While PlayTV has been giving British PlayStation owners enhanced televisual experiences for some time, and the BBC has been working to improve the performance of the iPlayer on the Wii, Xbox 360 owners in the UK have been left in the cold when it comes to TV services. That changed today, when Microsoft and Sky announced a partnership that will allow Xbox 360 owners access not only to Sky programming via their consoles--via a subscription or a pay-per-view basis--but also to "a range of unique interactive services."
Available in the UK and Ireland, the service will be an extension of the Sky Player TV service for PCs that uses Microsoft's Silverlight technology, launched in November 2008. While the full channel lineup has yet to be revealed, Sky and Microsoft said that it is "anticipated" that as well as a range of entertainment programmes and movies, both Premiership football and test match cricket would be available via the service, most likely through live streaming of one or several of the Sky Sports channels. Pay-per-view programming was also promised at the launch event in London today, though few details were offered.
Sky Player over the Web offers a selection of the movies offered on demand to satellite subscribers, as well as episodes of various shows the network broadcasts, such as 24 and Lost, and sports highlights. Live sport, however, is available only to subscribers, rather than to those paying a la carte. Movies from Sky Box Office are charged from £3.43/€4.40, while those programmes broadcast on the network's flagship channel Sky One are available from £1.47/€1.91. It is not clear if the pay-per-view options will require a Sky account, as they currently do via Sky Player, or if it will be possible to use Microsoft points for payment, as is the case for the current on-demand services on the console. Pricing for the console-based service was not confirmed either.
As well as being able to enjoy TV and movies, those watching Sky programming via the Xbox 360 will be "able to communicate with one another in real time via their broadband connections," and "be able to check news and access fixtures, league tables and other on-demand information," when watching sporting events, said Microsoft.
Discussing the deal, Neil Thompson, head of Xbox UK and Ireland, tacitly admitted that the Xbox 360 has been lagging behind its competitors in terms of the all-around package being offered, saying that Microsoft was now "one step closer to our goal of offering Xbox owners the best entertainment experiences out there."
To find out more about the newest features for the Xbox 360, come back to GameSpot for the video stream and live blog of Microsoft's E3 Press Conference at 6:30 p.m. BST/10:30 a.m. PDT on Monday, June 1.
Update: For more images, check out cnet.co.uk's Xbox Sky Player photo gallery.