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TV Network Content Coming to Microsoft Devices

Monday unnamed sources told Reuters that Microsoft was currently in talks with TV networks to create a new subscription-based TV service on the Xbox 360 gaming console. The new service would reportedly rival Apple TV, Google TV and even Netflix. Microsoft would even have the upper hand, as the required hardware for the supposed service already exists in millions of households nationwide.

According to the report, Microsoft is considering three options, the first of which is playing the role of a virtual cable operator. Xbox 360 owners would pay a flat rate for gaining access to networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and even CNN. Subscribers would benefit from Xbox Live exclusive features like the ability to chat with others while watching their favorite shows, changing channels and fast forwarding programs using Kinect and more.

Sources also indicated that Microsoft is optioning the possibility of allowing cable subscribers to access programming through the console (as if connecting cable to a VCR), possibly paying extra for the added benefits mentioned in the first option. Microsoft is also considering an option to offer packages such as sports and children's' programming bundles and even sell individual channels directly to users like HBO and Showtime, adding to Walt Disney Co's ESPN channel already residing on the console interface.

The move isn't surprising given Microsoft's original goal to make the Xbox brand the central multimedia point in the living room, providing access to movies, music, television shows and other content while offering the ultimate gaming experience. The move also coincides with recent reports that Microsoft is bringing native Silverlight support to the Xbox 360 and other Microsoft devices. This could possibly mean that Microsoft will use its streaming technology to offer the TV service on Windows-based computers and Windows Phone 7 devices.

According to the unnamed sources, Microsoft is currently "mulling" over the feedback it's already received from content programmers including the cost of the three options. Naturally Microsoft has thrown out the typical "we don't comment on rumors" quote, and those that provided the insider information requested that their identities not be revealed. Still, according to the sources, the TV service may not arrive for another 12 months, however early discussions have been "productive."

If the plan was just right, would you ditch cable for TV feeds on the Xbox 360? What if the service spanned across the PC and Windows Phone 7 devices as well?