Microsoft has made no secret of its ultimate goal: they want the Xbox 360 to replace your cable box. And they just took an enormous step towards making that happen, by cutting a deal with Time Warner Cable to stream 300 channels live.
Aside from the fact that you need Xbox Live Gold, which means in turn you will be paying an extra five dollars a month to watch the TV that you already pay for, it’s actually fairly neat. And we’re not talking about just junk channels, either:
This deal…will offer Time Warner Cable subscribers with an Xbox Live Gold membership the ability to watch their favorite shows from right from their Xbox 360 — including favorites like AMC, BBC World News, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network, HGTV and more. And unlike any other platform, you’ll be able to control your entertainment using your voice via Kinect for Xbox 360.
Leaving aside the fact that Microsoft is convinced you want to yell at your TV to change channels, this is undeniably a coup on their part. They already have a content deal with Comcast, but that’s for Comcast’s on-demand offerings, not streaming live channels. And this both presents Microsoft with an opportunity and Time Warner Cable, as well as other cable providers, with potentially a serious problem.
Don’t get us wrong: A cable company admitting that streaming boxes exist and maybe they should use them to stream content is always a step forward, and this is as good as Time Warner Cable admitting that streaming is the future and we all need to deal with it. That said, it’s been a sore spot among cable customers and consumer advocates for years that channels are bundled, so much so that a bunch of people who don’t like sports are taking Time Warner to court over charging them for Lakers games. And with this, it starts to raise the question of what, precisely, is stopping a la carte pricing for those who genuinely want it. And it also raises another question; what happens if a cable channel rolls out a similar streaming app for cord-cutters? Or Sony begins cutting deals for individual channels on the PS3?