Xbox video store gets Zune content

Speculation might be mounting that Microsoft is on the verge of signing a deal for satellite firm Sky’s, but in the meantime the firm has confirmed other video content for the 360.

Namely, its US-only media player’s Zune Video Marketplace is to be available via the console for users in the USA, Canada, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Germany later this year.

The deal means that even though the format-holder has no plans to release its iPod-like device outside of America, the vast content store it has built up will be available to Xbox owners in key North American and European countries.

Microsoft told MCV that the move was part of the three screens and the cloud strategy” it unveiled at CES, which encourages consumers to view digitally accessed media through either PC, home TV or mobile screens.

Having Zune content on the Xbox Marketplace is a turning point” into how its digital strategies and content delivery systems are aligning, said Chris Stephenson, GM of consumer marketing for the TV, Video and Music Business at Microsoft.

And that’s a transformation happening at a personnel level within the company as well – specifically useful as it looks to add games content to the Zune line in future, too.

He explained: What we’ve done with Zune is create a centre of excellence around entertainment. In last year we have really brought the team together in an organisation way around content and distribution. There’s been a lot of work in the past 12 months to set up the organisation for this.”

The Zune devices launched in 2006 and have been through four serious iterations, with a modest 3m media players sold.

In future, the Zune video marketplace will be accessible via the Xbox dashboard, which instantly grows its reach from the three million Zune users to Xbox 360’s 17m user base.

Stephenson explained: This brings the next level and an enhanced video experience to Xbox Live and brings Zune to 17m users. The console platform has broadened through the growing market and the more family-oriented users as well, so we reach them too.”

Zune has until now been an end-to-end business,” added Stephenson. This new service is the turning point into the next stage of the Zune strategy.”

The firm also confirmed the introduction later this year of the Zune HD, the latest in its line of media players. The device is billed as ‘the first portable media player with built-in HD Radio receiver, HD video output capabilities, OLED touch screen, wi-fi and an internet browser’.

For now, the device is a US-only product due for release in the autumn – but games will play a part in its strategy going forward.

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