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XBox offers HD film downloads

XBox360.jpgMicrosoft are making deals with various studios to offer film and television downloads directly to the XBox 360 through the XBox (360) Live service.

I caught this rumour the other day over at Engadget but there was no source to confirm it, their source story went to a site that said nothing about the movie downloads and looked like an "Xbox is great" site. Then I caught this story from them which was more concrete:

The Xbox 360, along with Akimbo, will be among the first mass-market devices able to download high def television programs -- and the first we know of in the states able to download HD movies. The service is called Xbox Live Video, and the fall update enables customers to spend their Microsoft points on standard and HD television from CBS, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Turner, and UFC, as well as HD movies from Warner Bros., Paramount, and so on.

Then from Business Week we hear even more details:

Ross Honey, senior director of Microsoft's media, content and partner strategy group, estimated that 750 hours of programming would be available as soon as the service launches and roughly 1,000 hours by the end of the year.

The programming -- most of it in standard-definition format and some in high-definition -- will be available through the Xbox 360 console to any user of Xbox Live's free or paid online service.

No cost for these downloads has been mentioned as yet, although Microsoft have said "competitive", whatever that means to them, and they have stated that HD content will be more expensive than standard.

That aside, Engadget have some very interesting technical details about the service which are both positive and negative, they also have a launch list, see what you think after reading this lot...

  • Movies will be "rental" only, TV for "purchase" only.
  • At launch there will be over 800 hours of SDTV, and 200 hours of HDTV.
  • Neither TV nor movies are streamed; they are only downloaded, although you can stream short preview clips from the Live interface.
  • You can only download content to your Xbox 360 drive -- not to an external drive.
  • Your "purchased" TV programs can be downloaded an infinite amount of times to an infinite amount of consoles; you may also play them back on friends' 360s with your removable drive.
  • Deleted TV shows can be re-downloaded later; HDTV shows can be re-downloaded in either HDTV or SD.
  • Movies can be watched an unlimited number of times the first 24 hours. Plays after that period will cost the same as the initial download, although the movie data isn't necessarily deleted. You can keep the movie data on your drive up to 14 days without re-downloading it.
  • Downloads are in VC-1 (aka WMVHD) at 720p, 6.8Mbps video with 5.1 surround.
  • An average HD movie download should be between 4-5GB, and a two hour SD movie would be 1.6GB.
  • An average 1 hour (44 min) HDTV download should be about 2.2GB, and an average 1/2 hour (22 min) HDTV download should be about 1GB. A 1 hour SDTV download should be about 600MB, and a 1/2 hour SDTV download should be about 300MB.
  • You cannot download programs through the Xbox Live web interface -- they can only be transported to your 360's removable drive.
  • There aren't any drive announcements being made, so if your puny 20GB Xbox drive is near or at capacity, you're out of luck, kid.

Mmm...pros and cons, and you can totally agree with Engadget's last statement there, multiple viewings or not, your drive could run pretty full there. So here's the interesting one, here's what you can download from day one. After this you might realise why the analysts say that the offering is "thin".

  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Batman Forever
  • Breaking Bonaduce
  • Carpocalypse
  • Chappelle's Show
  • CSI
  • Hogan Knows Best
  • Jackass: The Movie
  • Jericho
  • The Matrix
  • M:i:III
  • Nacho Libre
  • Nicktoons Network Animation Festival
  • Numb3rs
  • Pimp My Ride
  • Race Rewind (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races)
  • Raising the Roofs
  • The Real World
  • Robot Chicken
  • Skyland
  • South Park
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Star Trek (original)
  • Superman Returns
  • 50 fights from Ultimate Fighting Championship, and some episodes from The Ultimate Fighter

Is this an exciting service? Although I might use it for some HD content, nothing there has me excited about watching. Perhaps Star Trek, Superman Returns, Matrix or M:I:III but the rest are just fillers for me.



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