, including pre-roll campaigns.

Paul Whitehead, Channel 4’s head of business development for interactive, said the broadcaster was in talks with all console makers over future distribution deals.

“We want to put our content where our customers are. You can make some reasonable assumptions if you look at the demographics of Xbox users and 4oD users,” he said.

The BBC iPlayer is already available on the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. A BBC spokesman said, “People clearly want the iPlayer on their games consoles and we don’t think Xbox users are any different. So we’ve had initial discussions with Microsoft about adding the service onto its platform.”

Neil Thompson, Microsoft’s senior regional director for Northern Europe in its entertainment & devices division, wouldn’t confirm any deals beyond those already announced, but said, “Whatever we announce must bring elements of uniqueness to the Xbox Live service. We don’t want just to replicate existing services.”

He added that Xbox would welcome third-party ads on any new platforms, as the first commercial campaigns launched on Sky Player and’s new services.

Currently the ads runs in parallel with the Sky Player service online, but the two platforms will be split early next year as Sky introduces its targeted AdSmart technology to deliver more relevant ads.

Mobile giant Vodafone has been signed up as the launch advertiser to support’s free Xbox service. The ad-funded music streaming service has agreed a four-week deal to promote the launch of the operator’s 360 social media service.

The campaign, planned by media agency Carat, will run as a pre-roll when any radio station is accessed. Bespoke 15-second video ads are being developed for the Xbox platform by digital agency Dare and are set to go live next week.

Miles Lewis, senior VP of international ad sales for, said, “Advertisers can buy the audience and reach them through PC, widget and Xbox. We’re now reaching living rooms which offers an engaged, lean-forward experience.”

Hannah Taylor associate director for Carat, welcomed the use of the Xbox platform as a way to reach a young, engaged audience.

“I’d expect them to look to add more interactive opportunities in time,” she said. “Another issue is that the tracking isn’t as thorough as is available online.”

Last week new media age revealed that Microsoft Advertising had created an ad sales division dedicated to emerging channels such as mobile, maps, video and gaming, including Xbox inventory. The team of nine is led by Microsoft Advertising’s new head of emerging media Paul Lyonette.

This story first appeared on

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