Microsoft Xbox 360 to get Netflix movies, NBCU streaming

Today at E3, Microsoft announced some new features and content partners that will be coming to Xbox Live, the now billion-dollar division of the company.

Of the $1 billion spent on Xbox Live, over one-third was spent on movie and television content, and of all the converged entertainment solutions Microsoft has given its console, today's announcement of a Netflix partnership will no doubt add the most content.

Xbox Live Gold members who are also Netflix Unlimited subscribers will be able to stream the same growing library of content that is available on the hit Roku set top box, at no additional cost. It will work in exactly the same fashion as the diminutive standalone box: users form an "instantly viewable" queue on the Netflix site, which then gets pushed to their 360, where the content will be streamed. The most recent tally of instantly available Netflix content counts 10,000 movies and television shows, but more are added daily.

Microsoft also announced that NBC Universal, who teamed with Microsoft earlier this year to deliver the 2008 Beijing Olympics via Silverlight, is the newest content partner for Xbox Live Marketplace, beginning today. NBC Universal will offer its television programs from NBC, USA Networks, and Sci-Fi channel, as well as Universal Studios movie content for download in the US. Worldwide, Xbox Live gets content from MGM International and Constantin, increasing the library of downloadable entertainment by more than 700.

The 360 also will have a new interface/dashboard available for download in the fall. Converged entertainment appears to be the new modus operandi for this upgraded interface. Users will be able to add custom avatars -- which cannot escape the inevitable Mii comparison -- to their gamer cards. These avatars, like Nintendo's Miis, will be usable in upcoming games, including upcoming "Live Primetime" games.

The example Microsoft showed today of the new "Live Primetime" was part TV game show, part massively multiplayer game: a version of Endemol property "1 vs. 100." It will be the first Primetime game available this fall, and will have a live host. It looks to adhere more strictly to the TV show format than that of video games. There was no mention of commercial breaks or in-game advertisement.

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