Microsoft has announced that NBC Universal will provide movies to its growing catalogue of titles available for download through the Xbox Live service in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. The newcomer joins existing studios Warner, Paramount and MGM. The movie library will now total nearly 300 titles, and Microsoft claims that movie sales have doubled since the introduction of the new Xbox interface (NXE) late last year.
Microsoft has brought over a team from the US to build up the Xbox Live activities in Europe, which are tracking somewhat behind what’s going on in the US. As I mentioned recently
Netflix has had tremendous success with its movie rental service through the Xbox Live service in the US. Unfortunately Netflix doesn’t have a European activity yet, so until a deal with a European aggregator (Lovefilm?) can be signed, Microsoft is having to pull together its own movie deals. As with everything else in Europe, that’s no easy matter as rights have to be cleared in each country separately. Italy had to be excluded for the moment from the NBC Universal deal, for example, because of local exclusivity clauses.
The Xbox Live library offers a mix of SD and HD movies, the latter in 720p. We are still waiting for the arrival of 1080p movies, both in the US and Europe. That will be a significant moment, because it will justify what Microsoft has claimed all along: that it doesn’t need to add Blu-ray capability in a world of online video. 1080p movies would obviously be a challenge in terms of file size, in terms of storage and network access, but it’s something Microsoft will have to address sooner or later, in spite of its claims that users can’t tell the difference between 720p and 1080p.
Client Reading: Digital Media Survey: An analysis of US Online Premium Video Users