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Xbox Tears Down the Live Gold Pay Wall for OTT Apps

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May 13, 2014

Xbox Tears Down the Live Gold Pay Wall for OTT Apps

By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

Apparently seeing the business model writing on the wall, Microsoft (News - Alert) has decided to stop holding streaming applications hostage behind the Xbox Live Gold subscription pay wall, beginning next month.

Those who have a Microsoft Xbox One and Xbox 360 gaming console can use them to access their subscriptions for Netflix, 4OD, Amazon Prime Instant and other over-the-top (OTT) services, but only with an Xbox Live Gold subscription, which goes for $60 per year.

“Xbox 360 has been a leader in delivering entertainment experiences for years, with over 170 global entertainment apps and experiences available today,” said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, in a blog. “We’re constantly adding new partners and experiences to the growing catalog on Xbox One. We’ve heard that you want more choices from Xbox One. You want a wide variety of options in your games and entertainment experiences and you also want options in your hardware selection.”

Beginning in June, users will be able to access Machinima, Twitch and Upload, popular video services like Netflix, Univision Deportes, GoPro (News - Alert), Red Bull TV and HBO GO, sports experiences like the NFL app for Xbox One, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time and NHL Game Center, and Microsoft apps like Internet Explorer, Skype (News - Alert), OneDrive and OneGuide.

Competitively, it makes sense: it’s hardly a differentiator to ask people to pay more on top of the existing amount they already pay to the OTT provider. Especially considering that Microsoft's major console rivals, the Nintendo Wii U and Sony’s PlayStation 3 and 4, don’t charge a monthly fee and allow free and direct access to the same services. And it goes without saying that OTT set-tops like Roku, Apple (News - Alert) TV and Amazon Fire TV don’t charge a separate fee either.

That said, Xbox Live Gold is required to play multiplayer games on-demand via the console, and so most Xbox users carry a subscription anyway. Industry-watchers have speculated that in lieu of the third-party streaming content, other Microsoft services will be moved behind the pay wall, like the upcoming TV series from Xbox Entertainment.

This summer will see the software giant bring a raft of content to its own streaming service, including series bases on (natch) games, like Halo and Deadlands, plus other fare. Fearless is a reality show hosted by an Australian Navy Seal; and Every Street United profiles eight of the world's best street soccer players and then has them face each other in a special match at the World Cup dome in Brazil. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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